Premiership stick to schedule despite Gatland's request
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Premiership Rugby reconfirmed they won’t move forward the date for their 2021 final to accommodate Warren Gatland’s preparations for the Lions’ tour to South Africa.
The Lions confirmed on Wednesday they will be kicking off their 2021 tour on July 3, just a week after the Twickenham conclusion to the English league season.
There had been hopes that the Premiership would follow the PRO14’s lead and move their showpiece final forward by a week so that the full Lions squad would have preparation time together before flying to South Africa.
Lions boss Gatland has voiced concerns over sufficient preparation time for his squad with their opening fixture scheduled for the Saturday after England’s top two clubs go head-to-head at Twickenham. The Lions’ 2017 New Zealand tour saw them leave London two days after the Premiership final, arrive in Auckland on the Wednesday and then play their first game little more than 72 hours later.
Premiership Rugby have insisted that a 2021 switch was never on the cards as the dates for their league season had been set in stone since World Rugby’s 2017 San Francisco agreement on the global calendar. A Premiership statement also reiterated that talks are not ongoing about the issue.
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“More than 12 months ago, alongside the RFU and RPA, we announced the season structure for Premiership Rugby until 2022, which gave everyone clarity on the future,” read their media release.
“This joint agreement, which included a number of player welfare initiatives, detailed the dates of the Premiership finals in 2020, 2021 and 2022. The 2021 Premiership final will be on June 26 at Twickenham, as we re-confirmed to the Lions some weeks ago. Talks are not ongoing over this issue, and we are glad to have the opportunity to confirm that so any doubts can be removed.
“In 2017 World Rugby’s San Francisco agreement set out a new global calendar to run until 2032, which included the movement of the Premiership Rugby season into June aligning with Super Rugby. The San Francisco agreement allowed us to set the future season structure for Premiership Rugby.
“We welcome Wednesday’s confirmation of the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, which starts on Saturday, July 3. Since 1997 Premiership Rugby and its clubs have been incredible supporters of the Lions, providing 124 players for those tours.
“We wish the Lions every success in South Africa when again we expect our clubs to supply a large number of players for the trip to play the world champions. We will continue our amicable discussions with the Lions over their tour operational requirements.”
Premiership Rugby season dates
2019/20: Premiership final – June 20
2020/21: Premiership final – June 26
2021-22: Premiership final – June 18