The much-debated changes to England’s traditional domestic rugby calendar will be announced on Tuesday at Twickenham. Rather than lasting from early September to late May the Premiership season will extend deep into June with all summer tours earmarked for July.
Despite months of compromise talks between the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association, the schedule is set to generate further intense debate, with the closing weeks of the domestic campaign and the summer Tests potentially now clashing with long-established cricket, tennis and golf events.
Northern hemisphere-based international players with children also face the prospect of being absent from home for large chunks of the school holidays. The counter-argument is that better weather will enhance the spectacle and player welfare will be better served under the new arrangement. A compulsory summer break for all will be collectively enforced, and two one‑week “mid‑season” breaks to allow players some respite also built into the calendar.
The Premiership final this season will take place at Twickenham on 1 June but, with the 2019 World Cup already due to affect next year’s schedule, the old days of May finals have been consigned to history. Rather than switching to an October start, however, it is understood the domestic campaign will continue to kick off in September.
European rugby organisers say they will apologise to Cardiff Blues and Glasgow after both teams wore similar-coloured jerseys in their Champions Cup game on Sunday. Officials conceded that procedures for potential kit clashes “were not sufficiently followed through”.
Carl Fearns, the former Bath back-row playing for Lyon, believes that, once fit, he is the next best option for England at No 8 after Billy Vunipola. “If I do get back to the levels I was at two years ago, then I feel like I should be there,” he said. “I am the second guy behind Billy Vunipola in my eyes … if you take him out of the England team there is no other real back-row who plays like me.”
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