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As the debate and discussion continue concerning World Rugby’s World League/Nations Championship concept takes center stage for the next two weeks, it’s time to review the three suggestions already put forth about the new initiative.
A Twelve Team League - The initial proposal was a twelve-team league, including, the current Six Nations, the four Rugby Championship teams, Japan, and the USA. Originally, this would have been a 12-year commitment without relegation or promotion. There would be eleven games in the year with a playoff format to determine the champion. The league would commence in 2022.
The three excluded Pacific Island nations cried “foul”, and, in addition, the insertion of the mid-ranked, tier 2 USA represented a blatant money grab without any consideration for global Test results or performance.
Three Divisions of Twelve Nations – When World Rugby learned of the universal condemnation of the twelve and twelve initiative, it backtracked (without apology) and reformed the new idea to be an all-inclusive 36 team participation with three divisions.
Key to this scheme would be mandatory promotion and relegation, a fair and reasonable system that exists among most of the leading FIFA football leagues. Not stated was whether one or two of the lowest teams would go down, to be replaced by a similar number climbing up a division. The Six Nations sides rejected this up and down proposal, realizing that, although it might be Italy the perennial last place fifteen, one day, it could be France, England, Scotland, Wales or Scotland. A drop down by any of the old Five Nations would represent a dilution of the Six Nations status and a lowering of its revenue generation as a privately-owned entity with no financial connection to World Rugby.
Three Divisions of Eight – The newest wrinkle for the Nations Championship is 24-teams, three divisions, also with promotion and relegation. A possible format might be:
Division I – England, Ireland, France, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa
Division 2 – Argentina, Fiji, Japan, Italy, Georgia, USA, Samoa, and Tonga
Division 3 – Spain, Russia, Romania, Canada, Uruguay, Portugal, Germany, Namibia or Belgium
Notice that one well known rugby nation would drop down from Division 1, which would put an end of the profitable Six Nations tournament. And in the second season, what happens if another of the remaining seven finish last? Test Rugby, as it has been played since 1881 (Scotland vs England), would undergo a radical and undesirable outcome with the absence then of two, storied rugby nations in top division competition.
World Cup Diminished – Finally, how exciting would the highly profitable Rugby World Cup be, if in between the four-year event cycle, two years constituted a crowned world champion in the Nations Championship? The magazine Rugby World expressed it best: "The lack of clarity on the situation is not helping matters as speculation grows."
April 5 is the decision date.