World Rugby has made a strong defence of its plans to launch a global Nations Championship.
Rugby’s governing body has hit back after heavy criticism from leading Test stars Johnny Sexton , Owen Farrell, and Kieran Read.
The sport’s governors defended their plans around player welfare and insisted proposals on the table are for a two-division competition including promotion and relegation.
World Rugby has now released plans for discussion for the Six Nations teams to be joined by the Rugby Championship quartet plus two tier-two nations, with the annual contests slated to start in 2022 and run across autumn and summer Test windows.
The game’s power brokers also revealed plans to expand the Rugby World Cup from 20 to 24 teams in time for the 2027 tournament, to protect its position as “the pinnacle global event”.
“World Rugby has moved to clarify the organisation’s position on the merits and structure of an annual global competition in advance of key meetings in Dublin next week,” read World Rugby’s statement.
“As the international federation for the sport, World Rugby is committed to the global advancement of rugby and its character-building values to build a better, stronger game for players, unions, clubs and fans.
“Player welfare is fundamental to our sport. Within the original proposal, players would play a maximum of 13 matches if their team reaches the final, compared to an average of between 12 and 14 Test matches presently. Most teams would play 11 matches.
“Contrary to reports, our proposed competition provides opportunities for all teams to compete at the top level on merit, with promotion and relegation. Under this model, the Pacific Islands and all teams outside the current Six Nations and the Rugby Championship would have a potential pathway.
“With the proposed model incorporating competitions that are not owned or run by World Rugby, not all unions are presently in favour of immediate promotion and relegation.
“We continue to consider the feedback, but remain absolutely committed to an eventual pathway for all.”