Farrell, Read and Sexton express concerns over World League

International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton
International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton

Jonny Sexton, Owen Farrell and Kieran Read have expressed concerns on "player welfare and integrity" over World Rugby's proposed revamping of the game structure.

The World League which could be brought into effect as early as 2020 with New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Italy, France, South Africa, Japan and the USA expressing interest according to a report in the New Zealand Herald which will also see Fiji, Samoa and Tonga missing out.

The report also added that each participating nation would stand to earn between $10 and $14 million per season in broadcast deals while the Rugby Championship competition might see USA and Japan's inclusion and might be reduced to one round.

England, Wales, Ireland, France, Scotland and Italy would all travel to the southern hemisphere in June or July to play three randomly allocated Tests while southern hemisphere nations would then travel north to play three other northern hemisphere nations in November apart from their traditional Six Nations and Rugby Championship tournament making it 11 Tests for every side in a year.

The top four teams in the table then will feature in semi-finals and a final according to the proposed format.

However, the move did not go well with the players with nine international captains and nearly 40 professional players engaged in a conference call on Tuesday and expressed the following concerns to the governing body.

  • Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
  • Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
  • A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
  • Increased conflicts between country and club demands and Regulation 9 release periods
  • Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
  • The long-term quality and integrity of the international game

International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton said: "While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.

"The issue of player load has never been so topical, however it needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings."

Player Council member and All Black captain Kieran Read said: "After listening to the issues raised by many of the players, we need to be very careful that we balance the commercial needs of the game, with the player welfare needs and ensure the quality and integrity of matches meets expectations.

"Fans want to see meaningful games; they don’t want to see fatigued players playing a reduced quality of rugby as part of a money-driven, weakened competition that doesn’t work for the players or clubs.

"With new technologies, new broadcast deals and new money coming into the sport, this is a crucial moment for rugby and one that many players are generally excited about. However, we have to make sure that the integrity of the game and welfare of the players is protected."

England captain Owen Farrell added: "Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.

"The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation."


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