Southern hemisphere rugby bosses have cautiously endorsed the latest developments in the Nations Championship saga, with Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle calling discussions "exciting but complex".
World Rugby and the SANZAAR nations had a major win overnight in Dublin with the top tier nations agreeing to further discussions over a $9.4 billion broadcast offer for the proposed 12-team competition.
The Nations Championship proposal has survived a crucial test at World Rugby meetings in Dublin this week.Credit:Hannah Peters
Fears the concept would be killed off by a $937 million private equity offer, from former Formula One owners CVC, for a stake in the Six Nations were not realised – not yet anyway.
London's Daily Mail reported that all unions faced a March 29 deadline to agree to the proposal, with third party negotiations – presumably including the CVC group – off limits after that.
If those hurdles are cleared the proposal would be ratified by the World Rugby council on May 22.
French rugby boss Bernard Laporte offered cautious endorsement, while South Africa, New Zealand and Australia did the same.
"The proposal put forward by World Rugby for the Nations Championship has the potential to deliver a great product for fans and significant commercial benefit for Australia and the game globally, including opportunities for emerging nations," RA chief Castle said.
"We commend World Rugby on the work they have done in developing a strong proposal and we remain committed to working towards an outcome that can tick each of those boxes.
"These are exciting but complex discussions which require us to strike a balance between doing what’s best for fans, Australian Rugby as well as the global game, and the players.
"We will now continue the conversation with our member unions and RUPA before reverting back to World Rugby on our position ahead of the next round of discussions."
The proposal outlined and released by World Rugby overnight confirmed a semi-final round had been scrapped and promotion and relegation between the proposed three divisions would be delayed.
Six Nations and Rugby Championship sides are encouraged by the latest developments.Credit:AP
Based on current rankings, the first division would be made up of the current Six Nations teams England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy, and an enlarged Rugby Championship, including Japan and Fiji for the first time. It would start from 2022.
The Six Nations and Rugby Championship windows would be untouched (February/March and August/September), while the June (July from next year) and November windows would see each host union play three of the visiting teams once. They would play the other three teams away in the opposite window.
The Championship would run in full two years out of every four. It would not run in World Cup years and an abbreviated version with no promotion and relegation implications would run when British and Irish Lions tours are held.
SANZAAR chairman Brent Impey echoed World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont’s comments that the Dublin meeting was encouraging.
"The concept, while there are some practical issues around player welfare and scheduling, is exciting," Impey said.
"It has the potential to secure the financial future of the game and develop a true pathway for emerging countries as well as increased funding for the development of the game around the world.
"We thank World Rugby for their leadership in this work and SANZAAR remains committed to working with World Rugby to further advance this concept over the coming weeks."
SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said it was a good idea to bring together the current "patchwork of events and tournaments" in international rugby.
"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," Roux said.
"But there are a number of due diligences to be performed and questions to be answered before anything can come to fruition."
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