World Rugby discontinues plans for Nations Championship concept

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 20 June 2019, 1:11PM
Photo / AP

World Rugby has scrapped plans for the proposed Nations Championship after failing to get the support of the unions that would be involved.

Rugby's governing body had offered huge sums of money to the individual unions as it tried to convince them to sign up for the competition, and last month increased the total amount offered to more than $9.7 billion over 12 years.

However, after "every effort to provide solutions and reassurances" to the doubtful nations, the organisation has discontinued plans to push on with the tournament.

"World Rugby undertook this important project with the best interests of the global game at heart in line with our vision to grow the sport as a game for all," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.

"While we are naturally disappointed that a unanimous position on the Nations Championship could not be achieved among our unions, we remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions.

"This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027."

The tiered competition was planned to launch in 2022 and feature Six Nations teams, Rugby Championship sides and the next two highest ranked nations in the top tier, with a second tier for developing nations.

The proposal was revealed earlier in the year and was met with heavy criticism from the outset. Leading players worried about their welfare and tier two unions fearing they were being excluded voiced their concerns.

While World Rugby moved to clarify the competition in March and confirmed their vision was for a promotion/relegation model. But that too was met with criticism, led by top Northern Hemisphere nations.

There was concern from the likes of England around how detrimental it would be to their union should they be relegated from the top tier.

Convincing the Six Nations powers to support promotion/relegation for the global league was always likely to cause some issues.

"For us it could be catastrophic being relegated, commercially," RFU interim chief executive Nigel Melville said in March. "To be relegated, the catastrophe isn't just the team being relegated, it's our ability to fund the game as a governing body in England."

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