Rugby’s elite in talks over new world championship series as Northern and Southern Hemisphere sides look to build on success of 2019 World Cup
- Six Nations and Southern Hemisphere teams are in talks over new competition
- Major nations want more opportunities for the leading teams to play each other
- England have played New Zealand only twice in the last five years, for example
- Discussions between the 10 leading unions took place during the World Cup
The Six Nations have held talks with the Southern Hemisphere unions over the creation of a new world championship series.
It follows the collapse earlier this year of World Rugby’s proposed Nations Championship.
Discussions between the 10 leading unions took place during the World Cup, with a view to establishing a more coherent international calendar building to a final series every two or four years.
The Six Nations and Southern Hemisphere teams are in talks over a new global competition
All the major nations are keen to build on the success of the World Cup — which generated record revenues and television viewing figures — by creating more opportunities for the leading teams to play each other.
England have played New Zealand only twice in the last five years, for example, including last month’s World Cup semi-final, and there is appetite on all sides to look at creating a new league system similar to cricket’s World Test Championship that launched earlier this year.
World Rugby’s proposed 12-team Nations Championship was abandoned in June, despite strong support from the Southern Hemisphere, after the refusal of the Six Nations unions to accept promotion and relegation. Scotland and Italy were particularly reluctant to put their participation in Europe’s main rugby event in jeopardy.
The world governing body had secured £6.1billion in funding for a 12-year competition running over three World Cup cycles.
But in addition to fears about relegation, there were concerns over player welfare because the draft schedule featured a league competition being held in three out of four years, in which the finalists would have to play 13 matches.
Sportsmail has been told any new competition would be less demanding on the players, and would not involve every country playing each other every season.
Major nations want to create more opportunities for the leading teams to play each other
Instead, points would be awarded for each Test arranged on a bilateral basis between unions, creating a league table that would build to a series of play-off matches to determine the world championship winner.
Another crucial difference from the World Rugby model is that the competition would be ring-fenced, with entry limited to the Six Nations and Sanzar unions (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) plus Japan and Fiji.
Japan’s international future is another pressing issue that needs to be resolved following their historic achievement in reaching the World Cup quarter-finals, with Sportsmail revealing on Tuesday that the Brave Blossoms could be invited to join the Six Nations.
Sanzar are also talking to Japan and Fiji about inviting them to join the Rugby Championship, which was expanded eight years ago from three nations to accommodate Argentina.
CVC Capital Partners, the private equity firm who have agreed a £300million deal to buy 15 per cent of the Six Nations, are understood to be strongly supportive of the concept in the belief that it will help generate bigger audiences.
The Premiership and French Top 14 clubs, who strongly opposed the Nations Championship, may be less hostile to this plan if there are fewer fixtures. World Rugby would still have to give their endorsement, though.