Players may strike over rugby test schedules

Last updated 14:56 13/05/2013
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BRIDGE TOO FAR: The All Blacks succumbed to a tired defeat to England at Twickenham during last year's November test series.

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The head of New Zealand's Rugby Players Association says international representative players could take strike action ''as a last resort'' to press claims for an integrated international season with fewer matches. 

Rob Nichol said the International Rugby Players Association will meet on Australia's Gold Coast during next month's tour by the British and Irish Lions with moves to integrate the northern and southern hemisphere seasons on the agenda. 

The IRPA will then raise the issue with the International Rugby Board in July. 

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told New Zealand media on Sunday that a demonstration of player power may be necessary to force the IRB to take steps to reduce demands on top players. 

Nichol said the IRPA expects to find a solution before strike action was necessary. An integrated international season would see northern and southern hemisphere competitions coordinated to allow all test matches to be played within the same window. That is not currently possible because Europe's Six Nations competition is played in March and April and is not a suitable time frame for tests in the southern hemisphere.

Nichol said New Zealand players wanted their season to start later, allowing a longer gap between seasons, and has called for the elimination of the break in the Super Rugby season for June test matches. 

The players instead want an established 16-week off-season instead of the current eight-week break. He said the integration of the northern and southern seasons would not be possible before 2016 when current broadcasting agreements expire. 

''We won't allow the game's administrators to follow amateur traditions that are no longer applicable,'' Nichol said. 

''That's not only competition structure but also commercial. We have to address it.'' 

Hansen said demands on top players were too great. 

''At the moment when it comes to the global season too many decisions are made around tradition rather than what is right for the athletes,'' he said.

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- AP

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