MARK Dodson has declared himself to be “very hopeful” that this season’s Six Nations Championship, suspended in limbo since mid-March, can be completed this autumn. The SRU chief executive is optimistic that the outstanding games, including Scotland’s match against Wales in Cardiff, will be attended by spectators. 

Speaking on a media conference call yesterday, Dodson also offered his support for summer rugby as part of a unified global calendar - something that is increasingly on the cards as rugby’s governing bodies worldwide explore a future for the sport beyond the current pandemic. 

With Autumn Tests against Argentina, Japan and New Zealand still officially on the cards, any Six Nations matches before the turn of the year would have to find their place in a crowded fixture list. Even so, Dodson suggested that completing the annual tournament was essential for its own sake and for the finances of the competing countries.

“I'm very hopeful that we'll be able to finish this year's Six Nations in the Autumn,” he said. “It's important to everyone, and to the tournament itself. We're very hopeful we can have crowds at the Six Nations and have a more normal Six Nations, because the idea of having it behind closed doors, or not at all, then we're in a different world and a different level of fragility in terms of the finances.”

The financial picture would be brighter if the three Autumn Tests at Murrayfield also went ahead, especially with sizeable attendances. But Dodson sounded less optimistic, perhaps reflecting a growing belief that the games will be cancelled, and hinted instead about extra Tests against the other Six Nations unions.

“The issue around the Autumn Tests is crucial to us,” he continued. “From where we stand at the moment, our presumption is that those Tests will go ahead behind closed doors until we're told different from government. 

“We're working really closely with the Scottish Government, and we're hopeful that we'll be able to play with crowds for the Autumn schedule. But we're not convinced, and we've budgeted for the worst-case scenario.

“We're looking at what's easiest to develop, and that may mean playing against the home nations given their proximity and the certainty around playing those games. It's under consideration - it wouldn't be a Six Nations, but it would be a competition with the home nations and potentially Six Nations countries.”

The SRU faces severe financial uncertainty in the short term, and Dodson admitted that he could not rule out redundancies. In the longer term, however, he is increasingly hopeful that a global calendar can be agreed. That could see the Autumn Tests replaced with a competitive global tournament, which would coincide with a move to summer rugby in the northern hemisphere.

“I'm more encouraged than I've ever been in the time I've been in the game about the level of optimism around the global calendar. From my point of view, we're very happy with summer rugby - we think it's good for participation at grassroots level. 

“From where I sit there's more co-operation than ever before. Nations League is going to form a part of this global season. The proposed October-November window will allow meaningful competition to take place, whether that’s a Nations Cup or Nations tournament. I’m still not clear about what will happen, but I think you’ll find some sort of competition will take place during that window and the game will be all the better for it.”

After announcing that members of the Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh squads would be invited to return to training later this month, Dodson also said that an 1872 Cup match between Scotland’s two professional sides in late August was not only possible, but “probably the easiest thing to achieve”.