World Rugby is aiming to launch a global competition for emerging union national teams in 2021, following the collapse last year of its Nations Championship concept.
Rugby union’s world governing body held a workshop in London last week to discuss the potential competition with its ’emerging nations’. It wants to provide a high-level, high-profile competition for the teams that don’t currently play in the two major annual national team competitions, Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere’s The Rugby Championship.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Enhancing competition opportunity, meaning and competitiveness for our unions outside of the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship is critical to the future growth, prosperity and sustainability of the global game.” The organisation is keen to build on the momentum of the success of emerging nations, notably host nation Japan, at last year’s World Cup.
World Rugby last year tried and failed to restructure the Six Nations and Rugby Championship into a single global league, with promotion and relegation. The concept had financial backing from the Infront sports marketing agency, with support from parent company Wanda. But it failed to get off the ground due to concerns about relegation at some of the existing Six Nations teams.
The organisation has started a process that it hopes will see a model for the new competition discussed at a World Rugby Council meeting in May. The outcome of last week’s workshop will be presented to the World Rugby Regional Rugby Committee and Executive Committees in March, and a consultation process will then follow before the May council meeting.
In a press release following last week’s workshop, World Rugby said: “The workshop followed a detailed Rugby World Cup debrief with teams in December and is the second step on the journey to identifying key principles of a potential and sustainable global competition model for teams outside of the two traditional annual competitions with a view on implementation in 2021.
“The key outcome from the meeting was alignment in principle on exploring a competition model that will bring greater context and structure to the international calendar for emerging nations, providing a merit-based process for linking the pathway from the regional tournaments in to a high performance level global competition.”
The workshop was attended by members of World Rugby, performance and coaching staff from nations including Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Spain, Tonga, Uruguay, and the US, and representatives from all six World Rugby regions, Sanzaar, Six Nations and International Rugby Players.
Beaumont said: “We must evolve and examine both opportunities and challenges from the fans and marketplace’s perspectives, and not solely the performance imperative. It was great to see so much buy-in from the high performance personnel, coaches, players and chief executives – all agreed that meaningful change is required.
“This hugely productive and positive meeting demonstrated the collective alignment and excitement across the game to achieve something special that will truly enable us to better support and sustain the needs of our unions, driving a more competitive global game and Rugby World Cup, which is great for unions, players, fans, broadcasters and commercial partners. I would like to thank everyone for their full contributions.”