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World Rugby drops plans for Nations Championship

World Rugby has abandoned its plans to create a Nations Championship after failing to gain unanimous support from the sport’s key stakeholders.

Scheduled to launch in 2022, the tournament would have been made up of a top division of 12 teams from the northern and southern hemispheres – the Six Nations and Rugby Championship sides, as well as the United States and Japan – facing each other once over the course of a calendar year, with the two top sides contesting a final.

The project had secured equity support worth £6.1bn (€5.4bn) over 12 years from sports marketing agency Infront Sports and Media, backed by Hong Kong-based parent company Wanda Sports. 

The prospect of promotion and relegation proved to be a major sticking point, however, with countries such as Scotland and Ireland unconvinced about the commercial sustainability of a second division. Many stars also expressed concerns about player welfare.

World Rugby said in a statement: “A lack of consensus on key issues, particularly the timing and format of promotion and relegation, left World Rugby with no alternative but to discontinue the project.”

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont added: “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.”

Read this: The commercial pros and cons of World Rugby’s Nations Championship concept