World Rugby dumps Nations Championship plan
WORLD Rugby has abandoned plans to create a Nations Championship after failing to gain support from unions, the sport's ruling body said on Wednesday.
Rugby's governing body needed unanimous approval from the 10 countries that make up the Six Nations and Rugby Championship - including Australia and New Zealand - to enter into exclusive negotiations.
World Rugby identified the inability to reach a consensus on key issues such as the timing and format of promotion and relegation as the reason for scrapping the project.
The Nations Championship was scheduled to begin in 2022 and would have taken place in traditional competitions like the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, as well as during existing Test windows, with the top two teams meeting in the final at the end of the year.
"While we are naturally disappointed that a unanimous position on the Nations Championship could not be achieved among our unions, we remain fully committed to exploring alternative ways to enhance the meaning, value and opportunity of international rugby for the betterment of all unions," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said in a statement.
"This includes our continued commitment to competition and investment opportunities for emerging nations to increase the competitiveness of the international game with a view to possible Rugby World Cup expansion in 2027."
SANZAAR is disappointment that the World Rugby Nations Championship (WRNC) concept that was set to redefine international rugby has been taken off the table.
The SANZAAR member Unions - Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - despite having some concerns over elements of what was presented, most notably promotion/relegation, had all signed the Offer Letters to enter into the next phase of due diligence with the aim of working through the concerns with all interested parties.
SANZAAR chairman Brent Impey stated, "The Nations Championship was a golden opportunity to grow the game internationally but is seemingly lost. SANZAAR remains convinced that such a revamped international calendar is the right course of action supported by professional cross-border competitions such as Super Rugby and the various European premierships."
"All SANZAAR Unions signed the letter of offer with World Rugby to continue negotiations. SANZAAR has been consistent in its support of the concept as we believed that this was an important decision for the future of the world game."
"Furthermore, the ability to have promotion/relegation in both hemispheres as proposed by World Rugby is a principle position with which SANZAAR agreed. That would have created a meaningful pathway and aspirations for emerging nations."
"While World Rugby has led discussions around the Nations Championship concept, SANZAAR and its member unions, have been in constant and positive dialogue with our broadcast partners to secure the future of Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship," added Impey.
RUGBY AUSTRALIA'S STATEMENT
Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle issued the following statement after World Rugby announced overnight that it has discontinued plans for a World Nations Championship after it failed to gain unanimous agreement from the Unions to continue its scoping work for the concept.
"Rugby Australia acknowledges the efforts and leadership of World Rugby in developing the World Rugby Nations Championship concept and acting in the best interests of the game globally.
"These were very complex discussions which needed to balance a number of objectives, including what fans would expect from a global competition structure, commercial objectives, player welfare considerations and providing genuine opportunities for emerging nations to take part in a top-tier competition through promotion and relegation between the two divisions proposed.
"Rugby Australia had committed to find a solution that would work from both a commercial and fan engagement perspective and while we had highlighted some concerns with World Rugby about some aspects of the competition, including the need for the timely introduction of an equitable promotion and relegation system, we were - along with our SANZAAR partners - looking forward to entering the next phase in its development to work through and reach agreement with our colleagues.
"While these discussions have been happening at World Rugby level, we have had a Rugby Australia project group working extensively in parallel with our SANZAAR partners on The Rugby Championship and other international opportunities for the next broadcast cycle. We look forward to continuing our detailed work on this and continuing our positive discussions with our broadcasters," Castle said.
NEW ZEALAND RUGBY'S STATEMENT
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has commended World Rugby for its leadership in seeking to strengthen the global game, despite being forced to discontinue plans for a World Nations Championship, after failing to win unanimous support from Unions.
NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew said:
"We want to acknowledge the tireless efforts and leadership from World Rugby to get the proposal to this point.
"Creating a new international competition was always going to be a challenging conversation for world rugby nations.
"The challenges have been complex and multi-faceted as we sought to find a model that balanced demands of fans, with the welfare of all players, growing the commercial strength of our competition and ensuring we were providing a pathway for other nations.
"While there were some serious issues to be resolved such as the varying positions on promotion/relegation, New Zealand Rugby remained committed to continuing dialogue to see if these could be overcome for the greater good of the game.
"For that reason, New Zealand Rugby and other SANZAAR nations signed the World Rugby letter of offer to take the process to the next stage.
"We will continue the work that the SANZAAR nations have being doing in parallel to this process on alternative options beyond 2021. We have an excellent competition in the Investec Rugby Championship as our starting point to grow the game, and we remain focussed to including opportunities for Pacific unions and emerging nations to grow the game."
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