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Global Season update

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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed 11 May 2022, 8:55 am

Have to give the credit to the Times but they have a pay wall so I'll just piggy back off Walesonline with their understandable view tilted towards their team. Only very quickly skimmed through this but haven't seen them write up the proposal that this would also replace the existing system where the home team keeps all the money from the game too. That would be overall very good for some sides, could be huge for the likes of Georgia, Samoa etc.:

Plans for the biggest change to Test rugby since the advent of professionalism are being discussed in Dublin this week.

The sport's leading unions will meet with World Rugby wanting them to commit to the new competition - set to be a two-tier format that would reshape the global calendar - by the end of the week.

From there, the hope is that a formal vote on its introduction would be held in November. But what exactly would this new competition, a revamp of the failed Nations Championship that was scrapped in 2019, look like?

Read next:The plan to revolutionise Welsh rugby that was killed by the amateur clubs four years ago

And what are the sticking points potentially standing in its way?

What is the basic format?
So, let's start with the basics.

The international game would be split into two separate tiers of 12 teams. Every two years, the tournament would result in a grand final and two promotion/relegation play-offs - one for each hemisphere. In that regards, it's a little bit like the Nations League that UEFA has introduced into international football in Europe.

It's reported that the lower tier - dubbed the "Challenger" tier, according to the Times - would begin in 2024 - with Tier Two teams from Europe, Africa, Asia and America being included. Based on current rankings, that would include Georgia, Spain, Romania, Portugal, the Netherlands, Samoa, Tonga, Namibia, the United States, Canada, Uruguay and Chile.

The top tier would then begin in 2026. That would be made up of the Six Nations sides, the Rugby Championship sides and then Japan and Fiji.

Crucially, it's worth noting that there would be no relegation from the Six Nations or Rugby Championship. Points from those tournaments also wouldn't count towards the overall standing of both tiers - with that instead being accrued in summer and autumn Tests.

How those matches would work is that each Six Nations team would travel to face three southern hemisphere opponents in the summer. They would then host the remaining three southern hemisphere sides at home that autumn.

In terms of a final, there's three options. The first is to just hand the trophy to the side that finishes top of the table.

The second - and reportedly favoured - option is to play a grand final between the top two teams and then two promotion/relegation play-offs between the winners of lower tiers and the lowest-placed sides in the highest tiers. The third option is that six northern teams play their closest-ranked southern opponent at home, similar to what the Autumn Nations Cup did in 2020.

With the tournament being biennial, relegation would reportedly work as follows. Were a top-tier northern hemisphere team - such as England, Wales or Ireland - relegated in at the end of 2026, they would play their usual fixtures in 2027.

However, it would be in 2028 when the relegation takes effect. There, they would then play the Six Nations as usual before playing a summer tour away to the southern hemisphere's lower teams before welcoming the remainder of them back in the autumn - all in a bid to earn a chance at winning promotion back in 2030.

The reason the tournament begins in even years and is every two years is so it isn't affected too much by World Cups and Lions tours. During Lions years, the plan would be for cross-division matches - with higher tier sides taking on lower tier sides - alongside some high-profile matches.

In that sense, it wouldn't be too dissimilar to what happens now, with France playing a southern hemisphere giant while the home nations, shorn of Lions stars, take on smaller nations.

What are the sticking points?
So that's the plan. Unlike the doomed Nations Championship, this proposed competition stands a better chance of succeeding - with much of it being broadly agreed by all parties. But there are, of course, some sticking points to iron out before it becomes a reality.

While World Rugby want a verbal commitment to this plan this week, there's a few areas the leading unions might balk at.

The prospect of relegation would certainly be one - even if it seems unlikely for many of Test rugby's biggest sides. This is why assurances are wanted from the Six Nations and SANZAAR sides over the viability of the second tier.

Understandably, in a sport short of cash, a year losing income in the second tier would be detrimental to any nation. They won't be keen on that risk and that's why the second tier is set to start two years earlier - in order to see how it works before the top nations sign off on relegation.

However, it's hard to understand the point of these plans without some form of progress for lower-tier nations. Otherwise, Test rugby becomes more of a narrow, closed shop than it already is - which will only hurt it financially in years to come.

The fixtures in the summer could also prove challenging - with different time-zones and lengthy travel coming in to play. If Wales were called upon to play New Zealand and Fiji in consecutive weeks, that would be a headache when it came to travel.

Then, at the end of the year, the autumn fixtures would take place over three weekends - which is as many weekends as there are in the Test window. Were the competition to explore the possibility of a grand final - or any form of activity - on a fourth weekend, then player release would have to be explored. That's a complicated thing.

The other potential sticking point could be revenue sharing between unions.

How would it affect Wales?
In terms of how it would affect Wales, there's a few obvious things. For starters, summer tours would never be the same again - with a string of different opponents rather than a two or three Test tour of one single nation.

As for the autumn, the three matches proposed would rob Wales of their annual fourth out-of-window international. That fourth Test has become a staple of Welsh rugby in recent years - with the national side being willing to forgo a full-strength team in pursuit of another match to bring in revenue.

Of course, the most notable thing would be relegation. While the prospect of Wales being relegated from a top-tier would normally seem unthinkable, with it requiring Georgia or another side of similar ilk to beat them, Wales' recent slide means it couldn't be ruled out entirely.

A year of playing Tier Two sides would be catastrophic in financial terms for Welsh rugby. Given their recent fortunes and the sense that the chickens are finally coming home to roost after years of papering over the cracks, it might be that Welsh rugby bosses don't fancy the risks this new competition would bring.

Beyond those obvious points, it's ultimately up the top brass to decide whether these plans are in the best interest of Welsh rugby and, crucially, rugby as a whole.'

No 7&1/2

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Post by hugehandoff Wed 11 May 2022, 9:39 am

From the Telegraph
Rugby chiefs have been warned that private equity will take over the global calendar reform process unless firm commitments are made towards the Nations Championship in a crucial week of talks in Dublin.

The chief executives of the Six Nations and Sanzaar unions plus World Rugby representatives will meet on Tuesday to discuss a proposal, put forward by a working group which would establish a biennial Nations Championship between the north and south starting in 2026. This would represent international rugby’s biggest shake-up since the dawn of professionalism in 1995.

Crucially - unlike a similar proposition three years ago - the players are fully on board with Conrad Smith, the head of welfare, at the International Rugby Players (IRP) part of the working group that drew up the plans. The emerging nations have also signalled their support for the proposal.

Stumbling blocks remain over promotion and relegation as well as the revenue share for the new tournament, but the former New Zealand centre says it is now or never to get a competition established, otherwise rugby’s future will be surrendered to private equity groups which are already buying into competitions and unions.

“It's come to a point where we need to either get some sort of commitment that is workable and then taking the next steps rather than more rounds of talking,” Smith told Telegraph Sport. “We have been talking for the best part of 20 years now. We need something more than words.


“If it doesn't work now, I am sure it will take a totally different shape and it might be a private equity group coming in and doing that. Ideally for rugby as sport, we do this ourselves, and so we keep the benefits that will come from this. If private equity comes in then they take their cut.

“That's something that could be going to the unions, could be going to the emerging nations and could be going to the women’s game and growing that further. I've seen the way private equity works and they can make things happen that traditional means can't achieve. I'm still hopeful that we can set this up, but it might just mean that a few parties put their own commercial interests aside for the greater good.”

Under the plan, the Nations Championship would have a top division of 12 teams containing a pool of the Six Nations countries who would play a game each against a pool of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, Argentina, Fiji and Japan. In the July window, a European nation would play three games in two countries to minimise the amount of travelling which was a key concern for players last time. In November, the Six Nations countries would play their remaining three matches at home and the teams at the top of each pool would face off in a Grand Final.

'There’s a lot of players and they don't always agree on things'

For example, England could play in Australia and then travel to New Zealand to face the All Blacks and Fiji who would be the ‘host’ team. In November, England would then host South Africa, Argentina and Japan.

The tournament would only take place outside of World Cup and Lions years. Results in the Six Nations and Rugby Championship would not be counted and membership of those tournaments would not be affected.

There would also be a mirror tournament for emerging nations such as Georgia, Tonga and Samoa divided between European and Pacific Nations. Under the current plan, the emerging nations would have the opportunity to enter the top division with a promotion-relegation play-off against the teams finishing bottom of their pool.

In Lions years, tier-one nations would be encouraged to tour the emerging nations so England could visit the Pacific Island nations for the first time since 1991.

Insiders at World Rugby believe that there is an overall consensus for the need for promotion and relegation, but difficulties remain if a play-off were to occur in the fourth week of November, which is outside the mandated player release determined by regulation 9.

Perhaps an even trickier debate revolves around the commercial model for the Nations Championship and the split of revenues between the biggest markets of France and England and smaller shares of, say, Australia and Fiji. Traditionally, the host unions keep all gate receipts for home matches.

As Smith readily admits, the “model isn’t perfect” but he says it is better than the alternative of kicking the can down the road for another decade. “When you're representing international rugby players, there’s a lot of players and they don't always agree on things, but in terms of the global season they're very positive,” Smith said. “They think it's a step forward for the game that we need.

“There is potentially massive upside. It protects player welfare, it gives clarity, structure and opportunity for the emerging nations and every two years the best play the best, which will be commercially attractive.”

A World Rugby council meeting on Thursday would approve any changes to the calendar. Will traditional powers be able to put self interest aside to make it work? “As a betting man, I would not bet my life savings on a huge resounding vote in favour, but I suppose it could be a commitment to make this happen by 2026,” Smith said. “If it doesn’t happen that will be a massive wasted opportunity.”

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Post by No 7&1/2 Wed 11 May 2022, 1:16 pm

It gives visibility to the likes of Georgia as well. Though there is no planned relegation from the 6Ns it would add to their argument if they took some scalps and managed to get to the top.

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Post by doctor_grey Thu 12 May 2022, 8:52 am

I read a couple of articles about this proposal and are firmly on the fence (yes, that is uncomfortable). Perhaps not a bad idea to trial, but certainly creates some questions, even some not really being asked.....

Every game to be played by tier 1 teams will now be meaningful, this is the end of the friendly. Six games against the other groupings and 5 against the teams in the other group leaves little room for other matches to be scheduled.

Will Fiji and Japan now have to join the Rugby Championship? They will need to play the other four teams annually. How many Rugby Championship matches will be played between NZ, Aus, SA, Arg?

How will the revenue-sharing work? Can't see it staying as 100% for the home team. Perhaps to a 60/40 as in the NFL? Would make it a bit more equitable financially.

How will the second tier competition work? Have their tournaments at the same time at the Six Nations, Rugby Championship, and November Internationals? Will it be held in Europe since many players are already playing there? There is a lot of air miles for the 2nd tier. Home matches in Tonga, Samoa, USA, Canada, and so on.....

Really need to see more about this.....

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Post by No 7&1/2 Thu 12 May 2022, 8:57 am

Rugby Championship is unchanged, there will be no relegation either dame as 6Ns. The tournaments are the same.

Revenue sharing, the change will be its not 100% to home team but yet to be decided what the split is.

The homes games for Fiji aren't in Fiji I know that so it could be decided neither are the others.

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Post by doctor_grey Thu 12 May 2022, 4:27 pm

So when in the calendar do Fiji and Japan play SA, NZ, Aus, and Arg?  According to the articles (the news about this is everywhere now), Fiji and Japan will need to play them.  Also how many games will be included in the Rugby Championship.  In some years they played each other 3 times, if I recall properly, and in other years, two.

I doubt this has been disseminated yet, but how do countries like Georgia, Romania, USA, Canada ever gain inclusion, to avoid the word promotion, in the tier 1 competition???

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Post by No 7&1/2 Thu 12 May 2022, 4:34 pm

On the last point it's a top vs bottom play off.

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Post by Unclear Thu 12 May 2022, 7:36 pm

Can't get my head around this. I think the existing test windows in the autumn and summer remain the same, but with perhaps some extension to allow for a final and promotion/relegation play off. Not sure how that sorts out the global season. More international games become must win, so reducing the opportunity for development, not sure if this helps or hinders. Tier 1 teams will only play Tier 2 teams in Lions years? Can't see this helping but I've probably got it wrong. The Tier 1 competition will be a better sell so more money should come in. Great for Tier 1, but who is going to be bothered about Tier 2? I can't see their competition producing a lot of revenue. Is there going to be some "drip down"?

To my mind growing the game means driving up the standards of the tier 2 nations and hence local interest, but I'm not sure this will. Would games between Tier 2 nations and Tier 1 nations development teams not be a better solution? No easy answers on this.

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