World Rugby's €5.8b defence of Nations Championship

Aubrey Yates
March 15, 2019

World Rugby want to launch their Nations Championship contest by 2022, with the top performers from the Six Nations and an expanded six-team Rugby Championship facing off to determine an annual cross-hemisphere victor.

The offer comes at a critical moment for the sport, as the Six Nations holds talks this week with World Rugby, the sport's global governing body, about joining its proposed 12-team "Nations League" tournament.

World Rugby's executive committee and professional game committee will also be joined in Dublin this week by the chairmen and chief executives of all leading nations "to consider and discuss a way forward that is in the best interest of the whole game".

Players would play 11 Nations Championship matches (and a maximum of 12 matches if their team reaches the final), compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently.

Both the International Rugby Players (IRP) and the London-based Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) organisation had been up in arms over original proposals that were leaked a fortnight ago.

The Six Nations is Europe's top competition with the Rugby Championship featuring the best southern hemisphere countries.

It comes after the English Premiership and French Rugby League released a statement of their own criticising several aspects of the proposal.

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They stated that an extension to the global rugby union calendar undermines an agreement made in 2017 for a "proportionate [international] structure" until 2032, and could have an adverse impact on other club and regional competitions, which they say have been excluded from World Rugby's negotiations.

They were concerned with the prospect of a five-week worldwide block, something they said "had been specifically rejected" for established global competitions in a deal known as the San Francisco agreement, reached between stakeholders in January 2017. Which would incorporate the existing Six Nations and an expanded Rugby Championship into two group stages, ahead of semi-final and final matches to be played as part of an extended autumn Test series.

"I would like to thank my union, competition and player representative colleagues for their candid, constructive and positive contributions".

"The proposed format would be underpinned by a record commercial partnership with leading global sports marketing company Infront, guaranteeing nearly £5billion for investment in the sport over an initial 12-year period (of which more than £1.5billion is guaranteed incremental revenue for the world game)".

"However, as you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult".

England captain Owen Farrell and Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton are among the game's biggest names to have warned of serious player welfare and integrity concerns over World Rugby's proposed new competition structure.

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