World 12s rugby tournament dealt blow as unions shun concept

World 12s organisers remain confident the competition, which would be played over three weekends and is backed by World Cup-winning coaches Steve Hansen and Jake White, will still launch as planned next year
World 12s rugby tournament dealt blow as unions shun concept

File photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The proposed World 12s tournament has suffered a potentially terminal blow following opposition from unions and domestic competitions.

Dubbed the Indian Premier League of rugby, organisers planned to launch the 12-a-side tournament next August in the hope that its franchise system, including a player auction, would entice new fans and money into the game.

But World Rugby has released a statement that appears to end hopes of it ever taking place after a report revealed that a letter written by stakeholders including the Gallagher Premiership and Top 14 outlined their objections.

“The game’s major stakeholders welcome innovative thinking that has the potential to enhance the sport, and new concepts are always given full consideration,” a World Rugby spokesperson said.

“World Rugby has reflected the views of national unions, international and domestic competitions to the group proposing World 12s and confirmed that stakeholders do not wish to explore the concept further at this time.

“This is a position endorsed by the World Rugby executive committee and professional game committee, which includes representatives from across the elite men’s and women’s game.

“The priority for the sport is advancing productive discussions regarding the establishment of a welfare-focused, streamlined and harmonious annual international calendar.” 

World 12s organisers remain confident the competition, which would be played over three weekends and is backed by World Cup-winning coaches Steve Hansen and Jake White, will still launch as planned next year.

However, there is an understanding that the aim of recruiting 192 of the sport’s best players from tier one and tier two nations is a longer-term goal.

World 12s chief executive Rowena Samarasinhe said: “World 12s has been, and continues to be, in regular contact with World Rugby.

“The challenges around the international calendar are well-known. World 12s is a long-term project and will grow over the years.

“We are optimistic that, even within the restrictions posed by the current calendar, World 12s will be able to host a tournament in August 2022 that includes a number of the game’s leading players, who will not be impacted by fixture clashes at that time.

“World 12s has always stated its commitment to working closely with all the game’s stakeholders to build an event that showcases the best talent, while bringing new audiences and significant investment to the sport.” 

World 12s forecast that £250million would be generated over the next five years, while also increasing the global appeal of rugby. A women’s competition is scheduled to begin in 2023.

Unquestionably the biggest problem it faces is player release with clubs and provinces in European leagues refusing to allow their stars to take part during a time of year when they are either on holiday or in pre-season.

And there is no prospect of All Blacks, Wallabies or Springboks being involved because of the Rugby Championship being held at the same time.

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