Open scrum around a rugby “Nations Championship” project

It will probably not only be about the rugby union match of the day, Ireland-France, this Sunday at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Another subject has animated the world of the Ovalie for several days, that concerning the creation by World Rugby, its international body, of a “Nations Championship” annual. The controversy aroused by this project has also led him to “Clarify your position” in a press release published on Wednesday, without waiting for “Key meetings” which will be held on March 14 in Dublin, where the institution is based.

In the immediate future, World Rugby has specified that its Nations Championship will begin in 2022. The annual competition will not take place in the year of the World Cup. The 2023 World Cup, to be held in France, would therefore take place as planned.

Annual competition

The Nations Championship would be based on two conferences bringing together two flagship rugby union competitions, namely the Six Nations Tournament for the northern hemisphere and, in the case of the South, the Rugby Championship, which brings together South Africa, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. World Rugby plans to add two more second-tier nations immediately. A total of twelve teams would participate, each of them facing the other eleven, at home or away, with each season giving rise to a points classification. The top two teams from each conference would face off in interconference semi-finals, the last step before the final.

This project is sharply criticized on the grounds of an additional increase in the world rugby calendar. Regarding the health of the players, the international rugby organization specified that the players would play at most thirteen matches in the event of participation in a final, most of the teams playing thus eleven. For comparison, World Rugby added, the current average is between 12 and 14 international matches. The institution also specified that the competition “Would also serve as qualification and classification for future World Cups”.

Expanding the global elite

In addition, it would allow new teams to join the world elite due to the existence of a system of promotion and relegation between two divisions. Importantly, World Rugby highlighted the possibility of “Revenue maximization” of his discipline. The Nations Championship would thus make it possible to “Centralize certain partnership rights”. This applies in particular to TV rights on which the international rugby organization reports “Keen interest shown by media entities. ” World Rugby has also raised the hypothesis of a World Cup with 24 teams in 2027.

Having been the subject of behind-the-scenes discussions for several months, this project has been the subject of heated controversy in recent days following the revelation of the daily “The New Zealand Herald”. Voices, and not the least, have been raised in the South as in the North of the rugby planet to denounce the project. Former Blacks coach Graham Henry has expressed concern over the impact on the World Cup. In a letter addressed to the president of World Rugby and revealed by the Rugbyrama site, the president of the National Rugby League (LNR), Paul Goze, does not exclude acting “Through litigation” in the event that the Nations Championship affects the Top 14, the French first division championship. Stars of the oval ball were moved, including the Irishman Johnny Sexton, current president of the rugby players’ international, his English counterpart – as opener – Owen Farrell, or the captain of the All Blacks, Kieran Read.

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