World Rugby confirms Nations Championship structure

Nations Championship

After the widespread dismay at the proposed structure of the World Rugby Nations Championship, a press release has been sent out this afternoon to clarify some of the details.

Watch the video here:

And here is the blurb:

World Rugby has moved to clarify the organisation’s position on the merits and structure of an annual global competition in advance of key meetings in Dublin next week.

As the international federation for the sport, World Rugby is committed to the global advancement of rugby and its character-building values to build a better, stronger game for players, unions, clubs and fans.

Tasked by unions last May to examine the feasibility of competition structures that had the potential to reinvigorate the July and November windows, World Rugby’s goal has always been to create:
– the best-possible environment and opportunities for players
– a first-ever pathway for emerging unions to compete at the top table of annual competitions
– a better fan experience with enhanced meaning and attractiveness of fixtures
– financial certainty for unions
– harmonisation with club rugby
– revenue maximisation for reinvestment in all levels of the game globally

The current rugby broadcast market is complicated, which impairs the overall ability of the game – including players, fans, unions and clubs – to realise its full potential. World Rugby is undertaking this important work on behalf of our unions to secure the long-term growth and stability of the sport in an ever more competitive sports and entertainment environment.

It is incumbent on World Rugby to champion and represent the whole game, not just the top of the game, and we are committed to working with our union and player representative colleagues to ensure an equitable solution that works for all.

That is why we tabled the below competition model with union CEOs and International Rugby Players in September 2018:
– Nations Championship to debut in 2022
– The 6 Nations, The Rugby Championship and British and Irish Lions completely retained and protected as jewels in the calendar
– Two-division, merit-based format with promotion and relegation and a potential pathway for all unions
– Two conferences comprising the 6 Nations and The Rugby Championship (where two tier two teams would be immediately added to make six in total)
– Each team plays the other 11 teams once either home or away with points accumulated throughout counting towards a league table
– Top two teams from each conference would play cross-conference semi-finals, followed by a grand final
– Running in two of the four years in the Rugby World Cup cycle (not running in a Rugby World Cup year and truncated version in a Lions year)
– Broadcast rights aggregated and collectively sold, increasing revenue potential. Possibility to centralise some sponsorship rights
– The competition would provide qualification and seeding for future Rugby World Cups
– Rugby World Cup to be enhanced as the pinnacle global event, potentially moving to 24 teams in 2027

Player welfare is fundamental to our sport. Within the original proposal, players would play a maximum of 13 matches if their team reaches the final, compared to an average of between 12 and 14 test matches presently. Most teams would play 11 matches.

Growing the sport’s fan base through more compelling competition is also vital as broadcasters will only pay more for a product that fans want to see. As part of the analysis, market research was conducted in the UK and France and more than 60 per cent of people surveyed, who saw a video of the competition format, said the concept would increase their interest in international rugby, while only four per cent said they would be less interested.

Contrary to reports, our proposed competition provides opportunities for all teams to compete at the top level on merit, with promotion and relegation. Under this model, the Pacific Islands and all teams outside the current 6 Nations and The Rugby Championship would have a potential pathway. With the proposed model incorporating competitions that are not owned or run by World Rugby, not all unions are presently in favour of immediate promotion and relegation. We continue to consider the feedback, but remain absolutely committed to an eventual pathway for all.

Commercial considerations are important for long-term growth at all levels. Under the proposed competition, media rights would be combined, enabling greater consistency and overall value. Strong interest from media entities has indicated that the model would boost annual media revenue for international rugby and unions, for reinvestment in the game, by a substantial amount.

Ongoing conversations and stakeholder views have shaped and evolved further elements for discussion, including improvements on player load in November. The next step in this process is a joint meeting of the World Rugby Executive Committee and Professional Game Committee (the bodies overseeing the project), who will be joined by union Chairmen and CEOs and player representatives to consider and discuss progress and a way forward that is in the best interest of the whole game.

Change is always difficult, and nobody expected complex multi-stakeholder discussions to be simple, however for a sport to grow and thrive, it must explore ways to innovate and evolve.

What do you think?

17 thoughts on “World Rugby confirms Nations Championship structure

  1. Still think it’s a stupid idea. In a four year cycle you’d have a RWC winner and two winners of the “World League”. Chances are that it’s always going to be one of 3 or 4 teams anyway, and most likely the ABs bar a shock defeat.
    For NH teams touring in the July window, they could potentially be drawn to play Argentina, South Africa (at altitude) and Japan in consecutive weeks. That’s a murderous schedule if you’re a fan, let alone for players.

    It would be much simpler if they made sure that in July and November, all teams touring play 4 games, but that one of them is against a lower Tier opposition. So, England tour to SA (say), play 3 games against SA and one against Namibia, Wales play NZ (x3) and Fiji (x1) Ireland Play Australia (x3) and Japan (x1) etc. Likewise Australia play 3 Tier 1 countries in the Autumn and then Georgia. NZ play 3 T1 teams and Russia, etc. Fans in the Tier 2/3 countries would flock to buy tickets to see the big names, and Tier 2/3 teams get a chance to regularly play the bigger teams.

  2. I think this is great. don’t see any major problems. only issue is travel – teams (and fans) travelling from argentina to japan to fiji to south africa to europe… but in the modern game teams can definitely survive worse, it’s not too much worse than Super Rugby (and at a higher level!) and there haven’t been too many complaints there as far as I can tell.

    I, for one, am extremely excited and can’t wait for this to begin – love the promotion and relegation, love the meaning it adds to all the games, love the fact that there is a finals series every year, love the way this brings a greater focus on the RWC.

    1. Isn’t that what they said about the WC P Metter? My guess is that it will happen. It’s more a ? of when, then how.

  3. I think it’s daft. The amount of rugby played these days means that stadiums are at best half full. I am a rugby supporter watch as much as I can on TV. As a septuagenarian I have no real desire to go to the stadium. Then I think of a family of 4 how often they afford to attend home games? I don’t think this one will work.

  4. Not massively keen
    While the division 1 and 2 level might work the division 3 is a bit of a shambles

    Firstly based on world ranking it should be the top 56 teams but these 5 have been excluded
    44 Ivory coast
    46 Morocco
    52 Madagascar
    54 Cook Islands
    55 Senegal
    in favour of these team because they fit closer to the geography they are after. Why do they have to shoehorn geography into it
    57 Latvia
    62 Isreal
    65 Luxemburg
    66 Hungry
    75 Andorra

    then there is the question why some teamshave been put in D3 when they have a higher ranking that members of D2
    Canada vs Hong Kong
    Netherlands vs Portugal
    And of course italy given preferential treatment over Georgia again. Thankfully promotion/relegation should sort that out
    Then you get to the imbalances in the D3 pools
    Pool, sum(Ranking), max-min
    E-P1, 121, 13
    E-P2, 195, 23
    E-P3, 158, 23
    E-P4, 263, 18
    R-P1, 154, 11
    R-P2, 170, 30
    R-P3, 173, 23
    R-P4, 128, 13
    Don’t fancy the chances of Trinidad and Tobago (rank 51, 45.51pts) or Mexico (Rank 50, 45.66pts) when they play Canada (Rank 21,61.36pts) it will literally be a bloodbath.
    Then when it comes to the playoffs team from European pool 4 wont stand a chance against the winner of pool 1

    1. Putting aside all the other issues raised around why we need this competition at all, if we had to have it i would propose the following structure

      Europe & N.Africa
      D1 – IRE, WAL, ENG, SCO, FRA, GEO
      D2 – ITA, RUS, SPA, ROM, BEL, NED
      Then rankings based pools for D3 based on Ranking at start of season
      POR, POL, MLT, MOR
      GER, LTU, TUN, CRO
      KEN, UKR, CIV, SEN
      SUI, CZE, SWE, MDA

      Then pools based on geography as the ROW are more spread out
      Africa(ish): MAD, SRI, ZIM, UGA
      Central America(ish): COK, CAY, TTO, MEX
      Asian-Pacific: KOR, MAS, HKG, PHP
      South America: BRA, COL, CHL, PAR

      1. Thinking about it a bot further I would prefer if instead of expanding the rugby championship we shrunk the 6N and played it home and away.(6 matches)
        Then you play each of the teams from the rugby championship 2 at home 2 away alternating (4 matches)
        Then you play home and away against a team from the next tier down (shared gate revenue). with the bottom T1 vs top T2 for promotion/relegation bottom T2 vs top T3 etc…

        12 matches per year per team
        Each conference would be competitive throughout
        Each cross conference game would be competative
        Cross tier game to help promote and expand the game in lower tiers and a chance to experiment blood youngsters for upper tiers
        Revenue share for cross tier games helps share the wealth
        Promotion and relegation to promote growth and provide a goal/ambition
        With different conferences and no inter conference knockout there would still be intrigue come RWC time

        T1a Ire, Eng, Wal, Sco
        T1b Nzl, Saf, Aus, Arg

        T2a Fra, Geo, Ita, Rus
        T2b Fji, Jap, Ton, Usa

        T3a Spa, Rom, Bel, Ned
        T3b Uru, Sam, Can, Nam

        T4a Por, Ger, Sui, Pol
        T4b Bra, Hkg, Col, Kor


  5. Aside from the problems that Leon and Fred write about, I just don’t see the point in this.
    We have the RWC. It is a global competition. It is partly a big deal because it only comes around once every four years. Why on earth we need something like this every year? Where’s the interest? I certainly haven’t heard any rugby fans shouting out for some kind of weird, cobbled together global league.
    Familiarity breeds contempt – and so it will be with this. It’s not like there isn’t plenty of meaningful international rugby already – far more than there is in football for example. We have competitions that work and have a long history. There’s no need for another one thrown on top.

    1. Totally in agreement Pablito. I hope it fails miserably and the powers that be choke on the amount of humble pie they have to swallow.

    2. Need to expand the game Acee, to raise it’s profile annually, internationally, instead of 4 yrly. And the game needs the dosh. HQ, e.g., made redundancies a while back , the SH are haemorrhaging. Won’t be able to afford to travel up for the AI’s soon!

  6. I’m another who dislikes this plan. As far as I’m concerned it will devalue the 6 nations, Championship and World Cup and we will gain nothing from it.

    This would also rely on their being relegation from the 6 nations which I do not agree with. The 6 nations isn’t just another sporting league it’s a competition of countries who all have history and long standing competition. Sure Italy are rubbish at the moment but replacing them with any other team won’t improve the quality of rugby in the 6 nations. That also is unlikely to be the case forever. Can you imagine a 6 nations where say France got relegated and replaced with Georgia? I’m sorry but would just not have anywhere near as much interest in watching Georgia play than France because they don’t have that history.

    If world rugby really wanted to grow the sport they would invest more in tier 2 nations and not try to just fudge them into existing competitions.

  7. My main gripe is the ‘every year’ bit, as it devalues things like the WC and makes ‘World Champ’ more of a ho-hum title (I can see from above I’m not alone). Suppose the main reason it’s every year is to try and allow for regular promotion and relegation, which is fair.
    I’m still positive on a lot of what is proposed, but personally I would have preferred a league that formalised the current 6N, RC, and June/Autumn Ints into a running competition, where leagues of 10 teams play home-and-away over 2yrs (and with no conference BS). Even with Lions tours and WCs, it wouldn’t actually add more matches to the schedule (18games over 2yrs would be 7 in a WC/Lions year, and 11 in a normal year; given that e.g.: 6N=5, June=3 and Autumn=3 for England and the rest of the 6N sides, it’s be no different except a little more was riding on each match. 7 in a Lion’s/WC yr would mean 4 matches-worth left out, so (on paper at least), 1 fewer test match over a 2-year cycle than at present. If promotion/relegation was done every 2yrs, it would be easier to manage even if it’s not as ‘fair’. It also would not be impossible to do semis and a final if so wanted, meaning only 1 extra game over current levels in total). However, amongst its other flaws (I’m sure there are a few), the key reason my preferred version would never materialise is because it would need the 6N and the RC to both accept promotion & relegation, which they both don’t want to do in any form, and also WR is in no position to force them to do so. Until that changes, WR will always struggle to get a viable World League going properly. Also, personally speaking, I find the idea of a 10team cut-off a bit limited (the proposed WR version gets 12 in after all) – but home&away is a more fair model, and to add more teams to a home&away format comp would require a 4yr cycle – and we already have a World Cup for that time-frame.
    As a result, I would much rather they spent time and effort revolutionising the WC qualification and format to a more progressive and inclusive setup (including more friendlies between different tiers) than messing around with a yearly competition.

  8. If this comes into play then why not have relegation/promotion after every 2 years cycle.

    For example you have the Six Nations in year one with all the trappings of the Triple Crown, Grand Slam but the champions crowned after both home and away fixtures then one team goes down the other comes up.

    Italy would procrastinate but its an option.

    I feel that the game does need to grow if it is to succeed globally trouble is unlike Football the structure isn’t there and their World Cup if far older than ours.

    Even Cricket has managed to get more of a reach with the 20/20 format, despite trying to ring fence their World Cup, especially with Afghanistan.

    As far as Europe is concerned I feel we need to include club teams first, in my opinion I think the Pro 14 would’ve been better placed inviting teams from Romania and Georgia to join rather than The Cheetahs and Southern Kings and had this happened the likes of the Timisoara Saracens might not get spanked in every European competition they play in.

    1. Very recently there have been noises to get a Georgian team in soon, and to balance numbers they might well be looking at a Romanian or Russian side (although from a financial POV maybe bringing in a German side would work too; they’ve been on the up for a while now). That said, they’re still really hoping to land an American side as well, which may hamper opportunities for European teams somewhat…

  9. Interesting @ how mostly perceived negatives are picked out. So what if the comp supersedes the 4 yrly WC? The game needs £ & as the world evolves, should not tugby too? And there’s no guarantee that the WC will be superseded anyway. It could conversely be perceived as a compatible comp between & leading up to the crescendo of WC’s. It will be a structured tournament, but on a global level, similar in this respect to national comps. It should also better reflect teams’ true worth, unlike that of the uneven, 1 off, almost random, home NH, but away SH, A1’s. These are weighted in the Nth’s favour which devalues their true worth. Surprised @ the closed minds to something new & innovative. Esp with statements like, ‘There are plenty of probs in rugby, but I don’t think that this will solve any if them’, particularly when not 1 prob is mentioned, nor any reasons given for making it in the 1st place. There will be, as with anything new, teething problems & logistical issues to be resolved. However, it might be better to look @ these aspects, as indeed some here have attempted to do, rather than poo poo the concept because it’s new & mostly the perceived negatives sought out. Like Brexit, it looks likely that both are going to happen, so better get prepared.

  10. Back for another go here, why try and over complicate things?

    Keep The Six Nations as it is, expand The Rugby Championship to 6 teams too but have a four way playoff between Japan, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga two at the top of the group join, the other two go into a second league as shown above but rather than have promotion and relegation every year from/to The Six Nations/The Championship have it every two years where the bottom team cumulatively plays the team to come up cumulatively in a one game decider as part of their Autumn International schedule alternating who is at home Biannually.

    This then doesn’t really increase the amount of Rugby played worldwide, gives both premier competitions more meaning without damaging thier history and hopefully raises the game of the lower teams and the profile of the game worldwide.


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