By Ali Stokes
English rugby will introduce guaranteed in-season breaks for players as part of the structure for the next three seasons announced today by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Premiership Rugby and Rugby Players' Association (RPA).
Starting with 2019-20, the improved season structures will see a number of extra player welfare driven initiatives and a reduced number of international/club overlaps for the top-level professional game in England.
The changes include a commitment to a maximum number of match involvements, rest for the next England Rugby World Cup squad in July 2020, a year before the next British and Irish Lions’ tour, and alignment with the global season requirements, based on the San Francisco agreements.
The key announcements include:
Stephen Brown, Chief Executive, Rugby Football Union said: “This is very much a partnership and this domestic season structure has been a collaboration between the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA; driven by the professional game board (PGB) and with the San Francisco 2017 agreement underpinning everything.
“We’ve taken into account the obligations under the PGA and developed the new domestic season structure, focussing on the requirements of player welfare and input from the PGB sports science advisory sub-committee, which we all feel is the right approach for professional rugby in England.”
Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive, Premiership Rugby said: “The professional game continues to develop quickly and we've worked extremely hard with the RPA and RFU over the last 18 months since San Francisco to achieve a number of progressive goals for the English structure over the next three seasons, building in new player management approaches, reducing overlaps and scheduling more of Gallagher Premiership Rugby for the better weather conditions of spring and early summer.”
Damian Hopley, Chief Executive, Rugby Players’ Association said: “It is fundamental that players had their say in the shaping of this new season structure and I must commend the hard-work and diligence of the RPA Players’ Board throughout this lengthy process. This new agreement gives players guaranteed in-season breaks for the first time and reduces playing thresholds, while protecting the 5-week post-season break that was already in place. The creation of the Professional Game Panel will also provide rigour and governance to ensure player welfare is protected as the absolute priority in English rugby.”
Gallagher Premiership Season Dates from 2019-20 onward