World League's radical Test shake-up
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: International rugby is set to undergo a seismic shift with plans of a proposed World League.
According to the New Zealand Herald, a 12-team World League – where teams from the Rugby Championship and Six Nations will be joined by the United States and Japan – is set to go ahead after leading nations came to an agreement. An unknown broadcaster has also offered to back the concept in a deal that will provide up to NZ$14m for each nation every season.
Rumours of the proposal have been floating around for several months and there is thought to be some urgency to sign off on the concept with plans to launch by 2020.
The new format will reportedly see all 12 participating nations meet once a year, with a finals series contested at the end of the year.
Promotion and relegation have been ruled out, meaning island nations like Fiji – currently ranked ninth in the world – Samoa and Tonga will likely be uninvolved for at least a decade.
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The Six Nations sides will travel south to each play three randomly allocated tests, then the Rugby Championship – potentially expanding to include Japan and the United States – will kick off in August.
Southern sides will then head north in November to play those they missed in July, and the top four teams on the table after that will meet in the Northern hemisphere for the playoffs.
While the number of tests played during a non-World Cup year would be 13 – the All Blacks have played 14 each season for the last three years – there is concern about the increase in travel.