World Rugby to consider new global tournament

03 February 2020 | Sports

Some of rugby's leading tier two nations, including Namibia, could have a meaningful, competitive tournament to participate in by next year should World Rugby have its way in the coming months.

Discussions of forming a high-profile, high-level competition for teams that don't compete in either the Six Nations or Rugby Championship were held at a World Rugby workshop in London.

The president of the Namibia Rugby Union, Corrie Mensah, and acting national coach Johan Diergaardt were also in attendance.

Mensah said yesterday attendees were not encouraged to comment in the media, since the proposed format was still subject to approval by the World Rugby executive committee.

“In theory, it could mean more regular matches against stronger opposition, which is something we would welcome.”

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a press release: “Enhancing competition opportunity, meaning and competitiveness for our unions outside of the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship is critical to the future growth, prosperity and sustainability of the global game.”

Eager to build on the success of emerging nations – particularly Japan, which became the first Asian side to qualify for the tournament's quarter-finals – at last year's World Cup, the move to provide a competitive pathway for tier two teams represents World Rugby's ambition to further bridge the gap between developing and elite sides in the international game.

The organisation last year tried and failed to restructure the Six Nations and Rugby Championship into a single global league.

The competition, dubbed the Nations Championship, would have featured a promotion-relegation mechanism to hand tier two nations a chance to have regular game time against tier one sides.

The concept got financial backing from the Infront sports marketing agency, with support from parent company Wanda, but concerns from some Six Nations unions about the relegation aspect of the competition resulted in its demise.

World Rugby has instead started a process that it hopes will see a structure for its new proposed competition formulated at a World Rugby Council meeting in May.

The discussions that were held at last week's meeting will be presented to the World Rugby Regional Rugby Committee and executive committees in March, and a consultation process will then follow before the council meeting two months later.

The latest workshop was attended by members of World Rugby, high performance and coaching staff from tier two nations including Canada, Fiji, Georgia, Japan, Namibia, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Spain, Tonga, Uruguay, and the USA, as well as representatives from all six World Rugby regions, SANZAAR, the Six Nations and international rugby players.

“The workshop followed a detailed Rugby World Cup debrief with teams in December and is the second step on the journey to identifying key principles of a potential and sustainable global competition model for teams outside of the two traditional annual competitions with a view on implementation in 2021,” World Rugby said in its press release.

“The key outcome from the meeting was alignment in principle on exploring a competition model that will bring greater context and structure to the international calendar for emerging nations, providing a merit-based process for linking the pathway from the regional tournaments in to a high performance level global competition.”

* Adapted from RUGBYPASS.COM

ANDREW POOLMAN

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