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Rugby News

Friday 5th April 2019

Nations Championship: Deadline extended as talks continue

World Rugby's deadline for the Nations Championship will run into next week as talks continue over whether the new concept will get off the ground.

The governing body had set a deadline of Friday for formal expressions of interest from the unions.

However, it is understood this will not be enforced so more discussions can take place before any due diligence.

Sources say there has been "real engagement" as parties try to work through the various obstacles.

Scheduled to launch in 2022, the Nations Championship would see a top division of 12 teams from both hemispheres play each other once in a calendar year, either through traditional competitions like the Six Nations or an enlarged Rugby Championship, or in summer or autumn Test windows.

The top two teams would then meet in an end-of-year showpiece final.

Backed by a £5bn offer from sports marketing giants Infront, the Nations Championship would include relegation and promotion between divisions after an initial moratorium.

However, the prospect of dropping out of the Six Nations has alarmed leading northern hemisphere unions, with interim RFU boss Nigel Melville stating relegation could be "catastrophic".

World Rugby insists the second division will be both lucrative and competitive, and has spent much of the past few weeks trying to convince the concerned Six Nations unions.

It is believed the southern hemisphere superpowers who make up Sanzaar - New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina - are fully in support of the Nations Championship as they battle financial difficulties and a player drain to Europe.

Of the leading northern unions, France have expressed their support for the world league, while the Welsh and English unions are thought to be amenable to the concept in theory.

The Irish and Scottish unions remain the most opposed, especially given the interest in the Six Nations from private equity giants CVC as well as other offers as part of 'Project Light', a scheme whereby the Six Nations unions pool their commercial rights.

Six Nations Limited - represented by chief executive Ben Morel - is also believed to be lukewarm about the World Rugby proposals.

However, while unanimity is needed in order for the Nations Championship to get the go-ahead, there remains optimism the concept is still alive.


Wales win Six Nations Grand Slam

Wales 25-7 Ireland

Wales are celebrating a third Grand Slam in 11 years after they put Ireland to the sword in ruthless fashion to storm to the Six Nations title.

After Hadleigh Parkes' early try, Gareth Anscombe added a conversion and three penalties for a 16-0 half-lead as Ireland's indiscipline cost them dear.

And the fly-half added three more in an equally one-sided second period, Ireland looking nothing like the second-ranked team in world rugby, Jordan Larmour's late try no sort of consolation.

Seldom in this championship have Wales been spectacular in attack but their defence has been remorseless and their fortitude under pressure remarkable, and the celebrations will go long into a sodden Cardiff night.

It means Warren Gatland, in his 50th and final Six Nations match in charge, becomes the first coach in Five or Six Nations history to win three Slams, his team's record-breaking winning run now stretching to 14 games.

For Ireland the tournament ended as it began, with a chastening defeat that leaves significant questions hanging over their World Cup ambitions.


Six Nations: Investors want to buy stake in rugby's oldest championship

The Six Nations is considering an offer from private equity firm CVC to sell a stake in rugby's oldest championship.

It is believed it could provide a windfall of more than £100m to each union but would mean partly surrendering control of the competition.

It comes as the power-brokers of the world game meet in Dublin this week over the proposed Nations Championship.

World Rugby will present its vision for the future of the sport on Thursday.

However, if the Six Nations decide to sell to private equity, it would almost certainly kill the chances of the revolutionary Nations Championship getting off the ground.

The Six Nations unions - England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France - have been in talks for the past 18 months over pooling their commercial interests, a strategy dubbed 'Project Light'.

The interest from CVC - one of a handful of possible options - means the Six Nations face a dilemma between selling to private money, or embracing the World Rugby-sanctioned Nations Championship.

It is understood CVC's offer is for an approximate 30% share in the Six Nations. Sources at the unions have not denied an offer is on the table but insist a deal is not imminent.

Aside from the interest from private equity, a number of Six Nations unions have already voiced their concerns over the introduction of promotion and relegation, which would be part of the Nations Championship.

CVC bought a minority shareholding of 27% in England's Premiership Rugby in December.


Rugby World Cup 2019: Russia qualify after Spain, Belgium and Romania sanctioned

Russia have qualified for next year's Rugby World Cup after Spain, Belgium and Romania were sanctioned for fielding ineligible players.

Spain had hoped for a reprieve after an investigation into their defeat by Belgium, which meant Romania qualified.

But the panel ruled that all three countries broke eligibility rules and have been deducted points.

Russia therefore join Ireland, Scotland and hosts Japan in Pool A, while Germany meet Portugal in a play-off.

The winners of that go into a Europe/Oceania play-off against Samoa for the chance to complete Pool A at next year's global showpiece.

Romania have now appealed against the ruling, and claim they took all the appropriate steps to determine the availability of Sione Faka'osilea, who has been deemed ineligible after previously representing the Tongan 7s team.

The unions of Spain, Belgium and Romania have a 14-day window in which to appeal against the panel's decision.


2023 Rugby World Cup: South Africa recommended to host tournament

South Africa has been recommended to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup ahead of Ireland and France, the tournament's organising board has announced.

The World Rugby Council will meet on 15 November in London for a final vote.

South Africa, who won the 1995 cup as hosts after returning to international sport, were endorsed after reviews of each host candidate evaluation.


Six Nations unchanged in international rugby calendar shake-up

Rugby administrators worldwide are nearing an agreement on a new rugby union calendar, which will come into effect after the World Cup in 2019.

The Six Nations will not move from its traditional February to March slot.

The British and Irish Lions series and the World Cup will retain their places in the calendar.

The Lions are set to tour in July and August in 2021.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and vice-chairman Agustin Pichot have been leading negotiations, with the changes expected to be ratified at the next council meeting at the end of November.

While a full-on global season is not feasible, there is confidence the new calendar will see a greater alignment between the two hemispheres.

Under the proposals, the Premiership and Pro12 leagues would start later and then would finish at the end of June, with the Super Rugby competition in the southern hemisphere ending at a similar time.

There is also a determination to have less overlap between international rugby and domestic tournaments, which is currently a point of consternation among clubs in Europe.