The rugby season is a complicated one because of rugby’s popularity in certain countries. It would not make sense to have all professional rugby play to the same schedule and so the rugby season can be pretty complicated.
How does the rugby season work? The rugby season in the northern hemisphere is different to the southern hemisphere. In the north, rugby is played from September to June, while it is played from February to November in the south.
The rugby calendar is a slightly complicated one because you really have two distinct groups. The European rugby nations along with South Africa have their own rugby season. In the past, it used to be a simple split between the northern and southern hemispheres due to summer.
Rugby is not really a summer sport and so for both hemispheres to stop playing rugby over the summer, they would have to have different rugby seasons. Things became slightly more complicated when the South African Super Rugby teams left the competition and joined the URC to play against European teams.
As South Africa are still in The Rugby Championship, some international Springboks have to play rugby all year round. But the calendar is a little more simple in a non-World Cup year.
In the northern hemisphere, the domestic season usually starts in September which is around the same time as the Autumn internationals, which is when the southern hemisphere teams travel north.
The domestic season continues through into winter, with the Six Nations beginning in February. The southern hemisphere season usually starts around February time, with Super Rugby starting again at the end of February and running until the end of June.
The Northern Hemisphere domestic season usually ends in May or June, with some international teams touring the southern hemisphere in June or July. So rugby as a whole has a year-round calendar, but there is a big difference in how the two hemispheres structure their rugby season to fit with the weather.
This new structure is slightly changed because of the South African teams joining the URC. South African rugby players had previously been part of Super Rugby along with the teams from New Zealand and Australia. But South African players now have a year-long rugby season.
This is because domestically they play on the Northern Hemisphere schedule which runs from September to June. Instead of having a break during this time, Springbok players will be playing in The Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Argentina and Australia.
This means that the middle of the domestic season will be played in the summer for South African teams. Not only is this difficult for the teams themselves, but it also makes things incredibly difficult for the opposing sides in the URC who have to travel to South Africa.
The South African sides joining the URC have started a debate as to whether there should be a global calendar, with both sides of the hemisphere adopting the same calendar to make some competitions easier.
How long is the Rugby season?
The exact length of a rugby season depends on the competition you are playing in, but there does tend to be a similar length for professional players.
A rugby season can be up to 11 months long for some professional players. If you take a look at international players who are playing for European nations, their domestic season runs from September to May, with usually a summer tour in June or July. This means in total they could play rugby in 11 of the 12 months in a year.
For the majority of rugby players the playing season will be either eight or nine months long, with another month usually dedicated to preseason. Non-professional rugby seasons will usually be slightly shorter as a lot of amateur teams only play in a single competition, with professional players playing in multiple different competitions for their club and country.
How does the Rugby season work in England?
The competitive rugby season in England will usually start in September, with pre-season usually beginning towards the end of August or the start of September. The domestic season will then continue on to June when most competitive leagues end.
This is also the case for the majority of English Premiership rugby. The season tends to begin in September for non-Rugby World Cup years and the season will continue until the end of June which is usually when the Premiership Rugby Final is.
Some players will still play rugby in the summer but those are only the ones who play for England. The England rugby team often has a summer tour of a team from the southern hemisphere. So they will be touring when it is Winter in the southern hemisphere.
The Six Nations and Autumn internationals overlap with the Premiership Rugby season, with English professional teams playing in Europe from December onto May, with the teams who advance further into the tournament playing later in the season.
The summer acts as the break in between seasons for rugby in England. No rugby gets played in England in July and August, usually because it is too hot and the ground is too dry and hard. Pre-season for rugby can start in August, particularly for professional players who will have a longer pre-season.
When is Rugby season 2023 in the UK?
In terms of professional rugby, the season will be slightly different in 2023 because of the Rugby World Cup which begins in September in France. The professional season started slightly earlier in 2022 so that it could end earlier in 2023. The Premiership Rugby final is supposed to take place at the end of May.
This is a couple of weeks earlier than normal. It gives players more time to get ready for the Rugby World Cup. The amateur rugby season is likely unaffected by the Rugby World Cup in England so they will have the same season as usual.
The Premiership Rugby 2023/24 season will start much later in the year than usual due to the Rugby World Cup taking place in September and October.