Australia, New Zealand unions welcome rejigged calendar

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Australia, New Zealand unions welcome rejigged calendar

The new calendar ensures an uninterrupted Super Rugby season and introduces a number of significant other changes - including the integration of non-Rugby Championship and non-Six Nations teams into the calendar on merit - and has been agreed for the period from 2020-2032.

It means the current June window for inbound Test tours will move to the first three weeks of July, allowing Super Rugby to run uninterrupted from February to the end of June.

SA Rugby welcomed the announcement by World Rugby of agreement on a new global calendar that would "bring continuity" to the South African season, said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

The Australia Rugby Union has long preferred a continuous season, but the move has been resisted in the northern hemisphere, particularly by the rich English and French clubs.

He added: "This has been an important piece of work which also takes into account the welfare of players, development and advancement opportunities for emerging nations, and an exciting programme of Test rugby".

The world champion All Blacks were also happy with what New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said was an "excellent outcome".

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"National unions have worked hard to agree this calendar which gives us great long term certainty around our worldwide fixtures". The new July worldwide window will dovetail with the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship that starts in August. When the national squad players return from touring in late July, they are entitled to a month or so off, thus putting back the start of their pre-season training until late August early September.

Ever since rugby union became a fully professional sport shortly after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, there has been talk of a "global season" in a bid to get greater harmony between club and worldwide fixtures.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: "Agreement on an optimised global calendar that provides certainty and sustainability over the decade beyond Rugby World Cup 2019 represents an historic milestone for the global game".

But it is the increase of exposure for second-tier nations that will provide the biggest potential shake-up to the game. The rising nations of Europe, Georgia and Romania, will come somewhat out of the cold too by hosting games against the Six Nations countries in the July windows.

Six Nations sides have also guaranteed they will host a minimum of six matches against second-tier teams in November.

"(The schedule) sets new standards by prioritising rest periods, promoting equity for the sport's emerging powers and harmonising the relationship between the worldwide and domestic games", World Rugby said in a statement. "Compromise has been achieved by all stakeholders in the spirit of collaboration and I would like to thank my union and professional league colleagues for their full contribution and commitment to reaching an agreement that ultimately benefits the whole game".

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