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World Rugby backs Test shake-up and plan to introduce a 'league of nations' competitions

The plan would see a 12-team annual competition take place in non-World Cup years.

New Zealand's Beauden Barrett in action against Ireland in 2016.
New Zealand's Beauden Barrett in action against Ireland in 2016.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

WORLD RUGBY HAS backed a proposal to dramatically revamp the Test calendar and introduce a “league of nations” competition featuring the sport’s top 12 national teams, it was reported today.

World Rugby boss Brett Gosper said the governing body supported the plan, which is aimed at boosting revenues generated by the international game, provided it passed a feasibility study.

“It just makes sense and it would seem to be the time to do this and there’s a consensus and a desire to try,” Gosper told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

The plan would see a 12-team annual competition take place in non-World Cup years, with the top six teams from the northern and southern hemispheres all playing each other.

They would form a 12-nation league, with the top four teams entering an elimination phase to find an annual champion.

The Rugby Championship (southern hemisphere) and the Six Nations (northern) would serve as the first leg of the competition.

The Ireland team celebrate winning the Grand Slam Ireland players celebrate winning the Grand Slam last March. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The second leg between northern and southern teams would take place in the existing July and November windows, replacing the three-Test tours that are now commonplace.

“The team coming South would have to play three (different) teams, but it’s making sure each game counts towards an end that is more interesting to the fans, and therefore a more viable product,” Gosper said.

The Telegraph reported that the competition, first floated by World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot of Argentina, could start as early as 2020.

Agustin Pichot Agustin Pichot. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It said there would be a second-tier competition, where smaller nations could fight to earn promotion to the top 12.

Gosper did not believe an annual league of nations would detract from the Rugby World Cup, the showpiece tournament held once every four years.

“It keeps the Rugby World Cup as the pinnacle event but you’re building towards that over a three-year period,” he said.

Gosper said the key to the concept’s implementation was how much cash it generated.

“Everyone wants to see if the theory leads to higher values and the implications,” he said.

© AFP 2018

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