Rugby executives announce plans for World League; players oppose

Rugby executives announce plans for World League; players oppose
All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo: Geoff Trotter, Wikimedia Commons

Executives and broadcasters from top rugby nations all over the world have been captivated by proposals for a new “World League”, which would see each of the 6 Nations and Rugby Championship teams – plus Japan and the USA – play each other every year, with semi-finals and a final to crown a champion. The biggest problem? The players hate the idea.

The proposal has been pushed by World Rugby and the Northern Hemisphere unions, although the RFU in England have publicly spoken about their doubts. The cash strapped Rugby Championship national executives have been lured by the promise of an extra $10-14 million in broadcasting revenue.

The proposal would essentially see Japan and the USA enter the Rugby Championship, which would become a round robin where each team plays each other once. The global calendar would see the 6 Nations played as normal, followed by a 3 Test window in the middle of the year where each European team would travel to play 3 RC teams in their home country. The RC would then be played as a home and away round robin, and finally the 6 RC teams would travel to Europe and play the three teams they did not play in the middle of the year.

Teams would alternate who gets the home game each year, so every two years each would host all 11 of the other sides. However, there is no mechanism for promotion and relegation in the concept, which essentially locks every country outside the chosen 12 out of playing top tier rugby.

Currently Fiji (9), Georgia (12) and Tonga (14) are all ranked ahead of Italy (15) which would be included, while the USA is also outside the top 12. USA and Italy, however, are included for economic reasons as they are more valuable to broadcasters. This is unfair to Fiji and Georgia, who are both in the top 12 nations but would not be included in the 12 team World League. Fiji are also the reigning Olympic 7s champions.

For this reason, as well as the massively increased international travel burden, the Players Council has strongly condemned the proposal. All Blacks captain Kieran Read, World Rugby player of the year Johnny Sexton and senior England player Owen Farrell have all spoken out publicly against the proposal, while the Players Council came out in opposition after a conference between 40 leading players, including the captains of 9 of the top 10 nations (Michael Hooper was one of the captains).

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