Top clubs and franchises from the northern and southern hemispheres could be in line to square off against one another in a world club championship as soon as 2022, according to a news report out of England.
According to the The Telegraph, there is “growing optimism” among key stakeholders for the creation of the competition, with hopes for kick-off at the end of the 2021-22 season.
The tournament would reportedly be held once every four years, and would feature a total 16 teams from both sides of the world to face off in a straight knockout format.
While ensuring the Champions Cup remains the premier club competition in the northern hemisphere, it is thought the club world championship would replace the knockout stages of the European competition.
Instead, the four highest-ranked teams from the pool stages of the Champions Cup would be joined by the previous season’s winners of that tournament, the Premiership, the Top 14 and the PRO14 as the northern hemisphere’s representatives.
It remains unclear how the eight teams from the southern hemisphere would be determined, especially given the fluid situation in South Africa, with the nation’s four Super Rugby franchises dumped from the competition by New Zealand and Australia.
The Trans-Tasman nations are expected to join forces and team up with two Pacific Island sides to create a new version of the Super 12 in 2022, and it may be that the top eight sides from that competition qualify for the proposed club world championship.
South Africa’s teams, meanwhile, are widely thought to be integrated into the PRO14, which already has two South African franchises in the form of the Cheetahs and Southern Kings.
The Lions, Sharks, Bulls and Stormers are also expected to be eligible for Champions Cup qualification from 2022, with The Telegraph reporting that details will be discussed with key stakeholders over a series of Zoom calls.
It is unclear whether teams from the Top League in Japan, Major League Rugby in North America or Super Liga Americana de Rugby in South America will be involved in a club world championship.
TRANSFER RUMOURS: Reports are circulating in SA over the future plans of one of the biggest names in world rugby – Siya Kolisi. https://t.co/6cqhl832NB
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Regardless, The Telegraph said there was an “expectation that an agreement can be reached within weeks”.
“It is really exciting. Everyone is talking – World Rugby, the southern hemisphere and ourselves,” said Simon Halliday, the chairman of European Professional Club Rugby, the organisers of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup.
“We would like, if all the negotiations are fruitful, that the latter stages of the 2021/22 season would see the inaugural World Club Champions Cup take place. This can work without there needing to be any serious upheaval in the current calendar.
“It is under discussion and everyone seems keen but there are many key decisions yet to make. We can see how it can work for the northern hemisphere clubs but it needs to work for the southern hemisphere as well.
“We are going to be making presentations in the coming weeks to go into the details of how exactly it would work as there are a lot of moving parts. We need to make it work in the next month or so. The leagues and the union of the northern hemisphere will come together to sign off a new EPCR agreement that will take us through to the latter part of the next decade.
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