Apparently the signs increasingly point to the possibility of a new global championship to be held on a regular basis, which could see a “world champion” crowned every two years in four, skipping World Cup and British and Irish Lions years.
Now, in an exclusive article published by UK publication The Times, it’s said that plans have been accelerated and the so-called ‘Nations Championship’ could be held biennially in “even years” so it does not clash with the World Cup or Lions rugby tours.
The Times can reveal that the working plan for the new two-tier competition is for the top division to be founded in 2026, featuring 12 teams: England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy, as well as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, Fiji and Japan.
The reports further states that emerging nations are already on board, having recently agreed to sacrifice annual fixtures against top-ranked teams in order to form a global second division in 2024.
The article provides these further details into how the global rugby competition would work:
The competition would be held in even years — avoiding clashes with the World Cup and British & Irish Lions tours — and reach a climax on the fourth weekend of November, with a final and two promotion/relegation play-offs, one for the north and one for the south. Membership of the Six Nations would be unaffected. The so-called “Nations Championship” — there is no formal title as yet — would be based only on results from the July and November windows.
Each northern hemisphere team would play a southern hemisphere rival once, either home or away. To reduce travel time, the southern hemisphere nations would be divided into two blocks, with the lowest-ranked team required to play their July Tests on neutral territory.
For example, in the first year, England, Wales and Ireland could go on a July tour and play Tests in New Zealand, Australia and Japan. Meanwhile Scotland, France and Italy would travel to South Africa and Argentina, with Fiji deciding in which of those two countries they would like to stage their games. In November, the fixtures would cross over, with England hosting South Africa, Argentina and Fiji.
The top two teams after those six fixtures would then meet in a grand final. There would also be the drama of two relegation play-offs against leading teams from the second tier.
The leading unions will meet for critical talks in Dublin on Tuesday to discuss the proposition, and the potential plan could be to formalise a vote in the near future.
It’s said that the two biggest hurdles to the global competition are an agreement over how to share the revenue, as well as plans for a finals weekend in November.