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Big worry: IRFU chief Phillip Browne has outlined an £18m black hole

Big worry: IRFU chief Phillip Browne has outlined an £18m black hole

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont

Getty Images

Big worry: IRFU chief Phillip Browne has outlined an £18m black hole

The World Rugby Council will vote on how to best salvage 2020's Covid-19-ravaged Test schedule before the end of this month but in terms of longer-term overhaul, yesterday's meeting of key stakeholders ended with only a "commitment to further calendar dialogue".

The online forum brought together representatives from both hemispheres as well as the club and international game with one goal being to make strides towards solving the thorny issue of an aligned global calendar.

Scrapping the summer Test window and moving club competitions such as the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup into a condensed December-July window was one mooted proposal but there are substantial hurdles to overcome.

Traditionalists are loath to see the Six Nations eased further into the spring and there are clubs concerned that summer rugby will hurt ticket sales.

Last night's release again summed up the general feeling that change is required without offering any further detail.

"Whilst not a decision-making forum, today's World Rugby Professional Game Forum provided a platform for national unions, international and professional club competitions and players to exchange views and consider immediate and long-term calendar reform in line with the guiding core principles of recognising the needs of the international and domestic game and enhancing player welfare," it said.

The statement continued: “All stakeholders believe that meaningful reform of the international calendar is necessary in a much-changed post-Covid-19 environment to revitalise the global game and deliver much-needed alignment between international and club rugby with fewer overlaps and enhanced player rest periods.

“Crucially, if managed appropriately, the proposed long-term calendar reform will enable meaningful pathways for emerging nations on a global and regional scale and the development of a global international women’s competition model with defined windows that do not overlap with the men’s competitions.”

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont took to social media soon afterwards, saying there was “more collaborative work to do”.

More immediately, a vote will take place on June 30 that will decide how best to complete the 2020 season.

With the Six Nations essentially suspended once the coronavirus took hold in March, there is a financial imperative to complete the competition later in the year if possible.

IRFU CEO Phillip Browne has already stated it would cost the union up to €20m (£18m) should their games against Italy and France not be rescheduled, a number that will be no better than halved should the games be played behind closed doors. Summer tours, the likes of which would have brought Ireland to Australia for two Tests next month, have also been nixed.

Rescheduling the most financially rewarding fixtures for an extended Test window in the autumn has long been championed, although such an outcome would require an amendment of World Rugby regulation 9.7 which stipulates international release windows.

Belfast Telegraph