World Rugby urges tier-one nations to be open-minded about global championship

Rugby’s tier-one nations should have the future of the sport in mind when they consider World Rugby’s proposed changes, says Brett Gosper.

Wales celebrate their Grand Slam triumph last weekend.
Wales celebrate their Grand Slam triumph last weekend.

RUGBY’S TIER-ONE UNIONS to look beyond their own national interest and back plans for a global Nations Championship, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has urged.

The sport’s governing body revealed its revised format for the tournament this month, after the original proposals were met with concerns about player welfare.

Under the new plans, the Six Nations and Rugby Championship would feed into a league system that would also feature fixtures in rugby’s other international windows.

The top team in each of the two hemispheres would then face off in a grand final, while those at the bottom would be at risk of relegation, with nations in the lower tiers battling to force their way into the elite.

The prospect of introducing promotion and relegation has been greeted with some trepidation, given that the tournaments have always been a closed shop.

But Gosper insists the changes would be for the good of the sport as a whole.

“Everyone sees the merits of what we’re doing,” Gosper told BBC Sport.

“Everyone sees that adding meaning and context to all of these matches that happen throughout the year is an exciting prospect.

Jonathan Sexton Under the new plans, the Six Nations and Rugby Championship would feed into a league system. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Generally, where there’s a bit of discomfort is around the issue of promotion and relegation. That’s understandable – many of these teams have been pretty well protected in closed competitions for a long time.

“What we’re asking is that some of that national interest is tempered by a little bit of concern about where the global game might be going as well. It’s trying to find that balance that will be important if this is to get across the line.”

Gosper added that the benefits of World Rugby’s proposals outweigh those of a rival bid for a 30 per cent stake in the Six Nations from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who also have a share in the Premiership.

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“It’s about keeping the money in the sport and it’s about making our own decisions about what’s right for the sport, and you can do that when you have 100 per cent ownership,” he said.

World Rugby has also revealed that it will explore changes to the laws of the game following this week’s player welfare symposium.

Continued height tackle trials and a review of kicking rules are among the topics that will be looked into, as well as the possibility of reviewing yellow cards while a player in the sin bin.

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