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Rugby Rant: Give players a rest!

Working up a sweat: Exeter Chiefs during their pre-season training Rugby World

The proposed 11-month season from 2019 is frankly ridiculous, fumes RW’s Sarah Mockford. This first appeared in the June 2017 issue of Rugby World magazine.


THIS IS a rough schedule for an England player come 2019-20: July-Aug pre-World Cup training; Sept-Oct World Cup; Nov-June Premiership/European season with club; Feb-March Six Nations; July two-Test tour; August five weeks off; Sept start of season.

Yes, World Cup years put extra strain on the scheduling, but the arrival of the integrated global calendar in 2019 brings with it a couple of big changes. Firstly, the Test window will move from June to July – there will be three-Test tours in every year bar the one after a World Cup. Secondly, Premiership Rugby will continue to start their season in September but the final will move to late June.

It doesn’t mean that players will be playing more games – the cap will remain – but when are they supposed to rest? A week off here and there in-season will help but a significant break is needed between campaigns, both for mental rest and physical conditioning, to ensure they’re ready for the rigours of a long season.

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This scheduling means a month between seasons for Test players. Gone is the pre-season that players so often pay tribute to when they hit form, that time to recover from niggles and get in good shape.

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Okay, there are lots of club players with no international commitments and they will have a few extra weeks to prepare, but it’s not just England players that will be impacted; there are the internationals from other countries who will have Tests to play, while the U20 World Cup is likely to move to July. And with the need to marry up the European windows, the Pro12 might have to follow the same plan as the Premiership.

Rob Nichol, of IRPA, told RW a year ago that the optimum time period for players to get adequate rest and conditioning was “12 to 14 weeks”. Well, that’s out the window for players in the northern hemisphere.

Player welfare was reportedly at the heart of these discussions on the new season structure, but it’s more likely players will lose heart when looking at the changes. Yet again the needs of the players have been put at the bottom of the list.

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