As the rugby fraternity prepares itself for a global alignment on the international scene, All Blacks veteran Sam Whitelock has revealed he would like to see that extended to club rugby.
Following his re-election into power last week, World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont announced his goal to establish the Nations Championship, an annual cross-hemisphere test competition that failed to get off the ground last year.
The concept would see Japan and Fiji join the ten teams from the Rugby Championship and Six Nations in a multi-conference format with promotion and relegation implemented between three separate divisions for lower-tier sides.
“In general, aligning the world’s competitions to open up these possibilities is a good thing,” the 117-test star said.
“You can imagine having the best northern vs southern hemisphere clubs and international sides meeting every couple of years would be pretty cool.
“There is an appetite to see that – Munster vs the Crusaders sounds pretty cool. There are options on the table, and we just need to work through those and debate them.”
The 31-year-old’s vision mirrors that of Beaumont’s newly-elected vice-president Bernard Laporte, who last month told Midi Olympique of his desire to start a Club World Cup featuring sides from all around the world.
The proposed tournament would span across six weeks between June and July, and would feature 20 club teams from Super Rugby, the Premiership, the Top 14, the Pro14, the Top League and Major League Rugby.
Laporte, the former France head coach, said the economic benefits of such a competition would help alleviate the financial concerns thrust upon the sport as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
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“This crisis must push us to be innovative. Let’s make this new competition, I’m sure that the public, partners and televisions will follow,” he told Midi Olympique.
Laporte’s idea for an annual global club competition – which he suggested could replace the European Champions Cup – has been met with some resistance, though.
The European Professional Club Rugby body, which governs both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, released a statement last month which revealed that discussions had taken place for a Club World Cup to be held every four years to help complement its continental competitions.
“EPCR has noted today’s media reports regarding a proposal for an annual Club World Cup,” the statement said.
“Discussions have already taken place on an official level between EPCR and its shareholders regarding a global club tournament which could complement the Heineken Champions Cup and Challenge Cup and which could take place once every four years.
“Work on possible formats is ongoing with a collaborative approach and issues of player welfare to the fore.”
In contrast, Super Rugby chief executive Andy Marinos has remained reserved in his outlook on the potential competition.
“From time to time, [the idea] is raised. It is not appropriate to comment on such conjecture at this time,” Marinos said in the wake of Laporte’s comments.
“At present, World Rugby and SANZAAR and its stakeholder nations are concentrating on getting rugby to a position where we can start playing competitive rugby once government restrictions in the respective territories allow this to happen and that is the first priority.”
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