RFU boss calls for shortened Six Nations to safeguard British and Irish Lions tour

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RFU boss calls for shortened Six Nations to safeguard British and Irish Lions tour

England rugby chief Nigel Melville has insisted that the RBS Six Nations should be shortened by one week every four years, to help protect the future of the British and Irish Lions’ tours.

The 2021 tour in South Africa starts on July 3rd, with the newly rescheduled Gallagher Premiership’s final due just seven days before, leaving very little time for English players to prepare for the tour.

Melville, who is the Rugby Football Union’s interim chief executive, has offered a resolution that would see the Six Nations fixtures reduced by one week, providing an extra seven days in the summer for players to prepare in good time.

“Take timetables, my view is you can solve that problem,” Melville told The Independent.

“They (the Lions) need an extra week. If every four years we move the Six Nations from seven to six weeks, you create that extra week.

“So every four years why don’t we do that?”

Current format

The way the tournaments coincide with each other presently wouldn’t create an issue but moving forward, the ‘tour years’ would generate very small rest periods for players who are participating.

For example, the end of this seasons Premiership is on June 1st, 2019 whereby the final will be contended at Twickenham.

The Six Nations start on February 1st, 2019 and finishes on March 16th but new proposals would suggest losing a week during the nations to ‘free up’ a week at the end of the campaign.

Will the other nations agree?

Melville, though, has called for backing from the other five nations to try and alter the rugby calendar for the years the tour is on.

The 2021 tour has actually been reduced from six to five weeks with two less matches scheduled as well, as part of a global calendar reshape.

Although Scotland, Wales and Ireland will all have players participating on the 2021 tour, gaining the backing of France and Italy might be harder, as Melville predicts:

“It would require the support of Ireland and Scotland and Wales, France and Italy as well who have no stake in the Lions.

“I’m sure the Lions could look at other options and talk to Premiership Rugby about how they can move it. Maybe there’s an easier solution.”

The likelihood of a change

Currently, Pro14 bosses have confirmed they would look to reorganise their final every four years which will benefit those players from Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

With the Premiership chiefs holding firm on their decision to stick to the original date, it appears that more negotiations will need to suffice before an agreement can be reached.

The 2017 tour in New Zealand goes a long way to justifying Melville’s pleas. The Lions managed to draw the series 1-1 with the All Blacks but perhaps what is more remarkable, is the seven day gap the English based players had to prepare.

It’s exactly this that Melville wants to avoid in 2021 and if he can gather another support to warrant the change, it’ll safeguard the future of the Lions for years to come.

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