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World 12s appoints CEO on same day it suffers World Rugby rejection

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

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The proposed World 12s tournament has suffered a potentially terminal blow following opposition from unions and domestic competitions. Dubbed the Indian Premier League of rugby, organisers planned to launch the twelve-a-side tournament next August in the hope that its franchise system – including a player auction – would entice new fans and money into the game.

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But World Rugby have released a statement that appears to end hopes of it ever taking place after a report revealed that a letter written by stakeholders including the Gallagher Premiership and Top 14 outlined their objections. “The game’s major stakeholders welcome innovative thinking that has the potential to enhance the sport, and new concepts are always given full consideration,” a World Rugby spokesperson said.

“World Rugby has reflected the views of national unions, international and domestic competitions to the group proposing World 12s and confirmed that stakeholders do not wish to explore the concept further at this time. This is a position endorsed by the World Rugby executive committee and professional game committee, which includes representatives from across the elite men’s and women’s game.

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“The priority for the sport is advancing productive discussions regarding the establishment of a welfare-focused, streamlined and harmonious annual international calendar.”

This update, however, doesn’t seem to yet put off World 12s who named Rowena Samarasinhe as their CEO on Wednesday. With close to 15 years of experience in the sports industry, Samarasinhe has worked with some of the biggest global sporting properties and athletes across athletics, football and rugby in particular.

 

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“World 12s presents an incredible opportunity to bring rugby to new audiences and benefit both the men’s and significantly the women’s game,” she said. “I am extremely excited about the opportunity to progress innovation and diversity in rugby as well as encouraging an accessible path for audiences and participants alike. I look forward to working collaboratively with the game’s bodies to try and make this exciting concept a successful reality.

“World 12s has been and continues to be in regular contact with World Rugby. The challenges around the international calendar are well known. World 12s is a long-term project and will grow over the years. We are optimistic that, even within the restrictions posed by the current calendar, World 12s will be able to host a tournament in August 2022 that includes a number of the game’s leading players, who will not be impacted by fixture clashes at that time.”

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