Plans for an expanded autumn fixture list, in which England could play up to seven Tests later this year, have hit a roadblock with the Rugby Football Union unable to reach an agreement with the Premiership clubs before the initial deadline on Tuesday, the Guardian understands.
World Rugby was due to vote on Tuesday on a proposal to reschedule the postponed July tours and the remaining Six Nations matches in October as part of a bumper autumn but is now not expected to do so until mid-July.
While there is a growing sense the July tours – including England’s two-Test trip to Japan – may be cancelled and that the Rugby Championship sides will not travel north in November, the home unions have been exploring staging a one-off eight-team tournament featuring the Six Nations sides and two invitational teams, most likely Japan and Fiji.
Either scenario would require a Test window beginning on 24 October, likely running until 5 December, and would include a mandatory rest week. The English and French clubs have opposed World Rugby’s plans on the grounds they were formulated without consideration for their domestic leagues, insisting that October is part of the club calendar.
According to French newspaper Midi Olympique, the Top 14 is close to an agreement with the French federation, though it states that while the clubs have approved five Test matches, the union wants to play six.
While it is believed that some progress has been made in discussions between the RFU and the Premiership, the decision to delay the vote has been made to give the negotiations more time. Talks over a remodelled global calendar – with the July Test window permanently moving to October – continue amid staunch opposition from the clubs.
“The RFU and PRL are continuing to collaborate on the autumn calendar and the wider global season,” said an RFU spokesperson. “We are hopeful for a positive outcome for all parties.”
England are scheduled to play New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Australia in November and it is believed the RFU is also hoping to rearrange the annual match between an England XV and the Barbarians, either for the day after the Premiership final or the Champions Cup final, in October.