Agustín Pichot won’t give up on the nations championship idea

The sport’s governing body wanted to revamp rugby’s global calendar with the introduction of a new competition for the top 12 teams from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Agustín Pichot won’t give up on the nations championship idea

World Rugby vice chairman Agustín Pichot says he will not give up on the introduction of a nations championship and has urged the Six Nations to return to the table for talks.

The sport’s governing body wanted to revamp rugby’s global calendar with the introduction of a new competition for the top 12 teams from both the northern and southern hemispheres.

It was hoped a nations championship could be launched in 2022, with the top two sides contesting a final, but the prospect of promotion and relegation was unpopular with Six Nations unions.

The whole proposal was scrapped in June, but ambitious former Argentina scrum-half Pichot says he remains convinced such a tournament is the right way to develop the game globally.

“To be honest, I understand the Six Nations. They have a very successful tournament, and it’s very commercially sustainable,” said Pichot, speaking after the conclusion of the World Cup in Japan.

“What we have to try to do is convince them we all have to be together — north and south — for the better of the game.

Hopefully, something will come out of the project and I’m confident something will happen. The day I stop trying I won’t be here, so I’m very positive.

“The Six Nations has some logic, but we have to be more magnanimous and try to make something better for the game. The Nations Championship would have been put in place as a pathway for teams to be in the top 12 in the world. The idea is to give structure.

“It didn’t happen, unfortunately, and now we have a good challenge to see what is going to be next.”

As a player, Pichot helped Argentina emerge from nowhere to become a rugby force and starred at the 2007 World Cup. In his role with World Rugby he is looking to break boundaries and experiment.

The 45-year-old insists he is keen for Japan to join new global champions South Africa, along with New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina in the Rugby championship after the Brave Blossoms made the quarter-finals of their own tournament for the first time.

“Even with an earthquake and a typhoon, it was still an amazing World Cup. Japan did everything well and the team performed really well,” Pichot said.

I strongly believe Japan can be part of the Rugby Championship. I said it three years ago and I am saying it now, not just because Japan did well in this World Cup. Don’t forget, I come from an emerging country in Argentina. Now we’ve got Japan — who’s the next Japan?

“It is a question if Japan wants [to join the Rugby championship]. I think they want to. Then it is how to work together to make it happen.”

South Africa’s success in Japan capped a fine World Cup — the first to be held in Asia. France will host the 2023 tournament, but the destinations for 2027 and 2031 are yet to be announced. by World Rugby.

Pichot — who is on the board of American rugby — believes the US could be next. The USA is firmly in the frame.

“Two years ago, everyone was panicking that Japan wasn’t going to be a success. Today everyone is overjoyed at the success we’ve had. Life is about taking risks and I think Japan was a good risk,” said Pichot.

“The people who made that call had a big vision and World Rugby needs that vision for the future.

“At the moment I think South America is going through really complicated economic times. There are a lot of changes. To sustain a Rugby World Cup you have to be able to have a forecast to see whether it can happen because of investment.

"You need a guarantee, and I think North America has that sustainability better than South America because they are mad about sport.

“Is it the right time? I am on the board of USA rugby so I can tell you that it [a World Cup in the US] is on the project — but whether it’s 2027 or 2031, I can’t tell you.”

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