World Rugby has today (Wednesday) moved to clarify its position on an annual global competition amid controversy over plans for the new tournament.
Leaked plans reported by the New Zealand Herald last week led to widespread criticism, with a number of leading players warning about welfare and integrity issues.
The newspaper claimed to have seen World Rugby’s finalised blueprint, which would have seen Japan and the USA joining Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship as a counterpart to the northern hemisphere Six Nations.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont subsequently called an emergency meeting to discuss the future of the international game and the organisation has now provided an update on the new competition ahead of key meetings in Dublin next week.
World Rugby said that player welfare is “fundamental” to its sport. Within its original proposal, players would play a maximum of 13 matches if their team reaches the final, compared what the governing body claims is an average of between 12 and 14 Test matches presently.
It had previously been reported that World Rugby was ready to omit Samoa, Tonga and Fiji from the competition. World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has since dismissed the suggestion and the body has now moved to clarify this.
In a statement, World Rugby added: “Contrary to reports, our proposed competition provides opportunities for all teams to compete at the top level on merit, with promotion and relegation. Under this model, the Pacific Islands and all teams outside the current Six Nations and The Rugby Championship would have a potential pathway.
“With the proposed model incorporating competitions that are not owned or run by World Rugby, not all unions are presently in favour of immediate promotion and relegation. We continue to consider the feedback, but remain absolutely committed to an eventual pathway for all.
“Commercial considerations are important for long-term growth at all levels. Under the proposed competition, media rights would be combined, enabling greater consistency and overall value. Strong interest from media entities has indicated that the model would boost annual media revenue for international rugby and unions, for reinvestment in the game, by a substantial amount.”
World Rugby said the next step will be a joint meeting of the World Rugby Executive Committee and Professional Game Committee, who will be joined by union chairmen and chief executives and player representatives.