Premier Rugby has confirmed today (5th August 2003) that three rounds of the 2003/04 Zurich Premiership season will be played during the 2004 Six Nations Championship. This opportunity has arisen following the decision by the Six Nations participants to withdraw from playing a full set of 'A' internationals during the Six Nations.
The Zurich Premiership rounds will take place on the three weekends that England play away (weekends of 14th/15th February 2004, 21st/22nd February and 27th/28th March 2004). The change further improves regular home and away rugby for the clubs, supporters and players and ensures greater continuity for the Zurich Premiership.
Howard Thomas, Chief Executive of Premier Rugby, the umbrella organization responsible for the 12 Zurich Premiership clubs, explained the decision: "We have been working hard to resolve the current season structure issues for some time and are pleased to be able to provide supporters with a more consistent premiership programme next season. This structure will be trialed this coming season and has been agreed by the premiership clubs and is fully supported by our commercial partners."
"Mid-week games have never been an ideal solution for players or supporters. By playing through the Six Nations we are able to reschedule the mid-week games ensuring all the players have at least a week's recovery between each match. It also means that there will not be any premiership games on the same weekend as the European semi-finals, which reduces the likelihood of having to further rearrange fixtures."
"We were reluctant to change a fixture list which has already been issued but feel this was an excellent opportunity to improve the Rugby World Cup season for the benefit of the premiership."
"This is a new move for us but the decision was made having considered the success of playing through the autumn internationals. During this period there seems to be no negative effect on attendance or support for the club game and we are confident that the premiership games played during the Six Nations period will be as equally supported as those played during the autumn internationals."
For NEC Harlequins, it means that their game away to Leicester Tigers will now take place on the weekend of 14th / 15th February 2004, with the away match at London Wasps now being held on the weekend of 21st / 22nd February 2004. Quins home fixture against Leicester Tigers, originally scheduled for Wednesday 31st December 2003, will now take place at the Stoop on the weekend of 27th / 28th March 2004.
Quins will announce the actual dates and kick-off times for the above matches in due course.
To check out Quins fixture list for next season, click here.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.