Ex-Lions boss Ian McGeechan has unveiled his ten-point plan to revitalise rugby now that there is a mood for change amid the coronavirus pandemic-enforced stoppage of the sport. Delegates are currently voting in the World Rugby chairman election race that is being contested by current incumbent Bill Beaumont and Agustin Pichot, who was vice-chairman the past four years.
Former England coach Clive Woodward unwrapped his own ten-point plan to rejuvenate the sport last week and now McGeechan, the ex-Scotland boss who led the Lions to their 1997 Test series victory in South Africa, has written down his thoughts on what needs to happen to make rugby a more joined-up sport in the coming years.
Woodward’s ideas very much stemmed from the current election contest, the 2003 World Cup winner aghast that every voting member from around the world hadn’t the inclination to find the opportunity during the coronavirus pandemic to hold a video call with Beaumont and Pichot to discuss their respective manifestos. It left Woodward calling on delegates to open their minds and vote for the good of World Rugby, not just self-interest.
In contrast, McGeechan largely steered clear of the election in outlining his plan. Placing particular emphasis on better aligning the different schedules that exist either side of the equator, McGeechan believed a nine-month season with three breaks for players and the standardising of all leading club leagues into 14-team events would be a major step forward.
Writing in his weekly Telegraph column, McGeechan said: “Rather than a non-stop season followed by a long summer break, it would be better to throw in three four-week rest windows through the year. The players would train through them anyway, just as they do in the summer now. But mentally as much as physically it’s important to rest regularly.
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“A nine-month season, with three proper breaks spaced through the year, would allow for a 40-game season (ten internationals in two blocks of five, and a 30-game club season covering domestic/Europe) and still give players adequate time off. Players could work on a maximum 35-game involvement.”
Aligning the global rugby calendar would be a necessary step to make that idea come to fruition, though. “It would be good to get a nine-month season, with clearly delineated club windows and international windows,” he continued. “Two international windows is fine.
“One in the spring when you can get the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship (with Japan added to it) played. And another in the autumn, when you can mix and match and get tier one playing tier two. With no club games getting in the way, why not also have tier one A teams/B teams/regional teams playing against tier two and tier three nations in that second window? Clearly, World Cups and Lions tours will require slight tweaks to the calendar every other year. But it’s not insurmountable.”
McGeechan wrapped up his ideas on a synchronistic rugby year by dwelling on the current club situation. “If you’re creating a truly synchronised game, it makes sense to run the big four leagues on the same dates at the same times. The Top 14 in France and the Pro14 already are 14-club leagues. Super Rugby (currently 15) and the Premiership (12) could follow suit. You could then have two conferences of seven, with playoffs at the end of the season.”
Other points raised by McGeechan included holding a tier two World Cup at the same time as the World Cup, setting up a World Club Challenge and streamlining the European tournaments, getting tier one countries playing against tier two nations on a more regular basis, and giving tier two nations the chance to field their best players.
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