World Rugby says controversial shake-up could earn billions for game


World Rugby has defended its controversial Nations Championship concept, saying the proposed annual global tournament could earn the sport £5 billion ($6.6 billion) in 12 years.

Rugby chiefs want to launch a new cross-hemisphere contest in 2022, in which the winners of the Six Nations would face off against the top team from an expanded, six-team Rugby Championship in an end of year final.

The international federation outlined its vision for the future of the sport during a meeting with international rugby’s major stakeholders in Dublin on Thursday.

Plans include a three-division format and a system of promotion and relegation, which would be backed by a record commercial partnership with sports market company Infront guaranteeing nearly £5 billion for investment in the game over an initial 12-year period.

“There was strong recognition that World Rugby’s Nations Championship proposal, based on a true pathway for all, has been developed with great care, extensive evaluation and with the global game at the forefront of our thinking,” World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.

“We are encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well received.

“Everyone, not just the established teams, will benefit, accelerating the development and competitiveness of the global game.

“However, as you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult.”

Six Nations bosses are understood to be opposed to the idea of promotion and relegation, which underpins the Nations Championship concept.

And leading players have insisted their views must be heard, saying their opinions on the issue have been overlooked.

“We want to ensure that there will be no repeat of the current situation and that the frustrations over the lack of player consultation are addressed,” said Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones.

Top players pre-empted the meeting in Dublin by demanding a seat on World Rugby’s executive committee, and the governing body responded by pledging to work with the International Rugby Players organisation and club bosses over the proposals.

One potential cloud on the horizon is that the Six Nations is reportedly considering an offer from former Formula One owners CVC Capital Partners to take a stake in the Six Nations, which, if accepted could scupper World Rugby’s plans.