England's Owen Farrell at a Captain's Run earlier this year. Paul Harding

RFU to follow Ireland's lead and introduce in-season breaks for players

The Premiership will be restructured in the move and will last 11 months with its final to take place in late June.

PLAYERS WILL HAVE guaranteed in-season breaks under a new structure for the next three English Premiership seasons, starting with the 2019/20 campaign, the RFU has announced.

The measures are being introduced to protect players during an intense upcoming schedule which includes the World Cup next year along with the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 2021.

It follows on from the IRFU’s player management programme, which is a similar initiative that limits the match minutes for around 90 professionals on this island in the interests of player welfare.

In England’s case, the rest periods will also include a mandatory five-week post-season rest for all players, who will now be limited to 30 full-match equivalents, down from 32, in any one season.

The changes come amid a new structure that will see the English rugby season extended to 11 months, with the Premiership final now taking place in late June, amid attempts by rugby union officials to produce a unified global calendar that balances the needs of the sport in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Post-season tours by the England national side, previously staged in June, will take place in July.

Twickenham will host the Premiership finals on 20, 26 and 18 June for the years 2020-22 with the campaigns starting on 20 October, 12 September and 18 September respectively.

Traditionally, rugby union in England has been a winter sport, but a joint agreement between the Rugby Football Union, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association will push the game more into the summer months.

But Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said the new set-up would achieve: “a number of progressive goals for the English structure over the next three seasons, building in new player management approaches, reducing overlaps and scheduling more of Gallagher Premiership Rugby for the better weather conditions of spring and early summer”.

RPA chief executive Damian Hopley said: “It is fundamental that players had their say in the shaping of this new season structure”.

He added that the new agreement “gives players guaranteed in-season breaks for the first time and reduces playing thresholds”.

Additional reporting by Sinéad Farrell

© – AFP, 2018

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