‘Rugby has to change to survive’ – Sean Fitzpatrick

Date published: August 21 2021 - News Desk

All Blacks great Sean Fitzpatrick believes that there needs to be a ‘club window’ to help make rugby union sustainable in the long-term.

Fitzpatrick, who is currently on the Scarlets board, is particularly concerned about the state of the game in Wales.

While the international side is flourishing, the regions have struggled both on and off the field in recent years.

Interestingly, the former New Zealand hooker wants fewer international matches which would allow the sport to promote the regional game.

Wales without top stars

A number of those encounters overlap, leaving the Welsh sides without their best players and Fitzpatrick believes that it is hugely detrimental to rugby.

“One thing we’ve learnt through Covid is rugby in this part of the world [Wales] isn’t sustainable. It has to change. This is not just from a Welsh perspective, it’s from a global perspective,” he told the Times.

“What we are seeing globally is that the international game is OK, but we need competitions other than international rugby that generate income.

“This is why the club window is so important. We just can’t continue the way we are with our best players being unavailable for a lot of games. We need the best players playing.

“We need to make sure we have a club window with no international games at all, which is going to involve playing fewer internationals.

“Until we get a club window where we can get all our internationals on the field it’s not an attractive product.”

Fitzpatrick believes that rugby has potential to become bigger and better, particularly in markets it has yet to truly break.

“It could be such a good product so something has to change. We need to look at America and China and to be able to connect with those fans; you have to have the right product to engage them.

“I think the competitions might change in the long run. There will definitely be a world club competition. I’m trying to educate people that the All Blacks don’t need to come to Europe every November. We don’t necessarily need to have a world club championship every year, but we need to put a 20-year plan in place and ask ‘What is on the calendar for the next 20 years?’”