World Rugby has decided to give national unions more time to express formal expressions of interest in the proposed Nations Championship.
A deadline of today (Friday) had been set for unions to agree to sign up to due diligence, which allows a more thorough examination of the concept and financial model. But the unions have been given a further week to consider the plans.
Rugby union’s governing body is keen to introduce a global competition featuring 12 countries – initially teams in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, plus Japan and the United States. However, plans for promotion and relegation are causing huge concern for England’s RFU, among others.
“For us it could be catastrophic being relegated, commercially. 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,” said RFU acting chief executive Nigel Melville.
The tournament is believed to have support from Southern Hemisphere nations – New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina – who are looking to get on a more even financial footing with England and France, and stem an exodus of players to European club teams.
“It is not quite accurate to say the south wants the league and the north doesn’t,” said Steve Tew, the chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby. “The reality is that we have a great idea but it comes with complications that need analysis.”