As part of the announcement of the new domestic season structure, players named in an England Elite Player Squad (EPS) will be granted a minimum of ten weeks of rest in a season. Nigel Melville is the RFU Director of Professional Rugby and spoke to RugbyPass about how it will work.

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Melville explained, “It’s based on minutes. We want to manage each player. In the off-season we want to make sure and mandate that there’s a five week break, then they get that additional five weeks going into a season which again gives you a good build up and then managing during the season those minutes, and if it’s necessary give people breaks and
make sure we manage them well.”

“With continued focus on player welfare, the RFU have had to accept that the England team set to tour Japan in the summer of 2020 will be considerably under-strength with the new structure and rest agreements meaning that those who play in the 2019 Rugby World Cup will not take part in that tour.

Melville said, “It’ll be a different England team than at the World Cup. A lot of players will have played a lot of rugby during that year. They’ll have had a really big build up going into the World Cup, come out the other side, play club rugby, European rugby, Six Nations – gone through to the end of a season.

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“It might be time to give them a rest from a player welfare perspective but also to give other people an opportunity. For those players that haven’t played that much, they can still go. For those players that have played a lot, give them a rest.

“For new players coming through, the next generation, the next four year cycle, here’s an opportunity for them.”

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On the suggestion that it might be a sufficiently under-strength team to warrant a title of ‘England Saxons’, Melville replied, “It won’t be that quality, it will be a full England team and a strong England team and we’ll expect to go there and play well. They’re representing England, it’s a new start of a four year cycle.

“Saxons is an opportunity for us going forward as well, if the deeper squad are not getting games.”

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