World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper has come to stamp out concerns around ‘ring-fencing’ in the new proposed World League, in an interview with news agency AFP.
The governing body has come under immense fan backlash after a report by the New Zealand Herald leaked details of a new global calendar revolved around 12-nations competing in a World League that excluded the Pacific Islands teams, with no chance of promotion or relegation.
Gosper says that there will be a ‘two-division’ competition, with division based on rankings at a set time.
“The two-division competition would provide more player opportunities and ensure financial stability for unions,” Gosper told AFP.
“Importantly, participation would be merit-based, based on rankings at an agreed time.
“Therefore, there is no question of closing out the Pacific Islands as we would be adding two more emerging unions to the top table whilst financing a second-tier competition with all the benefits that would bring to the players.”
The initial report suggested the two emerging nations would be USA and Japan, while 15th-ranked Italy would be included on the grounds of their participation in the Six Nations. This caused a furore as 9th-ranked Fiji looked set to miss out, while Tonga (14th) and Samoa (16th) also have cause for concern.
World Rugby Chairmen Bill Beaumont has summoned an impromptu meeting among the tier one unions along with Fiji and Japan and player representatives to discuss the proposal in Dublin later this month.
“In light of continued speculation and commentary, I’m convening a meeting of chairmen and CEOs from tier one unions, Fiji and Japan and player representatives in Dublin later this month to consider the way forward for an annual international competition,” Beaumont said via an issued statement.
While many officials have assured fans that ‘nothing has been finalised’ following the report, Gosper continued to clarify on other misinformed aspects speculated of the competition.
“This is a rapidly evolving on-going conversation with all stakeholders and some of the concerns voiced were inaccurate and out of date,” he said.
“For instance, there was talk of playing five weeks in a row in November, but earlier this week we were talking about a fallow period when 10 of the 12 teams would stop playing.
“In terms of the impact on players, at the moment test teams play an average of 12 games a year, this format would have them playing 11 matches a year and only extra matches if they reach the semifinals and the final,” he said.
Initial concerns about the end of British & Irish Lions tours also seem to be overblown, with a ‘lighter programme’ where Lions tours are scheduled, while the possibility of expanding the World Cup remained.
“Lions tours would not be affected as we plan for a lighter programme in those years; the spotlight would be firmly on the Lions.
“Analysis confirms a more competitive international game, and therefore Rugby World Cup, would heighten the possibility of expanding the tournament to 24 teams.
“It certainly would not erode the special and unique atmosphere of a Rugby World Cup and it could also act as a qualification vehicle.”
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