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Test rugby to restart in October as World Rugby confirms autumn window

Ireland are set to play six Tests in seven weekends from October through into December.

THE WORLD RUGBY Council has approved a temporary extended autumn Test window for 2020, meaning Ireland will play their postponed Six Nations games in late October before competing in a new ‘Eight Nations’ tournament from November into early December.

World Rugby has confirmed that the proposal to adjust Regulation 9 “to accommodate the release of international players for revised 2020 windows” has been given the stamp of approval by its decision-making council at a meeting today.

Ireland’s national men’s team are set to play their two remaining Six Nations games against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on 24 October and against France in Paris on 31 October.

andrew-conway-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-ross-byrne-john-cooney-and-devin-toner Ireland are set for a very busy autumn. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The weekend of 7 November will be a rest weekend in the Northern Hemisphere before a new temporary ‘Eight Nations’ competition is played across the following four weekends.

Ireland are set to play group-stage games against Wales at the Aviva Stadium, England in Twickenham, then Fiji back in Dublin before a play-off fixture against the nation with the same ranking in the other group – made up of France, Scotland, Italy, and Japan.

Ireland Women’s two postponed Six Nations games against Italy and France are also now due to take place in this autumn window, while there is still strong hope that the outstanding U20 Six Nations fixtures will also be completed.

While all of these fixtures have yet to be officially confirmed, announcements are expected soon. It also remains to be seen if supporters will be able to attend the Test games.

Meanwhile, the World Rugby Council’s approval of the temporary autumn window means the Rugby Championship in the Southern Hemisphere will take place over a reduced six-week period from 7 November through to the second weekend of December.

SANZAAR has asked New Zealand to host that competition, with Australia, South Africa, and Argentina set to base themselves on Kiwi soil in order to play.

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World Rugby also said it is working to examine the possibility of “emerging nations” who are not involved in the Six Nations, ‘Eight Nations’ or Rugby Championship playing against each other, should Covid-19 restrictions allow.

World Rugby’s plan to extend the autumn window had been met with resistance from English and French clubs, with the latter threatening legal action if its council approved the change.

It remains to be seen if that threat is fulfilled, but World Rugby said today’s approval came after “extensive and productive dialogue between the sport’s major stakeholders, balancing the interests of the international game, the professional club game and player welfare to determine a schedule that will optimise the immediate financial recovery and funding of the sport at all levels.

“The rescheduling of the domestic, European and international calendars will accommodate the ability for the professional clubs to have access to their star southern hemisphere international players for the completion of the postponed and rescheduled 2019/20 seasons at a time in which they would have ordinarily been on international duty in August and September,” continued the World Rugby statement.

“The process also reflects the ambition to minimise impact on the EPCR and English Premiership finals matches.”

The player release windows for 2020 Test rugby under Regulation 9 are as follows:

  • Temporary global player release window for 2020: 24 October – first weekend of December
  • Temporary Rugby Championship window for 2020: 7 November – second weekend of December

The Regulation 9 windows will return to normal after the conclusion of the temporary 2020 calendar.

However, World Rugby added that it will continue discussions with unions, leagues, and players about the possibility of a more aligned global calendar in the future.

“All parties, including unions, club competitions and players, remain committed to continued dialogue regarding the long-term harmonisation of the international calendar for the betterment of all,” said World Rugby.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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