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Thread: Plans for global leagues are back and better than before

  1. #1
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    Plans for global leagues are back and better than before

    Plans for global leagues are back and better than before

    Stephen Jones
    Sunday May 03 2020

    Today we reveal the post-Covid-19 blueprint for international rugby — a comprehensive new structure that would create three new global leagues and a development process from top to bottom, augmented by promotion and relegation (almost) all the way.

    The dramatic changes, the most significant in the sport’s history, would set it up for a major new expansionist phase when it resumes, battered, after lockdown.

    Almost as a by-product of the revolution, the World Nations Championship, involving the top tier of 12 teams in a global competition, is now right back on the agenda after it was originally discarded.

    The Six Nations and the Rugby Championship — between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa — would be played out as normal before each team played every country in the other hemisphere’s competition, home or away, in the existing summer tour and autumn windows. There would be two editions in every four-year cycle. The women’s game, also part of the revolution, could use the same format.

    The plans have been passed by the powerful World Rugby executive committee and by the rugby committee. The budgetary background just needs a rubber stamp for the new structure to be approved. The plan would then need to be put before the leading nations. As early as next year, we could find rugby’s equivalent of the holy grail — a new and interlocking structure with the facility for teams to move up and down.

    Just below the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship would be two global leagues — presently labelled Emerging Nations Division 1 and 2, with teams playing home and away (see panel above). Teams such as Spain, Georgia, Samoa, Tonga, America and Uruguay could now treble or quadruple the number of meaningful home games that they can stage.

    The sport has also abolished the hated tiers system, with the old banding together of aspirant nations as Tier Two now regarded as an antiquated and useless label. The whole package of measures has been driven by World Rugby’s executive under the lead of Mark Egan, head of competitions, who has always done heroic work in encouraging nations outside the old elite.

    The Emerging Nations divisions have not yet been finalised for certain. Egan says: “Potentially from the Americas in the top division there could be United States and Uruguay, perhaps three or four from Asia/Pacific — Samoa, Japan. Each union will be helped by performance investment programmes from World Rugby.”

    Significantly, from another source in the governing body, we understand that part of the investment from central sources could be used for player wages, the first time this concept has been mooted. Egan and his colleagues have researched the potential business success of the new system and believe that TV, both local and global, and other broadcast revenues plus sponsorships could float the whole thing nicely, although at present World Rugby intends to invest about £15 million a year in the emerging events.

    Underneath these worldwide events, the rugby world would be split into four conferences, each responsible for running development and leagues for their member nations, with promotion and relegation. The four would be Europe, the Americas, Africa (each based on dramatically improved versions of existing administrations) and a new region, Asia/Pacific.

    Many will spot one sticking point. Six Nations unions, terrified at the idea of being relegated, have come out totally against any change in their tournament, the main reason why the original World Nations concept was ditched. They declared last year that they could not support any idea of relegation because there was nowhere for them to be relegated into, with the European Championship a low-grade event. “We will be investing far more into the European Championship; we have already given them £3-4 million to help their administration,” Egan says

    “So, you could have a much-improved Emerging Nations One with teams like Romania, Georgia, Spain, Portugal, then eventually it could act as a feeder league into the Six Nations.”

    There would be no automatic relegation from the Six Nations as the winners of Emerging Nations One may not always be a European team.

    Prospects for promotion and relegation should be guaranteed in the Rugby Championship, where presently there are only four teams, and those nations see the global tournament as essential to their survival.

    It is highly likely two teams from outside the old elite will be invited to join them — based on playing standards and commercial potential. Fiji and Japan would appear most likely, with those not chosen immediately becoming key teams in Emerging Nations One with prospects for promotion.

    In the women’s game, it is envisaged that a conference of New Zealand, Australia, the US and Canada would play each other every season in a Four Nations.

    The main problem for the planners in setting up a Nations Championship like the men’s is the lack of powerful contenders in Europe. In the Six Nations, England and France (the full professionals) have pulled so far clear of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy that some games are walkovers.

    There are also strong opinions in the women’s game that the calendar should be changed so that their Six Nations is not forever clashing with the men in February and March. Egan and others suggest that it could be played in the summer.

    Clearly the Covid-19 pandemic has set rugby back severely and parts may yet crumble financially. But World Rugby’s executive has applied itself almost fanatically during the break and the new plans offer the best chance of finding the finance and the profile to put the sport back on its feet.

    This time, the ingrained old unions will not stand in the way of the new world. Sir Bill Beaumont, who has been re-elected as chairman of World Rugby for a second term, and Agustín Pichot, who ran against him for the chairmanship, both gave the new moves their encouragement.

    And the lesson? World Rugby had been too insular in the way it excluded experts from key debates if they were not members, in favour of the time-servers. This is Egan on the process: “We met in The Lensbury recently and we got everyone there. There was no disconnect between coaches and chief executives and the competition leaders from the regions. We all understood the rugby side, the finance side and the great thing was we left with a model.”

    One thing is for sure — if any of the old-guard unions try to hinder the new initiatives, they will be ruthlessly exposed. The feeling that rugby is finally moving forward is unfamiliar. Let us pray that it becomes joyously addictive.

    World Rugby is streaming last year’s England v New Zealand World Cup semi-final at 4pm today on In our digital editions, Stephen Jones takes a second look — was it really England’s greatest performance?


    After the conclusion of the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship (augmented by two teams, most likely Japan and Fiji), each team plays every country in the other hemisphere’s competition, home or away, in the existing summer tour and autumn windows. There would be two editions in every four-year cycle

    Emerging Nations Divisions One & Two

    Two global divisions, with home and away fixtures. Division One could include the likes of Georgia, Uruguay, Samoa, Portugal, USA and Spain, with promotion available to the Rugby Championship for geographically eligble teams. Division Two could include the likes of Namibia, Romania, Germany, Russia, Canada and Tonga. There would be promotion to Division One and relegation to the conference leagues


    Rugby Europe, Rugby Africa, Rugby Americas and Rugby Asia/Pacific to get funding for conferences for members, with promotion to the emerging nations divisions

    Link (paywalled):

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  2. #2
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    Many possibly don't care ... Still, it's something to read for those who want to.

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  3. #3
    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    Best format I have seen put forward.

    My thoughts would be this four year cycle of major rugby events

    RWC Year - 6N & RC + RWC
    following year - 6N & RC + WNC (Olympic year)
    BI Lions Year - 6N & RC + BI Lions Tour
    following year - 6N + RC + WNC (Commonwealth Games year)

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    80 Minutes, 15 Positions, No Protection, Wanna Ruck?

    Ruck Me, Maul Me, Make Me Scrum!

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  4. #4
    Legend Contributor fulvio sammut's Avatar
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    That's great.

    Can we restart the under 12's competition first, though?

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