World Rugby launches $168m relief fund amid coronavirus pandemic

World Rugby has created a US$100m (NZ$168m) relief fund to help relieve the financial pressure on the global game under the coronavirus pandemic.

With fixtures either postponed or cancelled, the sport's global governing body says the fund will be available for rugby unions that are in need of "immediate emergency funding", as long as certain criteria are met.

Meanwhile, the Six Nations and SANZAAR unions, including New Zealand, will receive a financial package that involves a "combination of advances and loans". 

"We are taking unprecedented action as a sport united to support global rugby, its unions, competitions and players through the enormous challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," says World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

"The measures announced today will provide support and short-term relief... while we are making excellent progress towards calendar options that reflect and address a dynamic, complex and uncertain environment."

Beaumont says World Rugby, Six Nations, SANZAAR and the global International Rugby Players union are discussing plans for a return to rugby, once governments and health authorities give the green light to resume competition.

The body says it's also planning for contingencies, if cross-hemisphere travel isn't possible, with a worst-case scenario being no more international rugby being played this year.

World Cup runners-up England were set to travel to Japan in July', and also host New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Tonga in November.

"I have chaired many productive meetings in recent weeks with my union, region, competition and player colleagues, and we are moving rapidly towards a viable calendar solution," Beaumont adds.

"While compromises are being made, the outcome will be in the best interests of the whole game."

On Thursday, NZ Rugby decided to freeze 50 percent of forecast payments to all contracted players, including Super Rugby, the national sevens teams and the Black Ferns.