Some of rugby’s leading tier two nations could have a meaningful, competitive tournament to partake in by next year should World Rugby have its way in the coming months.
Rugby’s global governing body is aiming to launch a worldwide competition for some of the planet’s top emerging nations by 2021 following the collapse of the proposed Nations Championship last year.
Discussions of forming a high-profile, high-level competition for teams that don’t compete in either the Six Nations or Rugby Championship were held at a World Rugby workshop in London last week.
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“Enhancing competition opportunity, meaning and competitiveness for our unions outside of the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship is critical to the future growth, prosperity and sustainability of the global game,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a press release.
Eager to build on the success of emerging nations – particularly Japan, which became the first Asian side to qualify for the tournament’s quarter-finals – at last year’s World Cup, the move to provide a competitive pathway for tier two teams represents World Rugby’s ambition to bridge the gap between developing and elite sides in the international game.
The organisation last year tried and failed to restructure the Six Nations and Rugby Championship into a single global league.
The competition, dubbed the Nations Championship, which would have featured a promotion-relegation mechanism to hand tier two nations a chance to have regular game time against tier one sides.
‘The majority of Fiji’s players are in French rugby already and it won’t be too difficult to perform’
– @chrisjonespress sounds out Alex King on how potentially successful @fijirugby could be at @France2023 with Vern Cotter soon calling the shots https://t.co/BCEBzlhriq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 30, 2020
The concept got financial backing from the Infront sports marketing agency, with support from parent company Wanda, but concerns from some Six Nations unions about the relegation aspect of the competition resulted in its demise.
World Rugby has instead started a process that it hopes will see a structure for its new proposed competition formulated at a World Rugby Council meeting in May.
The discussions that were held at last week’s meeting will be presented to the World Rugby Regional Rugby Committee and Executive Committees in March, and a consultation process will then follow before the council meeting two months later.
Last week’s workshop was attended by members of World Rugby, high performance and coaching staff from tier two nations including Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Spain, Tonga, Uruguay, and the USA, as well as representatives from all six World Rugby regions, SANZAAR, the Six Nations and International Rugby Players.
“The workshop followed a detailed Rugby World Cup debrief with teams in December and is the second step on the journey to identifying key principles of a potential and sustainable global competition model for teams outside of the two traditional annual competitions with a view on implementation in 2021,” World Rugby said in its press release.
“The key outcome from the meeting was alignment in principle on exploring a competition model that will bring greater context and structure to the international calendar for emerging nations, providing a merit-based process for linking the pathway from the regional tournaments in to a high performance level global competition.”
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