SYDNEY – The Australia and New Zealand governing bodies on Friday welcomed World Rugby’s contentious Nations Championship proposal as something that would secure the game’s financial future and boost Pacific and emerging nations.
World Rugby is seeking to launch the controversial new cross-hemisphere contest in 2022 that will see the winners of the Six Nations face off against the top team from an expanded, six-team Rugby Championship in an end-of-year final.
The international federation, which outlined its plans at a meeting in Dublin Thursday, has said the proposed annual global tournament could earn the sport 5 billion pounds (US$6.6 billion) in 12 years.
While the concept has been embraced by the two southern hemisphere nations, Six Nations bosses are understood to be opposed to the idea of promotion and relegation that underpins the Nations Championship concept.
Concerns have also been raised by Pacific nations fearful they would be locked out of the competition, leading some players to threaten a Rugby World Cup boycott.
Another worry has been whether the tournament could increase players’ workloads.
Rugby Championship and Super Rugby governing body SANZAAR said Friday that while there were still issues to tackle around player welfare and scheduling, the concept was “exciting” and could serve as a good pathway for emerging nations.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the proposed model was strong and addressed “many of the fundamentals we are seeking in a future championship”.
“Our challenge has been to find balance between a model that delivers what fans are demanding, with the welfare of all players, growing the commercial strength of our competition and ensuring we are providing a pathway for other nations,” Tew said in a statement.
“New Zealand has been a strong advocate for a pathway for Pacific unions and emerging nations.”
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle echoed his comments and added that the new competition would have “significant commercial benefit” for the game.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)