World Rugby outlined its vision for the future of international rugby, including the proposed Nations Championship concept and supporting business model, during a meeting with international rugby’s major stakeholders in Dublin on Thursday.
The international federation is undertaking this project in line with the mandate of its unions to secure a strong and sustainable competition and financial platform for unions and a true opportunity for emerging nations to develop and compete at the highest level.
At the meeting of unions, competition owners and international player representatives, World Rugby outlined details of a game-changing competition model that delivers a true pathway for all unions through a three-division format and a system of promotion and relegation.
The proposed format would be underpinned by a record commercial partnership with leading global sports marketing company Infront, guaranteeing almost £5 billion (about R96 billion) for investment in the sport over an initial 12-year period (of which more than £1.5 billion (about R28 billion) is guaranteed incremental revenue for the world game).
The proposed business model covers both media and marketing rights but does not include any sale of equity in the competition and therefore full control of the competition and its revenue redistribution model would be retained by the unions, the current major competitions and World Rugby.
World Rugby also outlined revisions to the original proposal presented to unions in September 2018, following feedback from key stakeholders, including leading players and club competitions:
· World Rugby reduced the schedule by removing the semi-final stage, with player welfare continuing to be a central consideration
· Players would play 11 Nations Championship matches (and a maximum of 12 matches if their team reaches the final), compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently
· Commitment to work with International Rugby Players and the leading domestic club competitions to optimise the model
· A commitment to invest in a Women’s Nations Championship to accelerate the global competitiveness of the game
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "I would like to thank my union, competition and player representative colleagues for their candid, constructive and positive contributions.
"There was strong recognition that World Rugby’s Nations Championship proposal, based on a true pathway for all, has been developed with great care, extensive evaluation and with the global game at the forefront of our thinking.
"We are encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well-received. Everyone, not just the established teams, will benefit, accelerating the development and competitiveness of the global game.
"However, as you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult.
"This is a pivotal time for the game. Only by keeping the best interests of the global game at heart will we be able to achieve something truly impactful for the future success and sustainability of the game."
World Rugby Vice-Chairman Agustín Pichot added: "We are at an important time in our game’s history. We have an opportunity to change the landscape of the game for the long-term betterment of all unions. We must work together to ensure the best possible future for our sport – a future where everyone is included and where everyone contributes to and benefits from a truly global game."