London - England's Rugby Players' Association hit out on Monday
at what it said was a "detrimental" plan to extend the top-flight
Premiership season by a month, saying it was not "viable" and would
put international players especially under "incredible strain".
There have long been concerns about the toll an increasingly
physical and fast-paced professional game is taking on players, with worries
about concussion-related injuries a particular issue.
At the same time there has been an attempt to bring greater
harmony between club and international fixtures worldwide, with rugby union
traditionally a winter sport in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
In March, World Rugby, the sport's governing body, unveiled
plans for a new global calendar for 2020 onwards which will include shifting
the June Test window back to July to allow the southern hemisphere Super Rugby
season to run uninterrupted.
But that threw up the possibility that, in effect, leading
European-based players could be left with an 11-month season.
In a strongly-worded statement, the RPA said that, while
disappointed to learn of league organisers Premiership Rugby's plans via a
press release in March, they had invited them to present their proposals in
more detail to the RPA Players' Board on Wednesday, May 10.
"However, after due consideration, the Board
unanimously rejected these proposals in their current form," the RPA
"Extending an already arduous season from nine months
to ten has serious implications for players, given the potential increase to
the game, training and psychological loads they face."
Saying it had fought hard for the introduction of a
mandatory five-week off-season break in the standard Premiership contract, the
RFA insisted players also needed an "extensive" pre-season period to
get ready for the demands of a league campaign.
The RPA said Test stars, who already face a gruelling
schedule, would be particularly badly hit by the proposed changes.
"Perhaps most worryingly is the incredible strain these
proposals would place on international players.
"If the Premiership season retains its current start
date, the addition of a July tour schedule will lead to an 11-month season for
"This cannot be avoided unless these players start
their domestic season later, which brings into question the need for the season
"Whilst we also acknowledge that the reduction of
overlaps between international and domestic rugby is desirable, we do not
believe the current proposals are viable."