Different countries play their professional and club rugby tournaments at different times of the year. There is no standardized world calendar, although there are often calls to make the seasons more consistent across rugby-playing countries.
This article gives you the calendars for international and professional club rugby across the world. Note that many of the schedules had to change in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, but I’m giving you the traditional calendars in normal times.
A Summary Of The International Rugby Seasons
World Rugby, the governing authority, has approved windows within the year when clubs must release players to play for their countries.
Here is a summary of when international rugby matches are played in the calendar year:
|Rugby World Cup *||Sep||Oct|
The Rugby World Cup occurs once every four years. During that year, the end-of-year international tests are curtailed.
Here is a visual calendar layout that shows the tournament months:
When Is The Six Nations Rugby Championship?
The Six Nations Championship is the top-tier international rugby tournament in Europe. These are the six countries involved:
- England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Wales
The Six Nations is played over five weeks starting in February and ending in March.
There have been several occasions in history when the tournament was delayed and some matches were played later in the year.
The most recent was due to the COVID pandemic when matches in the usual window of 2020 were cancelled. These games were played later in the year when travel restrictions were lifted by national governments.
When Is The Rugby Championship In The Southern Hemisphere?
The Rugby Championship used to involve three countries and was known as the Tri-Nations. The traditional three countries are Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
More recently, Argentina and Japan have been included.
The Rugby Championship usually starts in July and ends in September, spanning a three month period.
When Are The Mid-Year Or Summer Internationals?
The month of June is one of the windows for international rugby tests.
These are called Summer internationals in the Northern hemisphere. Of course, this isn’t summer everywhere. So other hemispheres often call them the mid-year internationals.
Traditionally, the southern hemisphere teams like Australia and New Zealand stay at home and play on their home grounds. The northern hemisphere teams go on tour and play three matches against one or more of the southern hemisphere countries.
This is why the European countries sometimes refer to the mid-year season as the touring month.
When Are The End-Of-Year Or Autumn Internationals?
November is the second window in the calendar year for international rugby matches.
These are called Autumn internationals in Europe. The southern hemisphere teams tend to call them the end-of-year tests.
Traditionally, the European teams play in their home stadiums and the other countries travel to play several tests within a month. So, the southern hemisphere teams also call them the touring internationals.
When Is The Rugby World Cup?
The Rugby World Cup takes place every four years. It usually spans two months, starting in September and finishing in October.
Countries that participate in the World Cup usually skip the end-of-year or Autumn internationals that take place in November.
They will also expand the June mid-year window for more “warm-up” games before the World Cup.
Other International Rugby Tournaments
I’ve mentioned the two top-tier championships in Europe and the southern hemisphere. But these aren’t the only rugby tournaments in the world.
For example, Canada and the United States play in the Americas Rugby Championship.
This tournament runs in a similar format to the Six Nations. It also takes place at the same time, spanning February and March of the calendar year.
When Is The Club Or Domestic Rugby Season?
Traditionally, the European domestic tournaments run alongside the college months i.e. starting in Autumn and ending in late spring.
Historically, amateur rugby was played primarily by clubs associated with school and university “old boys”. That is no longer the case.
But it’s recognized that players in a tough contact sport like rugby need a prolonged break to recover and recuperate for the next season. So, professional players usually get downtime during the summer – unless they are playing international rugby in the mid-year window.
Here is a summary of the professional rugby club seasons across the world:
|United Rugby Championship||Sep||May|
|France Top 14||Aug||Jun|
|Major League Rugby||Mar||Jul|
If you’re not familiar with all these tournaments, here’s a rundown of each.
The elite English club competition usually has twelve teams although that has varied. Here’s the list of Premiership clubs.
United Rugby Championship
The tournament involving the traditional Celtic countries keeps changing in name and format. It’s gone from Celtic League, PRO 12, PRO 14, PRO 16, to the current name of the United Rugby Championship.
Professional clubs from these countries are involved:
- Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, South Africa
The European Championship includes the top clubs from:
- England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, France
Super Rugby involves the top clubs from:
- Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Japan
Major League Rugby
Major League Rugby is the professional tournament involving clubs in the United States and Canada.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is rugby a fall or spring sport?
The rugby season tends to start in the fall and run through to the end of the following spring.
Historically, the sport was played in colleges and universities. This is why the season tends to mirror the academic year in western countries.
Is rugby a summer or winter sport?
Rugby is traditionally a winter sport with the club season starting in September or October in the Northern hemisphere countries.
The Southern hemisphere clubs start their seasons in July or August which are also the wetter winter months in those countries.
When does the English Premiership rugby season start?
The English Premiership rugby tournament starts in September and runs through to May of the following year.
When does Super Rugby season start?
The Super Rugby season in the Southern Hemisphere starts in February and runs to August in the same calendar year.
When is rugby season in Australia?
The Australian National Rugby Championship is for amateur club rugby and the season starts in August. Australian franchises involved in Super Rugby start their season in February.
When is rugby season in New Zealand?
The Mitre Cup is for amateur club rugby in New Zealand and the season starts in August. New Zealand franchises involved in Super Rugby start their season in February.
When is rugby season in South Africa?
The Currie Cup is for amateur club rugby in South Africa and the season starts in August. South African franchises involved in Super Rugby start their season in February.
The South African franchises who play in Europe in the United Rugby Championship start their season in September.
When is rugby season in the United States?
Amateur club rugby in the United States start the season in September and play until May of the following year.
Professional clubs in Major League Rugby start their season in March and finish in July.