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Rúaidhrí O'Connor joined Off The Ball for Monday Night Rugby where he spoke about the provinces returning to play for what could be a very long season.

The coronavirus shut down one of the longest-ever scheduled seasons for players, but next year could be even more demanding, according to O'Connor.

"They were supposed to have the longest season after the World Cup," says O'Connor, "the PRO14 final should have been last weekend. We'd be going to Australia now on a two-match tour, having started last June 16th.

"The players have basically had their holidays in lockdown, which I doubt they are happy about, not being able to go anywhere - but I'm sure they will get some sort of a break during the season.

"They are on the road now potentially until August, with big discussions underway to get the season aligned and plan out when internationals will be played. Really, there is no clarity beyond the end of this season that is currently suspended.

"There is no clarity about how next season is going to look and there's no fixture list as yet. World Rugby says they will have a plan in place for the rescheduled internationals this month and we expect a plan for a schedule for the rest of rugby as well.

"This may see rugby shift to a summer calendar, which starts in January and runs to November which might give them a bit of a break.

"There are a couple of balls in the air but we are now seeing the shape of what the rest of this season will look like or at least what we can salvage looks like."

Global rugby calendar

The global calendar has met with opposition from clubs particularly French rugby clubs and O'Connor thinks there could be a danger for the provinces accepting a summer club calendar.

"The French clubs, in particular, are against playing through the summer," says O'Connor, "I think the IRFU should be as well. I think it could be quite dangerous for the IRFU to go up against the GAA at their strongest time of the year.

"There's definite fear there for the four provinces that they risk being marginalised a bit during the high summer. If they are playing PRO14 rugby they might lose a bit of their identity by moving out of the strong traditional time of year they play in.

"Rugby is associated with a certain time of the year, it's one of those sports that gets us through the long dark winter months. The Champions Cup sits alongside the Premier League, it's something for November, December, and January.

"Obviously that can change but if Munster are at home on the same weekend as a Munster hurling final it's going to be a challenge."

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