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Premiership clubs begrudgingly agree to ‘Eight Nations’ for just one season due to pandemic

Premiership clubs will begrudgingly agree to the emergency ‘Eight Nations’ plan for the autumn on the proviso it never is played again.

As Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday England are to play Wales, Ireland and Fiji in one half of a Test tournament to replace the usual autumn internationals in November and December.

It will mean the clubs will be without their Test stars for three weeks at the start of next season.

While Premiership clubs will accept it as a one-year solution they are still determined to fight against World Rugby’s ‘global season’ proposals which will be discussed at a meeting on Thursday.

‘The clubs are clear that the tournament is for this season only as a response to COVID,’ Chris Booy, the Bristol Bears chairman exclusively told Sportsmail.

‘Any future schedules are subject to debate and agreement.

‘World Rugby has passed this amendment (extending the Test window) which we would have preferred them not to, but we’ve got to accept these are difficult circumstances.

‘We’re trying to get a pint into a quart pot so we’re trying to work with the unions to get to sensible compromises.’

World Rugby want to combine current July and November international windows so they can run a regular home-and-away autumn Test competition, to be replaced by the World Cup every four years.

The French and English clubs vehemently oppose that plan, which would see their seasons played across the summer, and Sportsmail has learned the Premiership clubs will soon conclude a financial impact survey similar to one the French have already conducted showing the effect this move would have.

‘We’re doing our own economic evaluations to see what is best in future,’ added Booy.

‘My personal view is the existing calendar is the best calendar. I think it’ll be very hard for the players to play that sort of tournament each year.

‘To me it is like two World Cups every autumn. You’d play the best three teams in the world home and away, back-to-back.

‘It would be very difficult for the players and difficult for the clubs to lose them for that length of time.’

Top players are now faced with rugby in every week of the year for 12 months from when the Premiership restarts next month until the third Lions Test against South Africa in August 2021.

But Booy is sure they will be managed to avoid burnout.

‘We won’t expect players to play three games in seven or eight days – it’s not practically possible,’ he said.

‘There’ll be guidelines about only playing a certain amount of minutes per week, and rest periods. We won’t be back to normal until the end of next season, so this will go on.

‘These (the players) are expensive assets and we don’t want to break them.’

While the schedule for the next domestic season is not finalised it is not anticipated it will include mid-week fixtures, with all 22 rounds and the playoffs expected to revert to being played weekends only.

To finish the current season by October 24 there will be three mid-week rounds.

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