Wales, Scotland and Italy will be able to select full-strength teams if their postponed Six Nations matches are rearranged later this year with the Premiership clubs set to relax their ban on releasing non-England players for Tests outside the official window.
Wales’s match against Scotland at the Principality Stadium was called off last week. The home side’s 23 included six players who were based in England. The injured Exeter prop Tomas Francis will be fit again if the game is rescheduled for next season, while the Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit may come into contention.
Scotland’s squad had four players who earn their livings in England. Under the Premiership rule on the release of players, any club who unilaterally permits a player to appear for any other union faces disciplinary action: Northampton were find £60,000 at the end of 2013 for allowing George North to appear for Wales in a Test arranged outside World Rugby’s window.
The rule was introduced after countries, Wales especially, arranged a fourth international every November, and occasionally in the summer. The Rugby Football Union’s deal with the clubs over the release of players for national duty includes financial provision for a fourth international at Twickenham every two years and the Premiership did not want to let them go to other countries for nothing.
Italy, whose last two matches in Ireland and at home to England were postponed because of coronavirus, have three players at Premiership clubs, Matteo Minozzi, who plays for Wasps, and the Gloucester duo Jake Polledri and Callum Braley, although the latter will be playing for Treviso next season.
Wayne Pivac warned his Wales players during the Six Nations that their international prospects were not enhanced by joining a Premiership club.
Rees-Zammit was ruled out of the opening match against Italy because he had missed training sessions to be with Gloucester, while the experienced No 8 Taulupe Faletau was dropped to the bench at Twickenham having appeared for Bath against Bristol six days before.
The Six Nations are hoping to complete the championship later this year with October pencilled in but it may be months before they are in a position to make a decision.
The Welsh Rugby Union, which earlier this week warned that the resumption of rugby in Europe would come in months rather than weeks, has postponed an emergency general committee meeting called by its clubs in a dispute over the funding of the community game, scheduled for 29 March, until further notice. Two former Wales internationals, Ieuan Evans and Nigel Davies, are standing for a vacant position on the union’s board.
While European unions and clubs hope to be able to resume this season, even if in the summer, Major League Rugby in the United States has cancelled the remainder of its campaign, which had not reached its halfway point, and will resume next year.