Saru CEO Jurie Roux: Questions to be answered before Nations Championship can happen

CAPE TOWN – Creating a competition out of the current structure of international rugby matches “has an obvious appeal”, says SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

But he feels that there are a number of questions that also still need to be answered before a proposed World Rugby Nations Championship can get off the ground.

Roux was speaking from Dublin on Thursday, where he and SA Rugby Union president Mark Alexander are attending meetings at World Rugby to discuss the future of the game.

Some of the major problems that have come up with the idea were the sidelining of the Pacific nations in particular, as well as player welfare.

World Rugby released the proposed format on Thursday, which would see the Six Nations teams continue as normal early in the year, while two additional teams will be added to the Rugby Championship according to the world rankings.

The teams from the Six Nations conference would then face the Rugby Championship conference teams in the July and November Test windows, with a grand final between the two conference winners to follow.

Earlier on Thursday, the International Rugby Players organisation also expressed their desire for “meaningful engagement” between the players and World Rugby on the Nations Championship.

SA Rugby said in a statement on Thursday that they will be reporting back to “internal stakeholders” – member unions, as well as player representatives – before taking a final position on the proposed tournament.

“The model is an interesting one,” Roux said. “Creating a meaningful season-long competition out of the current patchwork of events and tournaments has an obvious appeal, as well as proving a clear development pathway for emerging nations, which speaks directly to one of the fundamental goals of World Rugby.

“It would also create new and potentially lucrative opportunities for the sport, as well as a single point of purchase for existing and new broadcasting players.

“But there are a number of due diligences to be performed, and questions to be answered before anything can come to fruition.”

Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said in a statement from the International Rugby Players that it was vital to formalise the inclusion of players in the discussions.

“The players feel that the existing understanding between World Rugby and the Players should evolve from a loose commitment to consult, to a requirement to reach agreement on certain key issues,” De Villiers said.

“The feeling on the call (of the International Rugby Players Council) was that it is no longer appropriate for World Rugby and the unions to determine tournament structures, logistics and tournament terms of participation without getting to an agreed outcome with players.”

Former Ireland and Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll added: “This is a pivotal moment for everyone in our sport.

“The players have made their views clear on the proposed global competition, but at the same time, they want to work with World Rugby, unions, provinces and clubs to genuinely explore what may be possible.”

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