Sir Bill Beaumont, the World Rugby chairman, has called an emergency meeting to discuss the future of the international game amid controversy over plans for a World League.
Representatives from all the tier-one countries – along with Fiji, Japan and the players’ union – will gather in Dublin later this month.
It follows widespread criticism of the latest proposals for a World League, with a number of leading players warning about welfare and integrity issues.
“In light of continued speculation and commentary, I am convening a meeting…to consider the way forward for an annual international competition,” former England captain Beaumont said in a statement on Sunday. “Contrary to reports, no decisions have been made. This is an ongoing and complex process with multiple stakeholders, some with differing views.
“Only by working together in the interests of the global game can we achieve something truly impactful in this important area for rugby’s future global growth. I look forward to a constructive debate with my colleagues and productive outcomes.”
The proposed World League would combine 12 international sides from both hemispheres in a competition running through summer and autumn and culminating with play-offs and a final.
It had been reported that World Rugby is ready to omit Samoa, Tonga and Fiji from the competition, which could launch as early as 2020 and would have no promotion or relegation for 12 seasons.
As a result, leading players from these Pacific Island nations have said they would discuss whether to boycott the 2019 World Cup in a response to the planned omission. But World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said these fears about being excluded are groundless.
“The two-division competition would provide more player opportunities and ensure financial stability for unions,” Gosper told AFP. “Importantly, participation would be merit-based, based on rankings at an agreed time.
“Therefore, there is no question of closing out the Pacific Islands as we would be adding two more emerging unions to the top table whilst financing a second-tier competition with all the benefits that would bring to the players.”
World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot told Radio Sport there is only a slim chance that the tournament will be ready to begin in 2020. “I’m not confident at all at the moment,” he said.