Here is their statement:
The world’s top players have warned of serious “player welfare and integrity concerns” around World Rugby’s proposed competition structure for the global game.
While senior players have consistently voiced their support for the concept, ongoing concerns exist around the detail of the competition format that has been taken to market in recent months.
The International Rugby Players Council of almost 40 players spoke via conference call on Tuesday night (GMT) to discuss the potential 12-year deal, with nine of the world’s top ten international team captains dialing in.
Senior players from around the globe were united in their concern about the proposed format, in relation to:
- Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
- Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
- A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
- Increased conflicts between country and club demands and Regulation 9 release periods
- Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
- The long-term quality and integrity of the international game
- It’s believed that World Rugby bosses are seeking to ratify the deal in the coming weeks, which has raised concerns among the Player Council.
International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton said:
“While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.”
Embed from Getty Images
“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November, is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings”
Player Council member Kieran Read said:
“After listening to the issues raised by many of the players, we need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game, with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches
“Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players or clubs.”
“With new technologies, new broadcast deals and new money coming into the sport, this is a crucial moment for rugby and one that many players are generally excited about. However, we have to make sure that the integrity of the game and welfare of the players is protected.”Embed from Getty Images
England captain Owen Farrell added:
“Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.
“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation.”
The Players Council understands that promotion and relegation will not form part of the new proposal, preventing Tier Two and emerging nations from accessing top level competitive matches and creating a ceiling on their aspirations to advance and improve.
Samoa captain Chris Vui said:
“For countries in this bracket and for Pacific Islanders in particular, our biggest issue has always been the ‘club versus country’ factor. We feel that that a 12-year deal is not workable, particularly when it presents no hope of advancement during that period. This will have the dangerous knock-on effect of luring senior players away from their countries and more towards the clubs, which is the exact opposite of what we’re all trying to achieve”.
International Rugby Players CEO Omar Hassanein confirmed that these views have been conveyed to World Rugby on several occasions.
“World Rugby are failing to respect the players views and genuinely engage on the issues. It will be interesting to see their approach in the coming weeks knowing the current proposal does not have the players support”.
World Rugby have since responded:
““It is inappropriate to comment on specifics whilst wider stakeholder consultation, including with IRP, is ongoing. However, it is important to note that some assumptions made in the statement regarding the proposed competition structure are inaccurate and that important matters such as playing load and emerging nation opportunities are at the heart of constructive dialogue on the overall concept.
“Consumer research confirms a structured annual competition would make fans and new audiences more likely to watch, attend and engage with international rugby, exposing the sport to new fans worldwide.
“There is also no doubt that a structured annual international competition would deliver significantly greater long-term broadcast revenue for reinvestment in the global game. This project has at its heart long-term growth and stability, not short-term wins, and that includes greater opportunity for players.
“As instructed by our Executive Committee and the Unions, we remain committed to a process of constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the IRP, to deliver a model that ensures the best-possible competition and commercial outcomes for all and a truly exciting and meaningful annual international competition structure that is great for players, clubs, fans and unions.”
It will be interesting to see how it all progresses. You can read our simple guide of the proposal here.
Scotland’s summer Test schedule finalised
Scotland’s summer Test schedule has been finalised with the news that Scotland A will face England A at Leicester’s Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Sunday 27 June, before the full national team heads to Europe to face Romania on 10 July and Georgia on 17 July in Test matches.
The British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa headlines a busy July programme that will see 25 of the top 30 ranked unions in action with several hosting or being hosted for the first time since the pandemic began, including world champions South Africa, and Rugby World Cup 2019 hosts Japan.
In line with government guidance, stadiums will be operating at a reduced capacity. It is expected that 6,000 supporters will be welcomed at Welford Road, with the potential to increase these numbers if government guidelines allow in the coming weeks.
Ticket details for England A v Scotland A will be confirmed shortly.
Scotland’s schedule will be overseen by Interim Head Coach Mike Blair, who will take charge in Gregor Townsend’s stead given his involvement as Attack Coach for the British & Irish Lions’ tour to South Africa.
Kick-off times and broadcast arrangements are to be confirmed.
On the news of an A fixture, Scottish Rugby’s Director of High Performance, Jim Mallinder, said: “For me, the ability to play A team fixtures is a key area of player development and given the depth we are now able to draw on around the Scotland men’s national team, it will provide an important opportunity for those pushing for international selection.
“After seeing such a positive number of Scotland players called up for the British & Irish Lions the summer series of matches opens up our options even further for player selection.”
British & Irish Lions issue Tour Update
The Lions Board confirmed its preference to SA Rugby on Monday evening, prior to follow-up meetings earlier today (Tuesday).
“After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the Board’s intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021,” said Jason Leonard, chairman of The British & Irish Lions.
“We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust COVID-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan.”
Mark Alexander, president of the SA Rugby, said he would inform the Executive Council of the South African Rugby Union of the alignment.
“We appreciate the Lions’ faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said Alexander.
“We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.
“There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners.”
Alexander said the original tour schedule was subject to review because of those considerations. Should any changes be required they will be communicated as soon as possible.
Leonard added: “Every British and Irish player dreams of wearing the famous red jersey, and players from the southern hemisphere aspire to be part of a Lions series. We owe it to the current players vying for a place in both squads to ensure they can become part of Lions history.
“We are very much looking forward to taking on South Africa for what promises to be a highly-competitive Series against the reigning World Champions.”
Alexander thanked the Castle Lager Lions Series’ commercial partners as well as the British & Irish Lions and ticket holders for their patience during the extended period of uncertainty.
“As hosts and ‘owners’ of the Castle Lager Lions Series no one has been more affected or more challenged by the current circumstances than SA Rugby,” said Alexander. “However, with the support of our government and good planning we can navigate the pandemic to nonetheless create a most memorable event for players, fans and partners.”
It is not yet known whether international or cross-border travel for supporters will be possible into the country in July. Supporters who have purchased ticket-inclusive packages through Lions Rugby Travel will be notified directly via email with information on the options available.
The Lions remind supporters that all packages purchased through Lions Rugby Travel are protected by the Covid-19 guarantee*. Supporters who have booked packages with official sub agents should contact them directly. For the latest guidance on travelling to South Africa please visit the UK Foreign Office website: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.dfa.ie/travel/travel-advice/a-z-list-of-countries/south-africa/
At this time, it also remains unclear whether spectators will be permitted into stadia in July and August. SA Rugby and the Lions continue to work with relevant South African Government departments to ascertain the latest guidance on COVID-19 countermeasure planning for major sporting events and will communicate any updates as soon as it is possible to do so.
In the event that spectators are not permitted to gain access to the Test matches, Lions supporters who had successfully purchased Test match tickets via the Lions ticket ballot will be refunded.
The British & Irish Lions Test match against Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Saturday 26 June 2021 for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup will continue as scheduled. However, a decision on crowd size will be made nearer the time of the event and in line with the latest UK Government guidance. For more information, including ticketing enquiries, please visit:
The British & Irish Lions have toured South Africa on 13 previous occasions, with the first Tour taking place in 1891. In that time, the Lions have won four Test series, lost eight with one drawn. Their overall record against the Springboks is played 46, won 17, lost 23 and drawn six.
Ireland make multiple changes for England
There are a number of changes to the team that started against Scotland last Sunday starting in the half-backs where Captain Johnny Sexton is joined in by Conor Murray.
Garry Ringrose is ruled out of the side through injury so Bundee Aki slots in at inside centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting to the No.13 jersey.
Jacob Stockdale returns to the team for the first time since the Autumn Nations Cup win over Scotland back in December and is named on the left wing with Keith Earls on and Hugo Keenan completing the back three.
In the front row Dave Kilcoyne starts at loosehead alongside Rob Herring at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tighthead.
Tadhg Beirne moves into lock to partner Iain Henderson in the absence of the injured James Ryan.
Will Connors was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury in training so Josh van der Flier comes in at openside. CJ Stander moves to 6 for his final Ireland game in Aviva Stadium and Jack Conan is named at No.8.
Speaking this week about Stander, Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton commented,
“He’s done things for the right reason. His wife and daughter are back in South Africa at the moment. They’ve been there for a few months and they went back for the last lockdown as well.
“It takes its toll, doesn’t it? He’s just taken the decision based on family reasons and we respect him for that, but he’s a big loss to Munster and Irish Rugby.
“He’s been huge for both teams over the last five, six years. Very shocked, but we wish him well and we hope that his last game in green will be one to remember.”
The replacements are Ronan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ryan Baird, Peter O’Mahony, Jamison Gibson Park, Billy Burns and Jordan Larmour.
The game is being televised by VIRGIN (ROI) and ITV (NI) and kicks off at 4.45pm on Saturday afternoon.
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Engalnd, 2021 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, March 20, kick-off 4:45pm):
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 10 caps
14. Keith Earls (Munster/Young Munster) 92 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 51 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 30 caps
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 33 caps
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 98 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 88 caps
1. Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 42 caps
2. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 20 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 48 caps
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 62 caps
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 21 caps
6. CJ Stander (Munster/Shannon) 50 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 30 caps
8. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 19 caps
16. Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 108 caps
18. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 36 caps
19. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 2 caps
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 74 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
22. Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
23. Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 28 caps
Scotland’s summer Test schedule finalised
Super Rugby Trans Tasman Teams: All the team news for Round One
Sky Super Rugby Trans-Tasman: Referee Appointments Round 1
What rugby is on and where to watch it October – December
Six Nations 2020 – Fixtures & TV Schedule
Farrell Names Ireland’s Six Nations Squad
British & Irish Lions7 days ago
Gatland names 37 man British & Irish Lions Squad
Pro147 days ago
Ulster ring the changes for Munster
British & Irish Lions9 hours ago
Lions return to terrestrial television on Channel 4
Pro141 day ago
Ireland Sevens Squads Named For International Rugby 7s
British & Irish Lions1 day ago
Jones: Being named Lions captain for 2021 Tour ‘a huge privilege’
Pro1417 hours ago
Scarlets ready for big breakdown battle in ‘Derby Day Part III’
International17 hours ago
Furlong signs contract extension with IRFU
Pro1412 hours ago
O’Brien and Doris back training ahead of Ulster test