Incoming New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson says the door is not closed on expanding the Rugby Championship, emphasising the need to grow the global game.
The tournament would have seen two new teams join it as early as 2022 has World Rugby’s Nations Championship gone ahead; however the proposal was axed due to lack of support.
But while the Nations Championship isn’t going ahead, Robinson told Radio Sport’s Jim Kayes NZ Rugby remained interested in seeing the Rugby Championship grow in the future.
“We met with the Pacific Islands and the Japanese as recently as World cup and talked about what the Rugby Championship looks like, all those things are on the table at the moment,” Robinson said.
“We’re absolutely committed to that. I accept the frustration and views around what happened in the past, we acknowledge this is a new world and if the game is to break into new markets, which it needs to do not only for good of game but reality of the financial viability, we’ve got to do it.
Continue reading below…
“At some stage, we’re committed to looking at the expansion of the Rugby Championship. The timelines around that we’re working through … there’s a growing acceptance around the world that we need to be genuine in our commitment to globalise the game.”
The global growth of the game could be the key issue in the near future, with current World Rugby vice-chairperson Agustin Pichot expected to throw his name in the ring against current chairperson Bill Beaumont for the top job.
Pichot has been vocal in his desire to grow the game across the globe and was one of the key supporters of establishing the Nations Championship.
When asked who New Zealand Rugby would support if an election was necessary, Robinson said it was too early to comment but indicated the global growth of the game would be an important factor in their decision.
“We are very clear with what we expect from the future leadership,” Robinson said. “We need some action and we’ve been very clear about what those actions might look like around globalising the game.
“Frustratingly at times we’ve seen more behaviour aligned with protectionism; we think it’s time to open the game up. That involves looking at how we support and develop emerging nations at international level, create competitions, eligibility laws that can make that happen, support them with finance and resources available to make them as strong as possible, then we have true global showcases with as many teams as possible in World Cup and that’s the opportunity which sits before our game.
“That will play out over the next few months, but we want to see a genuine commitment to those things.”
New Zealand’s coaching situation has taken a surprise twist:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.