World Rugby announced a new men’s rugby competition today. But what does that actually mean? The Herald attempts to answer the key questions.
What is the name?
It does not have a name. An AP report says it’s “sometimes called the Nations Championship, Nations League or World League” but neither have been confirmed. Any use of league makes it sound too much like rugby league.
Marketing 101. When you have a product upgrade also have a new name. Come up with something, just don’t use Super. It’s been called a new global men’s rugby competition, which is another way of saying Rugby World Cup without using the words world or cup. But you’d think World Rugby would have had a new name, emblem and trophy to roll out by now.
What is the structure?
It will feature 12 teams, the six from the Six Nations, the four from the Rugby Championship, along with two more tipped to be Japan and Fiji.
So Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Japan and Fiji. These are currently the 12 top-ranked teams in the world. So that makes sense.
What does it mean for the All Blacks?
Not a lot changes really. The teams will meet in the usual July and November test windows every two years from 2026 (outside of World Cup and Lions tour years). The All Blacks already play these other 11 teams in those windows anyway, with the exception of the odd test against Samoa, Tonga and USA. But it will mean more games against Italy - who the All Blacks just beat 96-17.
It just means some form of competition points will be allocated to these matches July and November matches now, along with a table to follow much like cricket’s World Test Championship.
But there’s a new final?
Yes, the final will be the European winner against the rest of world winner. An easier way to decide this would be having the Six Nations winner play the Rugby Championship winner but at least it puts a meaning to the July and November tests.
What about the other nations?
The big losers are the ‘tier two’ nations. “The likes of Portugal, Samoa, Tonga, Uruguay, Chile and Georgia may be gone, but they are certainly not forgotten,” World Rugby boss Bill Beaumont said today. “We must, and will, do everything we can to provide greater certainty and opportunity of regular high-level competition for these teams.”
A second division run by World Rugby of 12 teams with promotion and relegation commencing from 2030, World Rugby announced today. “Played in the July and November international release windows, it will provide crucial opportunities (and certainty of fixtures) for unions currently outside of the existing annual competitions, and in turn provide opportunities for unions and regional associations through to the second division.”
South America Rugby president Sebastian Pineyrua doubts that will help. “It will kill rugby,” he told the Daily Mail last week. “It will be impossible to compete with those teams in four or five years. They’re going to go up and the others will go down.”
What about an expanded World Cup?
The other announcement made by World Cup was that the 2027 Rugby World Cup will be expanded by four teams. Which is good news for the likes of USA, Canada, Chile, Brazil and Hong Kong China as they will get to compete at the World Cup. But the fear which Pineyrua raises is that any of those teams outside the top 12, so half of the World Cup entrants, won’t have a chance against the top tier nations.
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