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World Rugby to reopen talks for brand-new international tournament

Rugby’s Tier 2 nations could soon look forward to a new testing ground alongside the sport’s elite, with speculation growing that a Nations Championship could debut after the 2023 Rugby World Cup

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A new annual international competition could soon offer less developed rugby countries more competitive opportunities after negotiations to form a Nations Championship were revived.

World Rugby is considering potential formats for a brand-new tournament to begin after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which would aid teams that don’t feature in either the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship.

The concept of an annual, global rugby competition was first raised in 2019 and again last year, but rugby’s unions have so far failed to reach a consensus on how the contest could proceed.

The Pacific Nations Cup and European International Championships provide opportunities for Tier 2 and 3 countries to compete against one another, but without any recognised pathway for how they might join the elite.

Just about every rugby-playing nation will compete in the upcoming autumn internationals in some form, but the annual November fixtures offer little by way of consistent development for the smaller teams.



Fiji would be one of the teams who stand to benefit most from World Rugby introducing an annual Nations Championship
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Hale T-Pole, chairman of Pacific Rugby Players, told Stuff his representatives simply want a chance to ” play some games” and encouraged the revived talk of a Nations Championship.

“We’re currently talking about the restructuring of championship, the global comp, with option 1A, 1B, 2A and 2B,” the former Tonga international said.

“It could be a 12-country comp, or eight-eight, the top eight from the southern hemisphere and top eight from the north. Then you’ve got a top four-top four, with an eight-team Tier 2 competition, or whatever they are going to call it.

“So we’re currently in discussions with World Rugby from an International Rugby Players perspective and all our members. I think November will be exciting times for these discussions.

“I’m just like, ‘let us play some games, man, we need more games’.”

Do you agree the rugby calendar needs a Nations Championship to aid smaller teams? Let us know in the comments section.



Samoa beat Tonga earlier this year to secure their place at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France
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Pacific nations such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in particular have longed for a platform to grow given their contributions to rugby.

Georgia, meanwhile, have been linked as a potential addition to the Six Nations, but unions have in the past been resistant to the idea of the contest introducing a promotion-relegation format.

Funding is a key issue for some of those teams who don’t attract crowds like England or New Zealand, with an under-strength Tonga succumbing 102-0 when they faced the All Blacks in July.

That result was widely derided as not benefiting any of the parties involved, highlighting the gulf that stands between rugby’s peak powers and those not far below (as far as the classification is concerned).



New Zealand are the world’s top-ranked team after recently reclaiming the Rugby Championship
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These countries also have a chance to qualify and compete at the Rugby World Cup every four years, but a more consistent proving ground is needed if those nations are to develop.

Ross Young, chief executive of USA Rugby, has also said the United States would like to play more fixtures ahead of the 2027 and 2031 Rugby World Cups.

The possibility of a ‘Pacific Rim’ competition pitting them against the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga has been floated, as T-Pole continued: “It’s been tabled in the conversation.

“As you know, the more games the better it will be for the islands. Obviously, Covid-19 has not helped them, but it has been up in discussions about playing the US in a pan-Pacific competition.”

Private equity firm CVC Capital Partners bought a 14.3 per cent stake in the Six Nations in March 2021, which some fear could help exclude emerging rugby nations in favour of the established hierarchy.


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