Rugby: Global 'Nations Championship' concept set to be revisited by World Rugby

Sir Bill Beaumont.
Sir Bill Beaumont. Photo credit: Gettty

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont believes a unified approach to tackling the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic can help his sport create a new international structure.

Plans for a two-tier Nations Championship - working around the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, with promotion and relegation - were scrapped in June last year, after failing to garner enough support.

But Beaumont, who hopes to be re-elected in his role next month, feels the suspension of sport is a chance to re-examine the concept.

With World Rugby launching an £80million ($NZ166m) fund to help unions negotiate the coronavirus crisis, he is encouraged by the togetherness between rugby nations.

"I'm pretty confident that there will be a variation of the Nations Cup," the former England captain told BBC Radio.

"I think there's a real spirit of collaboration between the north and the south, looking at what we can do with our playing windows and international windows that can generate more funds in another competition.

"You have to look at the calendar - the British & Irish Lions tour every four years, the Rugby World Cup every four years. It's a balancing act that you have to do to fit everything into this jigsaw.

"But I think, in the past, people have been quite protective about what they have got. What we are looking at now this is probably a reality check in the sport - are we doing things correctly?

"You are pretty foolish if you don't learn lessons. There's a real feeling I get now that some variant of the nations league will come back on the table."

Beaumont is standing for re-election as World Rugby chairman, but next month's elections will see him go up against vice-chairman Agustin Pichot.

The former Grand Slam-winning England captain's bid for a second four-year term took a hit, when former teammate Sir Clive Woodward backed the ex-Argentina skipper.

Woodward's assertion that "rugby would benefit from being viewed through the eyes of leader who is 45, not 68" rankled with Beaumont.

"What difference does the age make?" he said. 

"I played my rugby always as an amateur. Does that mean I don't understand the professional game?

"I am evolution, not revolution. I am bidding to show a lead to colleagues, to take colleagues with me.

"I intend to be a leader and I think I have been in the past."

Beaumont previously admitted there might not be any more international rugby played in 2020 and uncertainty remains over when domestic sport can resume.

The organisation is also exploring how to return to playing and finishing the 2020 international calendar, but the current global uncertainty led Beaumont to concede it may not be possible to hold any more fixtures this year.

"That is a distinct possibility," Beaumont told The Times. "The pressures on the unions are getting greater and greater."