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Sun 3 May 2020 | 05:28

Nations Championship back on track?

Nations Championship back on track?
Sun 3 May 2020 | 05:28
Nations Championship back on track?
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SPOTLIGHT: The revolutionary World Nations Championship, involving the top tier of 12 teams in a global competition, is now right back on the agenda.

Just a day after being re-elected as World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said that plans for a global season are in the early phases of discussion.

Former England captain Beaumont, 68, who beat former Argentina skipper Agustin Pichot to the position this weekend, said the coronavirus pandemic had encouraged the idea about northern and southern hemisphere campaigns aligning.

Reports in Britain’s The Rugby Paper claim European sides and teams from countries such as World Cup winners South Africa could play at the same time of the year.

“These are very much in the embryo stage at the moment. People are talking because what has stimulated the debate is the position regarding this year,” Beaumont said.

“The north go south in one month then immediately afterwards the sides would go north. We have to bear in mind that we have to take all stakeholders with us,” he added.

Beaumont admitted to facing a challenge from various leagues, unions and domestic sides based in Europe.

“In the north we have to take the club game with you, we have to take the European game with us. We are in dialogue with all the stakeholders,” he said.

“It’s more problems in certain areas when you have more stakeholders.”

The prospect of a united season includes a global Nations Championship competition, which was scrapped in June as the Six Nations were worried about potential relegation from the top level of the game.

Beaumont said the new tournament would have multiple layers allowing sides to move between the competitions.

“My job is hopefully to get consensus from everybody in the game. I do think there is an appetite from the Six Nations to look at the Nations Championship,” Beaumont said.

“Within that you could have competitions with all the countries who play in those windows and sitting below that you would have a subsidiary competition for the emerging nations so they could play at the same time in another competition.

“You could well have promotion and relegation into that,” he added.

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Meanwhile, the UK Sunday Times, reaffirmed the news and reported that the newspaper was handed a detailed plan of the previously mooted Nations Championship competition.

The blueprint involves the creation of three leagues with the highest-profile one putting the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship teams up against each other in a cross-hemisphere 12 team league in the existing Autumn and Spring windows.

While the women’s game could also use the same format.

Under the dramatic change for the sport, below the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship will be two global leagues – currently labelled Emerging Nations Division 1 and 2, with teams playing home and away.

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According to The Times the plan have been put together by World Rugby’s Head of Competitions and Performance Mark Egan.

“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,” said Egan.

Underneath these events, the rugby world will be split into four conferences, each responsible for running development and league players for their own nations, with promotion and relegation. The four will be Europe, the Americas, Africa and a new region, Asia/Pacific.

It is believed, according to the Times,  the radical plan will see the Rugby Championship increased to six teams with the introduction of Fiji and Japan while in the women’s game, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Canada would play each other.

This alternative competition has been in works since January with numerous workshops 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.

Source: Rugbypass & UK Sunday Times, AFP

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