Controversial Nations Championship would earn billions, claims World Rugby

World Rugby is defending its controversial Nations Championship concept, saying the proposed annual global tournament could earn the sport billions

The sport's governing body hosted crisis talks with rugby's top powerbrokers on Friday (NZ time) in Dublin to discuss their plans, after fans, players and unions slammed their original proposal.

The original format for the proposed 12-team global competition included Six Nations and Rugby Championship teams, as well as Japan and the USA, but the backlash came over the exclusion of Pacific Island teams.

The latest plans include a three-division format, and a system of promotion and relegation, backed by a commercial partnership that would see the sport earn £5 billion (NZ$973b) over 12 years.

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said he was encouraged by the latest discussions.

"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," he said.

"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."

The new schedule was reduced by removing the semi-final stage, meaning players would still play 11 Nations Championship matches, plus a potential final.

Both the French and South African rugby unions have given their initial support to the plans, while emphasising there are details to be worked on.

"Creating a meaningful season-long competition out of the current patchwork of events and tournaments has an obvious appeal, as well as proving a clear development pathway for emerging nations, which speaks directly to one of the fundamental goals of World Rugby," said SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux.

"But there are a number of due diligences to be performed and questions to be answered, before anything can come to fruition."

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."

The proposed Nations Championship would start from 2022.

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