World Rugby has announced a new agreement that will see the Global Calendar shift beginning in 2020. Perhaps the most noticeable alteration is the confirmation of a heavily-rumored switch to a July test window, replacing the current June window. Also announced is an increase in high profile matches for Tier 2 nations. The agreement will stay in place until 2032.
Key aspects of the plan were agreed in a World Rugby meeting at San Francisco in January. Attendees at that meeting included: Bill Beaumont (World Rugby Chairman), Agustín Pichot (World Rugby Vice-Chairman), Philip Browne (IRFU), Ian Ritchie (RFU), Serge Simon (FFR), Steve Tew (NZR), Bill Pulver (ARU), Dan Payne (USA Rugby), Bruce Craig (day one) & Mark McCafferty (day two) (PRL), Paul Goze (LNR), Martin Anayi (Pro 12), Rob Nichol (IRPA), Brett Gosper (World Rugby Chief Executive), David Carrigy (World Rugby Head of Development & International Relations), Mark Egan (World Rugby Head of Competitions and Performance), and Martin Raftery (World Rugby Chief Medical Officer).
Progressive talks were then held by a working group comprised of Philip Browne, Steve Tew, Ian Ritchie, Serge Simon, Brett Gosper, and Mark Egan.
In a media release, Bill Beaumont hailed the agreement as a milestone achievement.
“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.
“More than that, this agreement has player welfare and equity at heart, driving certainty and opportunities for emerging rugby powers and laying the foundations for a more compelling and competitive international game, which is great for unions, players and fans.
“This process has been complex and there was no silver bullet. 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 will ultimately benefit the whole game.”
JULY TEST WINDOW
The current June test window will be moved to the first three weeks of July and will consist of three tests. This will remove conflicts for both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere domestic seasons.
Super Rugby will now be played en bloc with no break, ending in June.
Georgia and Romania will regularly host Six Nations teams in June.
Tier 1 nations will tour to Japan, North America, and the Pacific Islands.
SANZAAR nations have agreed to host Tier 2 nations during the July window.
For the Americas this should mean that all overseas players are available for the July window and most will likely be available for a couple weeks in advance to prepare.
NOVEMBER TEST WINDOW
The November window will be shifted ahead one week, to the first three weeks of the month.
Six Nations teams will host a minimum of six Tier 2 fixtures each November.
Rankings following 2019 and 2023 World Cups will determine matches based on merit.
A minimum of 110 Tier 1 vs Tier 2 test matches will be played across both windows over the length of the agreement, an increase of 39% over previous years.
RUGBY WORLD CUP
The World Cup window is now cemented on the calendar and shifted ahead one week, with kickoff in the second week of September every four years.
In years following the World Cup, tours to SANZAAR nations will be limited to two tests.