World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper says there could be a Women’s Nations Championship if the male concept is given the thumbs up. Rugby leaders from around the globe are in Dublin this week to discuss the new €5.8bn competition that would create a men’s tournament consisting of competitive matches between the 10 current Tier 1 nations in summer and autumn windows, with a grand final at the end.
Speaking at the launch of a new ‘Women in Rugby’ brand identity and landmark global campaign ‘Try and Stop Us’, Gosper said the outcome of this latest meeting on the new global calendar is still too “hard to predict”.
Bill Beaumount, Bernard Laporte, Steve Tew, and Raelene Castle were among the heavy hitters at the Dublin launch, with more expected to take part in discussions at the Westbury Hotel today.
“I think there’s some big decisions to make,” Gosper said. “We hope that what we’re proposing is what’s decided. Whatever goes forward, there’s going to be change.
This debate and this conversation has been interesting for the sport.
“There’s lots of things on the agenda for [the World Rugby] council. There’s a special meeting of chief executives as well after the council meeting and the Nations Championship is pretty central in the discussions.
“There are still some gaps around consensus so we’re going to try and close them over the next few days, or move on, one way or another. We will see how the conversations go. I don’t want to predict either way, really — it really is hard to predict.”
Ireland is believed to be of the nations against the current proposed structure, with the threat of Six Nations relegation a serious point of concern.
No decision is expected today, and a World Rugby source says there is no definitive deadline, but they are keen for a decision to be made “sooner rather than later”.
“We’re looking at that [a Women’s Nations Championship],” Gosper added. “We think the money that’s being provided and the proposition that we’re making does set aside money for a women’s competition. We think the women’s game and 15s game is important, and this will create a possibility of a 10 or 12-team competition across the world. That’s very much in our objectives.”
Gosper also voiced his support for the possible introduction of a Sevens tournament in Ireland, following on from the men’s qualification for next season’s World Series.
“You’ve got some great men and women’s teams emerging out of Ireland and I think it’s a matter of time that some big events will be here too on the sevens track,” he said.
“It’s built for it, isn’t it? It’s a festival, it’s great fun, it’s great rugby, so I think they will be throwing their hat in the ring for some big tournaments coming up.”
World Rugby’s revolutionary Nations Championship concept faces a crucial 24 hours as the powerbrokers of the world game meet in Dublin this afternoon. The Six Nations unions last month agreed to a period of due diligence while also weighing up offers from private equity.
Sources say there has been “real engagement” over the world league plan, and there is some optimism that it will go ahead. The deadline for a final decision is likely to be set for June.
Scheduled to launch in 2022, the Nations Championship would see a top division of 12 teams from both hemispheres play each other once in a calendar year, either through traditional competitions like the Six Nations or an enlarged Rugby Championship or in summer or autumn Test windows. The top two teams would then meet in an end-of-year showpiece final.