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Rob Baxter: New World Club Cup could cripple clubs financially

By Jon Newcombe
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Exeter Director of Rugby Rob Baxter insists that all the numbers must add up before the notion of a World Club Cup can be properly entertained.

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It has been reported widely during the week that a memorandum of interest has been signed between the respective stakeholders to enable the best club sides in the north and south to battle it out for the right to be crowned world club champions every four years.

A 16-team global tournament from June 2028 is the aim, with that season’s Champions Cup knockout rounds replaced by a 16-team tournament over four weeks.

But with Premiership clubs collectively posting combined losses of £25 million for the last financial year, Baxter says a robust business plan must be in place first.

“It is something that seems to have been mooted for three or four years,” Baxter said on this week’s media call.

“If someone says to me in four years they have got the finances in place, they will cover everyone’s travel costs, and there is a TV deal and all the clubs involved in it will get millions of pounds, and it helps all the clubs be viable businesses, I would say it is exactly what the game needs.

“If as what normally happens, and it’s (a case of) let’s try and give it a go, let’s see if we can make this work and get some interest, I would be very hesitant about it because you can very easily create bigger issues in the game trying to solve issues as we have seen numerous times. Let’s make sure it is genuinely viable before we start adding more competitions, games, and travel costs etc. etc.

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“Clubs in this country can’t take the approach that, if we do it, it will grow.”

The 16 teams would comprise that season’s eight qualifiers out of the Champions Cup pool stage and the top six teams from Super Rugby Pacific plus two from Japan’s League One.

Whilst the thought of the Chiefs taking on the Crusaders, for example, might sound great on paper, Baxter’s 14 years in the Premiership have made him a realist.

Exeter fly to France this weekend for their Champions Cup quarter-final, at no small cost to the Chiefs, and Baxter is worried that a global tournament could cripple clubs financially.

“The desire to try it and see what it is like – and there is nothing negative about interesting games of rugby – is completely different to trying to make it a realistic situation,” he said.

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“If you look at things now, we’re in a European competition, and the costs for us, literally overnight, from Sunday knowing the result (in the Round of 16 against Bath) to trying to book a plane to get over there to France, and we are only taking the smallest plane we can, our costs are going to be in the 10s of thousands of pounds.

“Take the reality of that and make it a world competition and you go, as much as we all might want to do it, you have to have to be able to afford to do it.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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