This weekend sees the opening of World Rugby’s Autumn International window where the top teams from both the Northern and Southern hemisphere will do battle in various ‘friendlies’ in order to better their standing in the World Rankings. Rugby has become increasingly professional over the last decade as a result of which there is a greater demand to see the best teams go head to head in an already congested season.
This Autumn is no different with Wales competing in four tests against Australia, Georgia, New Zealand and South Africa over the course of 4 weekends and New Zealand going further by cramming in their four tests in only 14 days; indeed the All Blacks play France twice in the space of only four days.
Whilst the Autumn International window will satisfy the fans, it will no doubt have a different appeal to those elite players for whom this is a yet further intense period of training and playing after an already long year that included an intense 5 week tour of New Zealand for those selected for the British & Irish Lions.
In recent weeks, concern has been voiced by professional rugby players as to the amount of games making up their fixture lists and a growing injury crisis. This is mainly due to plans to extend the English Premiership Rugby season to 10 months, starting at the beginning of September and finishing at the end of June.
Premiership Rugby say that the extended 10 month season, announced in response to changes recommended by World Rugby in respect of the global rugby calendar, will allow clubs to be “more sophisticated” in their management of players. However, players have commented that extending the season will only leave a two month off-season, which would also need to include pre-season training. Premiership Rugby’s argument that pre-season could be shortened is rejected by players and coaching staff alike who say that pre-season is a vital tool in conditioning squads in order that they do not suffer from long term injuries once the season starts.