World Rugby clarifies Nations Championship concept

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont

World Rugby has issued a clarification on the revamped international calendar that is set to make a mark from 2022.

The clarification comes a week ahead of the governing body's meet in Dublin next week after players and unions expressed displeasure on the move by the World Rugby with the Pacific Island nations even threatening to withdraw from the World Cup later this year in Japan.

Known as the Nations Championship, it will contain two set of leagues consisting of Six Nations teams and four from the Rugby Championship which will have an addition of two more teams. Each team will face the other 11 teams in either a home or away fixture with the top four teams overall progressing to the play-offs.

World Rugby has also confirmed that the Nations Championship will be played every two years that does not include a World Cup year and will have a truncated version when British and Irish Lions will be in action. With merit based promotion and relegation in place, World Rugby wants to use the platform to expand the game with a target to reach 24 teams by 2027 World Cup.

The move also is seen by the governing body as a way to preserve the interest and financial structure of the game including the broadcast deals.

  • the best-possible environment and opportunities for players
  • a first-ever pathway for emerging unions to compete at the top table of annual competitions
  • a better fan experience with enhanced meaning and attractiveness of fixtures
  • financial certainty for unions
  • harmonisation with club rugby
  • revenue maximisation for reinvestment in all levels of the game globally

The statement released by World Rugby also added that player welfare and the expansion of game across the globe will be a major factor in the introduction of the new concept. It also said that the teams outside the Six Nations and Rugby Championship will have a pathway to succeed at the top most level.

"Player welfare is fundamental to our sport. Within the original proposal, players would play a maximum of 13 matches if their team reaches the final, compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently. Most teams would play 11 matches," read the statement.

"Growing the sport’s fan base through more compelling competition is also vital as broadcasters will only pay more for a product that fans want to see.

"As part of the analysis, market research was conducted in the UK and France and more than 60 per cent of people surveyed, who saw a video of the competition format, said the concept would increase their interest in international rugby, while only four per cent said they would be less interested.

Contrary to reports, our proposed competition provides opportunities for all teams to compete at the top level on merit, with promotion and relegation.

"Under this model, the Pacific Islands and all teams outside the current 6 Nations and The Rugby Championship would have a potential pathway.

"With the proposed model incorporating competitions that are not owned or run by World Rugby, not all unions are presently in favour of immediate promotion and relegation. We continue to consider the feedback, but remain absolutely committed to an eventual pathway for all"