What happens if Wales v England Six Nations game is called off?

Players’ strike threats over a contract dispute may leave WRU facing international sanctions

WALES’ upcoming Six Nations fixture against England is at risk of being called off due to a planned player strike from members of the men’s national squad.

The strike is set to take place this weekend if talks planned for tomorrow between players and the WRU collapse, putting this Saturday’s fixture at serious risk.

But if the fixture does not go ahead there will be serious ramifications for the WRU and the Six Nations as a tournament – and that will bring penalties both sporting and financial.

What’s the row about?

The ongoing disputes are centred around delays to contract agreements, calls for the removal of the controversial 60-cap rule and demands for the implementation of a player’s voice on the Professional Rugby Board.

Wales coach Warren Gatland was forced to cancel Tuesday’s squad announcement for this weekend’s fixture due to the ongoing uncertainty.

This isn’t the first time that strike action has threatened to curtail an international fixture. In 2001 a row between domestic clubs and the WRU saw clubs threaten to pull their players out of international duty ahead of that year’s Six Nations campaign.

Wales’ potential rivals for Saturday have also experienced their own fair share of disruption in 2000 when, after defeating world champions Australia, English players walked out en masse following a pay dispute with the RFU.

The dispute forced England to delay their squad announcement against Argentina and, if not for a last-minute compromise, they would have been forced to play a team of amateurs.

So, what could happen this Saturday if the WRU is unable to reach an agreement with their own players?

The financial cost

Any potential postponement of this weekend’s fixture could see a cash-strapped WRU miss out on around £9 million, such is the financial allure of one of world rugby’s greatest international rivalries.

When the Wales v Scotland match in March 2020 was called off at the last minute due to the Covid-19 pandemic, WRU documentation said it cost them around £8.1m. The value of the England fixture is expected to be greater – partly because the tickets are more expensive.

However missing out on a sizeable pay cheque could be the least of the union’s concerns.

The sporting cost

According to World Rugby, the main governing body in rugby union, unions may only be able to postpone fixtures if the visiting team is properly consulted on the matter.

But under regulation 15.5.1, this agreement of postponement only covers matters relating to adverse weather conditions or the state of the ground hosting the match.

If the WRU were somehow able to cancel the game, then they would be forced to cover their opponent’s travel and accommodation fees under regulation 15.5.2.

However the RFU could decide to report the WRU for breaching bye-laws to the world governing body, who would then launch an enquiry into the matter under regulation 19.2.5.

The enquiry would then be led by either judicial officers or a judicial committee appointed by the CEO of World Rugby, Alan Gilpin.

If the WRU was found guilty of breaching any bye-laws or regulations, then they could face a variety of different sanctions ranging from fines to even a ban from playing a specific number of games.