Six Nations unlikely to move from February start, says RFU chief

England captain Dylan Hartley celebrates winning the 2016 Six Nations
England secured their first Grand Slam since 2003 in this year's Six Nations

The Six Nations is likely to remain in its February-March slot despite suggestions it may move to April, says Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie.

New World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has said starting the tournament later "could be a solution" in establishing a global rugby calendar.

However, Ritchie told BBC Sport he does not expect any significant change.

"Why would you want to change something that works really well?" he said.

"We have a great TV deal, we have stadia that are full for every game.

"So I can't see there being [any] significant move in that."

There are currently no international matches scheduled for after the 2019 Rugby World Cup, with administrators from both hemispheres set to meet in the coming months to decide how to restructure the calendar.

There have been numerous calls for the northern and southern hemispheres to align their seasons more effectively for the sake of player welfare, and Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty believes the negotiations will be crucial to the future of the sport.

New Zealand v Wales in June
Wales played 18 Tests last season, losing their June series to New Zealand 3-0

"As far as we are concerned it is the most important issue on the table," McCafferty told BBC Sport.

"As administrators we have to sit down within the next six to nine months and crack out how it should look in 2019 onwards, and I think that's a big, big debate for the game, and it will determine whether rugby realises its potential.

"We are probably looking at what a season structure might look like for two World Cup cycles after 2019, so thinking ahead to 2027 ultimately."

And McCafferty says that the clubs must be heavily involved in the decision making.

"They are big stakeholders in the game, particularly the English clubs and the French clubs," he added.

"The scale of the business from Premiership Rugby's point of view is bigger than most unions around the world."

But while saying that many issues "will be debated", McCafferty has also warned against drastic changes.

"There is lots in rugby that is going very well, and we must be very careful to protect the bits that are strong, and make sure the bits that are less strong can have an environment to thrive, and give the global game a platform to develop."

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