The International Rugby Board last night agreed to investigate a return to traditional touring as a way of addressing concerns over the value of June tours to the southern hemisphere.
PA Sport’s Alex Lowe writes that Australia and New Zealand recently warned they would be prepared to scrap future European tours in protest at having to host under-strength touring teams.
France have sent shadow squads to Australia and New Zealand over the past two summers because their domestic club competition has not finished until the end of June.
England selected their strongest possible squad for the trip to New Zealand but they were still missing a large number of front-line players, who were in various stages of rehab.
Neither Test was sold out. Both Australia and New Zealand are angry that ticket sales and revenues are hit by below-strength touring teams.
The issue was high on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting at Heathrow of the 10 tier one nations.
It was agreed that a return to traditional tours – with midweek matches played in between Tests – would be the “best way to enhance meaning and value for the problematic June window”.
The meeting also agreed to conclude discussions about the integration of Argentina into the Tri-Nations “as a matter of urgency”.
The IRB will also explore the possibility of setting up a tournament or series of matches in a Lions year involving teams not involved in the tour.
For example, next summer that would include Argentina, France, Australia and New Zealand.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The meeting in Heathrow was both constructive and extremely positive and all the delegates demonstrated a clear collective willingness to work together to consider meaningful solutions.
“Building on the outcomes of the historic Global Season Forum at Woking last year, the group asked the IRB to work on three specific opportunities in detail – tours to the South in the June window; the creation of a tournament or a series of matches in a Lions year for unions not involved in the Lions tour and Argentina’s full integration into the Tri Nations.”
Lapasset went on to outline the complexities involved in creating a global playing calendar, from the often different requirements of clubs and unions to player welfare issues and time zone issues.
“It is incredibly complex,” he said.
“Finding solutions that allow for growth, a balanced schedule and the promotion of meaningful matches has been a challenge.”
The IRB confirmed work on all three issues would begin immediately and will be discussed at upcoming executive committee and council meetings.Tweet