Rory Best says the coronavirus crisis could offer northern hemisphere nations a chance to road test summer rugby with a view to aligning their seasons with their southern counterparts.
The former Ireland captain believes southern hemisphere nations’ historical dominance at World Cup time is due to unequal preparation time.
“This might be an opportunity to prove summer rugby could work,” said Best.
“For the sake of rugby, I think they’ve got to try and align the two seasons.”
Best, 37, added: “At least certainly get them closer. It makes more sense for the northern hemisphere to push into the summer.
“In my opinion, it’s got to happen. If you take a World Cup, it’s coming to the end of a southern hemisphere season so they actually meet as a group of players and they don’t have to waste time reconditioning themselves.
“When we come together we have to spend at least three or four weeks getting back into condition after a break. That time could be spent as a team preparing to try and win a World Cup.”
Summer rugby only route to finishing season
While neither the Pro14, English Premiership or indeed European Professional Club Rugby have made any official comment on when their seasons will resume – if indeed they do – summer rugby appears to be the only route towards completing the campaigns.
“There is a bit of an opportunity here – as long as everything is safe – to get started again in the summer, although it’s obviously potentially doubtful whether it will happen,” added the 124-times capped Best.
“As a player, I would far rather play and try to align the seasons as best we can as a bigger picture thing.
“I don’t think there’s a difference in quality any more between the northern and southern hemispheres.
“There is a bit of an issue around World Cup time – it is 8-1 to the southern hemisphere in World Cup wins. Part of that I think is around the preparation. Aligning the seasons is one of the only ways to make the preparation fair.”
‘Pre-season will be needed before resumption’
Even if the sport is able to resume in the summer, Best insists a four-week pre-season will be needed for players to regain the necessary levels of fitness for rugby’s rigours.
“At the minute, it’s probably a case of doing a little bit to keep them mentally sane but knowing they are going to have to do another pre-season anyway.
“So when from whatever date they are allowed to be around each other, you will need at least a month from that in my opinion to be fair to the players.
“If they could get going by the summer, you could try to cram everything into summer play maybe through July and August but I’m not sure they will get going that soon.
“Maybe it will go into September before a two, three, four-week break and then the [new] season in October.
“Starting a season in October isn’t a massive deal. The Lions [Tour in 2021] complicates it a little bit at the end of that season but you saw when the 2015 World Cup was in England, the English Premiership didn’t start until basically Halloween.”
‘I had a 10-year to do list to get through’
Like everybody in these unprecedented times of lockdown, the former Ireland hooker is attempting to make the best of the situation as he spends time with his wife and children and also gets round to long put-off tasks.
“For me personally having just retired, it’s quite nice to spent a bit of time with the kids and not have anywhere to go or anywhere to be.
“There is a reality of the situation but outside of that, we’re trying to remain positive. Jodie is a primary school teacher so she has tried to keep the kids on as normal a situation as you can and they are schooling away.
“They try and go from about 9am until 3pm and I try to do a bit on the farm and we also try to keep Dad quite isolated as much as possible.
“At the start I had about a 10-year to-do list that I was trying to get through. There were no more excuses.
“You could drive yourself mad getting annoyed with the situation.
“All we can do is to do our little bit to ensure that we stay safe and don’t cause any spread of infection and just try to be as positive as we can.”