The RFU have declared that summer rugby union ‘can work’ in England and are open to that drastic change as part of urgent talks about creating a new global calendar.
Officials around the world have used the coronavirus shutdown to address glaring problems in the game and there has been a collective realisation that reform is desperately needed.
There is now a strong resolve to align the sport in both hemispheres, which would involve the European nations playing during the hottest months of the year. And the RFU, seen as a bastion of conservatism and tradition, appear ready to embrace the profound upheaval.
Bill Sweeney, the union’s chief executive, said yesterday: ‘From an RFU position, I think summer rugby can work. But we are also mindful of the challenges it can throw up.
‘How does the professional game relate to the community game? For the community game, summer rugby may not work because a lot of pitches and clubhouses are shared across different sports.’
Reports in France last week suggested that two proposals about the calendar involve club seasons through the summer. Sweeney added: ‘There are a lot of people who feel strongly that it’s a good idea.’
Another proposal is pushing back the Six Nations to March and April, in order to play it at the same time as a rescheduled Rugby Championship in the southern hemisphere.
There has been resistance among the European elite to any attempts to tinker with the timing of a successful, popular tournament but now a change is very much on the cards.
‘With regard to the Six Nations, if it works for the best interests of the game, we would be prepared to move it, by a month or a couple of months or whatever,’ said Sweeney.
The Lions tour next year may also be delayed by a few months to fall in line with the global calendar plans.
Sportsmail understands that switching the 2021 trip to South Africa from its existing July-August slot to the autumn is regarded as a ’50-50′ possibility.
‘The conversations around the global calendar have included the Lions,’ said Sweeney. ‘We’ve had good conversations with the Lions. If the tour was to move, it would move into that autumn window.’
The major issue facing the Lions is the booking of venues and logistics — hotels and flight bookings. You’re probably talking about a few months yet before you hit that deadline,’ said Sweeney.
In fact, well-placed sources have indicated that any decision to shift the Lions tour would ideally be made by the end of next month.