Rugby: SANZAAR mulls options if 'Nations Championship' collapses

All Blacks celebrate their 2018 Rugby Championship success
All Blacks celebrate their 2018 Rugby Championship success. Photo credit: Photosport

Rugby Australia is working on other options, if the mooted world league doesn't go ahead, with a more meaningful Rugby Championship on the SANZAAR agenda.

The exact format for the mooted 12-team 'Nations Championship' tournament, which would be played in non-World Cup years, is still to be thrashed out.

Players have expressed concerns about workload, and question marks remain over promotion and relegation, and which nations would initially contest the competition.

While RA supports the concept, chairman, Cameron Clyne revealed his organisation was looking at other options, if the tournament didn't get a green light.

"We're working with our SANZAAR partners to create new versions of the Rugby Championship, with things going forward to the next broadcast cycle, which hopefully will mirror that concept and create something that's a bit more meaningful," Clyne said.

The competition is currently contested by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, but the global rugby concept includes the addition of Fiji and Japan.

Asked what changes could be implemented Clyne said: "We're pretty flexible.

"We're happy to look at any of the concepts.

"Things like promotion and relegation, those sorts of things, which I know are difficult concepts, but that add interest to the game. We're open to any sort of formats."

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, another wrinkle in the format could see the introduction of two-test mini-tours, with midweek games against Super Rugby franchises. 

Clyne downplayed reports at least one Super Rugby franchise was unhappy with the 2021 switch to a 14-team round robin format.

He said SANZAAR had agreed on the change of format and didn't anticipate any changes.

"The feedback, quite clearly, is there are potentially greater opportunities and integrity around a 14-team round robin," he said.

RA recorded a net surplus of A$5.2m in 2018, after reporting a A$3.8m operational deficit the year before.

Part of the turnaround was due to the reduction of funding allocated to Super Rugby, after Western Force were cut from the competition.

The result will help RA deal with an expected loss in 2019, with Australia playing just three home tests in a World Cup year.

"What the profit we've engineered for 2018 allows us to do is actually not have to cut [costs] by absorbing the loss we're going to make in 2019," Clyne said.

Tim Gavin succeeded another former Wallaby, Tony Shaw, as RA president, and Phil Waugh replaced outgoing director and fellow Wallabies captain John Eales.


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