World Rugby ‘Nations Championship’ loses support from leading nations

World Rugby 'Nations Championship' loses support from leading nations

News out from World Rugby headquarters in Ireland, is that the much-hyped Nations Championship has failed to gain the support from leading nations. Without that, it has prompted the governing body to discontinue the proposed annual competition.

After the required unanimous agreement by unions to enter into exclusive negotiations was not achieved, World Rugby can confirm that it has taken the reluctant decision to discontinue its plans for a yearly International rugby competition.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a media statement, “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.”

‘Nations Championship’ loses support from leading nations

What has been abundantly clear, is that the influential Six Nations partner unions were not in favour of some of the conditions of the proposal.

It has placed pressure on leading nations to show they first wished to ‘share the calendar’ with developing nations. This includes Fiji; currently ranked ninth – ahead of Italy – which will have been a discussion point for Italy, as much as Scotland, France, or any of the six sides.

With the conditions of increased fixtures over both agreed International test-match windows, facing all teams within your ‘pool’ would see a guaranteed 11 matches for the top 12 sides. More premier fixtures, but all counting towards a win-loss record that would ultimately be measured.

With the suggestion of the lowest ranked team being relegated to a lower-Tier competition, there was discontent within the Six Nations group. It has been reported that this was a key point that few leading nations could reach agreement on.

World Rugby, who had spoken of the benefits for Tier Two nations, are still invested in playing their part. “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″.

Promotion/Relegation, and Pacific Nations promises

Aside from the challenges to the International rugby calendar, it appears that even while promoting a wider range of fixtures that would look to encourage teams from outside Tier One, not even the influence of Agustin Pichot has been enough to change mindsets. Not enough to turn Pacific Nations promises into reality.

And the reality is that even as Asia sits on the edge of exponential growth, the will of the leading nations to embrace a competition like the Nations Championship, is evidence that little has progressed.

Pichot, vice chairman of the World Rugby governing body has gone so far as to threaten to resign, if developing nations were not incorporated in any future agreement. His place, and the elite positions that the Six nations hold, means few changes may occur.

Even if promotion/relegation was a discussion point, the investment of multiple-Billion dollars into the game, seems to have not been the carrot many assumed that World Rugby could imagine the Nations Championship. So rich in value, it appears now that the ‘filthy lucre’ has made some nations impervious to developing the game [externally], for the games’ sake.

As the representative of the Pacific Rugby players welfare association released a statement this week. They said ‘even if there was a straight-up, regular mechanism for promotion and relegation from Tier 2 to Tier 1 – which it is not clear was ever really on offer – those Test teams who were not promoted would be shut out effectively of all Tier 1 matches in the four years between Rugby World Cups’, said Dan Leo.

Although World Rugby has demonstrated flexibility and made every effort to provide solutions and reassurance on key areas including the format of the second division, it could not change opinions. Those established views have this week overruled any vision of a ‘new dawn’ for rugby union.


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