'The rugby world must wake up and realise need for global season', says Bath Rugby owner Bruce Craig
Not one to shy away from sticking his head above the parapet, Bath Rugby owner Bruce Craig stoked the fires of debate this time last year with a passionate – and carefully-reasoned – call for rugby to introduce a global calendar.
By harmonising schedules across both hemispheres – with club and international matches taking place in separate, rigidly defined windows – Craig contended that the long-running tension between national unions and domestic clubs would be resolved.
Now Craig's plea has been buttressed by remarks made by the man he made Bath's new head coach over the summer.
And the thoughts of Gary Gold carry substance, not least because the ultra-experienced coach has worked at the coalface in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Moreover, he has experience of the international game, having been the Springboks assistant coach during Peter de Villiers' spell in charge.
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Last year, Craig, suggested that conflict could break out between clubs and international rugby if the current scheduling model was not significantly amended. Gold agrees, arguing that international players are being overstretched and that the game's administrators need to "wake up".
If those administrators fail to rouse themselves from their slumbers, then a breakaway Indian Premier League-style competition could emerge.
The South African says the key issues propelling the need for change are player welfare, and the relationship between clubs and national unions.
"It's an ongoing problem," says Gold. "It would be fantastic if the rugby world now woke up and realised it's time for a global season.
"But we are tired of talking about it because the administrators don't do anything."
As Gold envisages it, the 6 Nations would take place at the same time as the Rugby Championship, the Super Rugby season would coincide with the Heineken Cup, and the Premiership, the Currie Cup and other domestic competitions would run concurrently.
If the International Rugby Board and the game's other authorities do not introduce their own shake-up , then Gold believes others will roll up their sleeves and bring about radical change, possibly in five years' time.
In the teeth of ongoing stagnation from the IRB, the game could become ripe for a commercial revolution, such as the one that Kerry Packer instigated in cricket in the late 1970s.
"There could be something else in the pipeline – some sort of IPL-type situation for rugby," said Gold.
"We are getting a lot closer to something like that. I don't think it's imminent, but maybe if in five to ten years' time administrators aren't going to tackle head-on the toll the game is taking on players, something could break.
"Players are being pulled in too many directions.
"I think the game's authorities need to change and progress, otherwise somebody else will come in and change and progress the game for them."
Gold has also voiced his support for a world club showdown, which would pit the champions of Super Rugby against that season's Heineken Cup winners.
"Those kind of matches are exciting," he said. "People like to see that cross-hemisphere opportunity."
Opportunity knocks for the face of rugby to be transformed; and, if Gold and Craig are right, a few cosmetic improvements here and there won't suffice.