Rugby Union

Nations Championships: World Rugby revamp backed by £5bn offer

England’s Owen Farrell and Ireland’s Johnny Sexton were among the players to question World Rugby’s initial plans, before the semi-final stage of the Nations Championship was dropped

World Rugby’s hopes of reshaping the international game have been boosted after they revealed a £5bn offer to back their Nations Championship plans.

Six Nations organisers are considering selling a stake in the tournament to a private equity firm, potentially killing off World Rugby’s plans.

But global sports marketing company Infront’s Nations Championships offer is believed to have surprised unions.

“We live to fight another day,” a World Rugby source has told the BBC.

As reported by the BBC on Monday, the planned semi-final stage of the Nations Championship has been scrapped, with World Rugby committed to working with players and clubs, after those parties voiced their opposition in recent days.

However, despite the commercial offer and the “well-received” proposal, issues over promotion and relegation remain.

France and South Africa have both given their initial support to the plans, while emphasising there are details to be worked on.

“The meetings were positive and constructive and there are still details to be worked through, but France believes in this concept for the good of the game globally,” said French federation boss Bernard Laporte.

SA Rugby counterpart Jurie Roux said: “Creating a meaningful season-long competition out of the current patchwork of events and tournaments has an obvious appeal as well as proving a clear development pathway for emerging nations, which speaks directly to one of the fundamental goals of World Rugby.

“But there are a number of due diligences to be performed and questions to be answered before anything can come to fruition.”

The Nations Championship, which would start from 2022, would involve a 12-team league, with results from the existing Six Nations, an expanded Rugby Championship and summer and autumn Tests contributing towards the final standings. The top two teams would play off in a final.

The proposal’s plan to introduce relegation and promotion to the Rugby Championship and, especially, the Six Nations, is expected to be a major stumbling block, with players and clubs also raising concerns.

Pacific Island nations are considering a boycott of this year’s World Cup in protest at the plan, amid fears that Samoa, Tonga and Fiji may not be included in the 12-team league.

Pacific Rugby Players’ Welfare wants its 600 members to discuss a boycott.

England captain Owen Farrell and New Zealand skipper Kieran Read