After going quiet for the last month following significant fan backlash and opposition from a number of unions, it seems as if the Nations Championship is about to return to the agenda for the top 12 international unions.
The proposed tournament, which would include the current Six Nations and The Rugby Championship nations, as well as Fiji and Japan, has been mooted for some time now, with World Rugby confirming its existence and their support for the tournament back in March.
The unions involved agreed in April to take time to consider the proposal from World Rugby, with the idea of relegation and the integrity of their pre-existing tournaments among the concerns that a number of unions had.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the latest proposal around the Nations Championship would see just the 10 current Tier 1 teams being involved in the inaugural tournament in 2022, before Fiji and Japan would be added to the southern hemisphere division of the competition in 2026.
The main opposition to the reform continues to come from Ireland and Scotland and that this 10-team format had been given by World Rugby as an alternative to its 12-team format last month, although World Rugby is still advocating for the latter of those two concepts.
— Georgina Robinson (@geerob) May 15, 2019
The increased broadcast deals that the competition would offer have been championed by the SANZAAR nations, most notably Australia, Argentina and South Africa, as well as the Welsh union. As all of those nations deal with player retention issues, something which is exacerbated in a year ending with a World Cup, their need for a cash injection is significant.
An alternative route for the Six Nations could be to look at investment from CVC, with the private equity firm having already invested in the Gallagher Premiership and in the advanced stages of doing similar with the Guinness PRO14.
The former Formula 1 owners have also been heavily linked with a takeover bid for the Six Nations, as they build an impressive portfolio of rugby investments.
World Rugby has moved to clarify the organisation’s position on the merits and structure of a Nations Championship concept in advance of key meetings in Dublin next week. pic.twitter.com/NlefufHdxf
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) March 6, 2019
With Premiership CEO Mark McCafferty set to stand down at the end of the season and take up a consultancy role with CVC, while maintaining his position on the professional game board, the scope for further negotiation between CVC and the RFU and other Six Nations unions certainly exists.
These new proposals will be discussed in Dublin next week when World Rugby hosts another set of meetings to discuss the future of the international game.
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