International rugby reportedly set for a new 12-team championship featuring the world's best sides in major overhaul

Photo: Getty.

  • A report in Britain’s The Sunday Times says global rugby administrators have agreed to a new annual world championship featuring 12 international teams in a major shake-up of world rugby.
  • It would involve six teams from each hemisphere, and would likely also have a second division with promotion and relegation available from the top tier.

Test rugby’s major shake-up looks set to go with the 12-team inter-hemisphere plan and could be introduced as early as 2020.

While the game’s bosses left a Sydney meeting late last week without revealing their intentions, The Sunday Times reports that the controversial plan first aired by World Rugby Agustin Pichot is the favoured option.

It would take place in the July and November international windows and involve a 12-team competition.

There would be six teams from each hemisphere – England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales from the north, and South Africa, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand from the south, plus most likely Japan and Fiji.

There would also be a second division, with promotion and relegation between the top flight, according to Sunday Times rugby correspondent Stephen Jones in his report.

The second division would include countries likes Georgia, Romania, Spain, United States, Russia, Tonga and Samoa, “with China and Germany contending because of the attraction of their powerhouse economies”.

Jones labelled it “the launch of the most significant global competition since the World Cup was first played in 1987”.

The tournament would be held for the three years between World Cups and would mean an end to tours by international tours although it reportedly wouldn’t affect the tours by the British & Irish Lions.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

According to Jones, it had been signed off by World Rugby’s (WR) executive committee and “now it falls to their commercial arm to see the concept through, although it would be a big surprise if they cannot attract major sponsors and other commercial concerns, plus major broadcast deals”.

The Sunday Times reported the Sydney meeting was “harmonious” as the sports top administrators sought a new future for the international game.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont had given little away at the conclusion of the Sydney meeting that looked to build on a structure earlier agreed at a meeting in San Francisco to try to find a better global calendar for the game.

“Building on the solid foundations of the San Francisco calendar agreement, I believe the time is right and the opportunity exits to do something really impactful that injects further excitement, significance and value into the international rugby between Rugby World Cups for the benefit of all,” Beaumont said in a statement.

“In line with this objective, we are examining models to maximise the potential of the July and November windows without changing the framework of the San Francisco agreement.”

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