THE Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) said yesterday that they want to implement a combined 14-week break and pre-season to protect members from the growing demands of the game.
Next month is shaping up to be a pivotal month in negotiations over the new global calendar, with the RPA meeting on November 6 to hammer out its position before the Professional Game Board convenes three weeks later to discuss all proposals.
Premiership Rugby stated in March that the new domestic schedule would run from September to June and international tours would be pushed back to July, creating a strongly opposed 11-month season for England stars.
Damian Hopley, the RPA’s chief executive, has been visiting Premiership clubs to take a “temperature check of where everything is at.”
He insists the threat of strike action raised by England stars Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Joe Marler and Rugby Football Union director of professional rugby Rob Andrew, while unlikely, is an option.
Although a combined 14 weeks is similar to what is currently in place over the summer months, it would appear to scupper Premiership Rugby Limited’s ambition of introducing a September to June calendar for the league.
“You have to start with the optimal form for the off-season in terms of rest and recuperation and to prepare players for the next campaign,” Hopley said.
“Our members are saying that 14 weeks is what they believe is right — five weeks away from the club and then nine weeks to prepare for the new campaign, with pre-season games within that.
“We believe that if you get the playing structure correct, commercial success will follow.
“At the moment there is just too much rugby being played.
“Of course players going on strike is possible — as the players union we must respond to what the players want to do. It is the ultimate sanction and players really don’t want to alienate the fans, who are fantastic.”