World Rugby drops plans for controversial Nations Championship

The governing body failed to secure unanimous support for the proposal from the sport's international unions

Samuel Lovett@samueljlovett
Wednesday 19 June 2019 18:48
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World Rugby has dropped plans for the introduction of a new competitive format to the international game, called the Nations Championship, the governing body announced on Wednesday.

The governing body failed to secure unanimous support for the proposal from the 10 unions that make up Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.

Initially scheduled to launch in 2022, the Nations Championship would have seen a top division of 12 teams from both hemispheres play each other once in a calendar year, either through traditional competitions like the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship, or in summer or autumn Test windows.

The top two teams would then face one another in an end-of-year final.

A statement from World Rugby read: “Despite strong progress in collaboration with unions, competition owners and International Rugby Players, including full engagement on the detailed process of financial due diligence, a lack of consensus on key issues, particularly the timing and format of promotion and relegation, left World Rugby with no alternative but to discontinue the project.”

The Nations Championship would have introduced the concept of promotion and relegation, with a top division comprised of tier-one teams and a second league made up of tier-two nations.

This proved to be a sticking point for a number of unions, with Scotland and Ireland unconvinced on the sustainability of the second division.

The Rugby Football Union, however, was supportive of the proposals. ”We support the concept and think it makes sense,” RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said.

The plans would also have seen November international schedules redrawn.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby undertook this important project with the best interests of the global game at heart in line with our vision to grow the sport as a game for all.

“While we are naturally disappointed that a unanimous position on the Nations Championship could not be achieved among our unions, we remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions.

“This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027.

“I would like to thank all stakeholders for their detailed consideration and engagement, World Rugby’s executive team for their hard work and Infront Sports and Media for their full and ongoing support of our vision to grow rugby’s global footprint.”

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