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World Rugby in meltdown with Irish Rugby facing up to loss of €20m



IRFU chief executive Philip Browne

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne

�INPHO/Billy Stickland

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne

The rugby calendar is never simple - it should come as no surprise that 2020 and the year of the global pandemic is proving no exception.

When a much ballyhooed meeting of World Rugby came to its conclusion a fortnight ago, the only piece of concrete information to emerge from the organisation's evening press release stated that Council would vote on June 30 to decide how best to salvage the Test schedule of this unprecedented season which has led to all of the top nations having games postponed since the sporting shutdown began in March.

The financial imperative for an accord was clear. Indeed, the IRFU's CEO Philip Browne warned that the organisation would risk losing €20million should the Test game - the sport's overwhelming money driver - not return in this calendar year while the figures cited in England were even larger.

The boardroom battles that have replaced the majority of match action drag on instead, the latest seeing the ever-enduring club versus country debate ensure that the planned vote did not go ahead.

With Six Nations games - including Ireland's hosting of Italy and trip to France - needing to be completed, the expected proposal had the northern hemisphere's premier competition concluding at the end of October before the usual November window.

Clubs already bristling over discussions to switch domestic competitions to the summer however, have maintained that they don't want to lose their internationals for seven weeks in the middle of what by then will be the 2020/21 season.

Against such a backdrop, the compromise required to bring talk of an extended Six Nations to fruition in lieu of the usual travelling southern hemisphere teams this November will be more than a little tricky.

Another impasse where, as ever, communication is in short supply, World Rugby stated that, after the scrapped vote, there would be no date set on a belated resolution.

"We are ensuring that all parties have the time necessary to come up with the best possible solution for the 2020 calendar," a World Rugby spokesman confirmed to AFP news agency. "Given the ongoing constructive and productive meetings between stakeholders, we will not set a date for any decision on this."

Speaking previously, World Rugby's CEO Brett Gosper had confirmed that the longed for 'global season' concept could be debated after the more pressing issue of this year had been solved.

"Once we get some agreement on what the end of this year looks like, there will be deeper consultation to understand how we can achieve a more optimised long-term calendar than we currently have for the benefit of all - unions and clubs," he has said.

While all seems agreeable in theory, one wonders what hope there can be when even extraordinary measures, in what amounts to a financial emergency, still prompt such inertia from the many vested interests.

There is at least clarity, if not action, in the Sevens game where the remaining legs of this season's men's and women's World Rugby Sevens series have been cancelled, with New Zealand subsequently crowned champions of both competitions.

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Having previously had to move the blue riband Hong Kong sevens from April to October, yesterday brought news that it would be cancelled and not postponed, along with meetings in Langford, London, Paris and Singapore.

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