The French Federation de Rugby (FFR) that looks after the French national rugby team and Ligue National de Rugby (LNR) that regulates the Top 14 are bringing forward seven big changes that would drastically change the landscape of rugby in Europe and opens the door for a major overhaul in both hemispheres of rugby.
The vast majority of the 7 point plan looks at changes in the Top 14, but it does include a proposal that will affect the Six Nations.
According to L'Equipe, the French want to change the Six Nations from a five-game tournament spread out over seven weeks - to a five-game tournament spread out over FIVE weeks. That's exactly 0 breaks. Given how welcome each weekend break in the Six Nations is - it's unlikely to garner support - but it gives a hint as to what the French are trying to do.
There's a distinct effort of the FFR and LNR to reduce the length of the season - especially with this year seeing the Top 14 final being played in June. The French were considered the biggest hurdle when trying to change rugby into a global calendar. But these changes could mean that such a proposal might be plausible in the future.
The other points of the plan would also have effects on Irish provinces - including an increase in the French salary cap. Here's the full proposal from L'Equipe:
1. From 2018-19 - the Top 14 would be reduced to the Top 12. This would have the added measure that only one team is relegated a year, instead of the current two. This would reduce the season by four full gameweeks.
2. The playoffs in said league would also be reduced. Instead of six teams qualifying, it would go directly into the semi-finals as per the Pro 12.
3. A system similar to the EPS squad where a squad of 30 protected French players would be named who would play less games similar to the IRFU welfare programme. A squad of 20 development players would also be included.
4. Matchday squads would increase to 25 players with ten replacements which can all be used in a game. The added replacements would have to be young French players.
5. All clubs must have synthetic pitches
6. Because of the protected French players - clubs would be compensated with an increase in the salary cap for an extra elite player.
7. Reduce the length of the Six Nations from seven to five weeks.
That is absolutely nuts. Some of the changes are interesting - some are bizarre. It's encouraging to see a push to reduce the length of the season. But some of the measures being taken - reducing the playoffs, increasing the number of replacements, and the synthetic pitches all seem to contradict the thinking and potential changes that are being discussed in other leagues.
@gavinmortimer7 most sound like good ideas but bigger match squads is a terrible idea! Players will get even bigger and even slower!!
— Austin Healey (@IamAustinHealey) April 15, 2016
It's worth following whatever ends up happening here, because it could make a huge difference to rugby in the rest of the world.
Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE