Retired second row Malcolm O’Kelly has explained why Ireland will never agree to a move in the Six Nations’ traditional February/March timing – and it has nothing to do with money. The European spring has always been the traditional time of year for the Guinness-sponsored tournament to be held, but there have been calls in recent years for the Six Nations to be held back until later so that a more workable global calendar spanning the northern and southern hemispheres can be planned. 

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While it sounds fine in theory trying to move the scheduling of the Six Nations closer to the Rugby Championship, British and Irish Lions tourist O’Kelly can’t ever see it materialising due to how accustomed Ireland are to playing Test rugby in its winter climate.

The 2020 Six Nations will require a conclusion other than in March after the coronavirus outbreak led to the postponement of four of its 15 matches, but the 92-cap lock insisted this non-March finish won’t become the norm. Speaking in the Irish Daily Star about the global calendar debate, O’Kelly said: “The big problem is it’s a tournament played at the depths of winter so it can be quite static, defences are on top and it’s not a great spectacle of open rugby. 

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“Irish rugby is climate rugby and what have we got? Five months of winter in Ireland. You could have all your preparation and decided to do anything you like in advance of a game in February and March. But you turn up at the Aviva and there are sheets of rain in an 80-minute downpour and the wind is howling about the place. 

“The product a world league would bring won’t have what we know here as Six Nations rugby. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the rest of the world don’t play that way. So when you look at trying to align the seasons, the July and November windows match up with the northern and southern hemisphere national teams in training and available to play each other. 

“It’s the Six Nations February to March and the Rugby Championship’s August-September that don’t match. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa can’t play their Rugby Championship season opposite the Six Nations in their February-March climate – the way they play the game they would bake. 

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“But the catch is if you switch the Six Nations to the summer there would have to be wholesale changes to teams, tactics and habits to account for hard grounds and sunshine. That would not be Six Nations rugby and something would indelibly be lost. It would be a different competition, played at a different time of year – so much of the history and tradition, style and winter resonance would be lost.”

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