French clubs have given their blessing for the France rugby federation to organise a five-game autumn Test window rather than the traditional three due to the coronavirus pandemic stoppage of the sport earlier this year. 

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The support from the Top 14 and Pro D2 clubs came on the same day that federation president Bernard Laporte, the recently elected World Rugby vice-chairman, declared his intention to see a second term as president in next October’s election. 

There had been fears that a lack of agreement among the French clubs would derail World Rugby’s plans for an extended autumn Test window due to the postponement of the final round of the Guinness Six Nations and the July inter-hemisphere tours. 

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However, that tension has given way to solidarity for the French national team by its clubs whose presidents met in person on Tuesday in Toulouse for the first time since the pandemic outbreak. 

A statement issued by the LNR read: “In the exceptional context of the health crisis, the club presidents unanimously confirmed that they were ready for the international autumn period to be extended to five weeks, allowing the organisation of five international matches (instead of habitual three).

“For this international period, they have also confirmed that they are ready to renew, as part of a global agreement with the FFR, the conditions of provision put in place during the Six Nations 2020 tournament to optimise the preparation conditions in accordance of the request of the management of the France XV (42 players from Monday to Thursday, then 28 players from Thursday afternoon).

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“Through this position, the LNR and the clubs of Top 14 and Pro D2 mark strong solidarity with the federations in the context of the health crisis and their mobilisation in support of the XV of France.

“At the same time as continuing the dialogue on the final international calendar for the autumn, the LNR and the clubs now want the FFR to endorse the 2020/2021 Top 14 calendar… in order to be able to calmly prepare for the coming season after six months of forced inactivity. 

“The Top 14 calendar is independent of the international autumn programme: the calendar does not offer any other weekend available over the rest of the season, and Top 14 days must, therefore, be positioned each weekend in October and November independently of the international calendar.”

Meanwhile, Laporte has explained in an AFP interview why he will contest October’s French rugby election. “I waited for the general assembly on Saturday, the last preceding the election, to see what the clubs thought about it. When I saw the plebiscite we had, it encouraged me and my team to continue.

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“I do not declare myself late. With what we experienced, we had to be at work with the clubs. The proof, with the stimulus plan, was a lot of work, a lot of video conferences. In addition, I was elected vice-president of World Rugby and there too it was a lot of video at the same time. 

“It’s normal but I preferred to stay at work to accompany the clubs and declare myself at the last moment… we are going to continue the work. We started on 44 commitments, we made a lot. There are some that are in the process of being completed, all is not finished. We have done a lot for the clubs but we want to continue to listen to clubs and to be a federation that donates to clubs.

“I want to accelerate the reforms, that the federation is even closer to the clubs, more at the service of the clubs, that it gives them even more means. I know that emancipation goes through the clubs, that they have the means to work well.”

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