1 Mar 2019

'Reeks', 'Boycott', 'Saddened': The world reacts to new proposals for rugby

12:15 pm on 1 March 2019

The rugby fraternity has been vocal in its reaction to World Rugby's plans to overhaul international Test matches.

The England first-five Owen Farrell.

Owen Farrell isn't a fan of the proposed World Rugby league. Photo: Photosport

The sport's governing body wants to combine the northern and southern hemisphere calendars and form a 12-team World League starting in 2020.

Agustin Pichot is the former captain of the Argentine Pumas and current vice-chairman of World Rugby. He took to twitter to explain the thinking of the proposal.

"My position and my proposal has always been the same since day 1 12+12 with promotion/relegation with enough rest periods for the players. Nothing has been decided yet, and I doubt it will, I won't stop trying.

"If we can't make this happen it won't be because of the people who wanted the growth of the game worldwide.

"And working with clubs and leagues to make it work for all of us."


The Telegraph's Ben Coles said the concept "reeked".

"Everything about the new proposed World League reeks of greed and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

"Should the proposed new competition go ahead as planned, according to Thursday's report from the New Zealand Herald, then Fiji, Samoa and Tonga will be shut out from top level international rugby for the next 12 years from 2020.

"So will Georgia (ranked 12th in the world), Romania, Canada and the rest, with no promotion or relegation.

"Those sides' aspirations and rugby's supposed sense of inclusion appear to mean nothing in the face of making more money from the Test game on an annual basis, or so it seems."


Daniel Leo, the former Manu Samoa lock and current player welfare manager for Pacific players based in Europe, said to the Irish Times that Pacific nations should consider a boycott of the Rugby World Cup if they were excluded from the proposal.

"I'd find it hard to believe that Pacific Island teams will turn up for the World Cup knowing that we are being screwed over.

"If I was in the Pacific Island unions now I would very strongly be considering the next course of action if this is the way we are going to be treated."


England captain Owen Farrell on the BBC said: "This proposal shows no signs of improving an already difficult situation.

"Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.

"The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn't seem to have considered this properly."

Conference call

The Guardian revealed that players held a conference call earlier this week to discuss issues with proposal.

Almost 40 international players held a conference call late on Tuesday about the proposal and said they had serious concerns over player workload, increased long-haul travel and a lack of opportunities for Tier Two nations as their understanding was that the plan would not permit promotion and relegation. They also felt the integrity of international rugby would suffer.


Rob Howley, the assistant coach for Wales to Warren Gatland, was quoted by Wales Online as saying he was saddened that some nations may miss out.

"I can see the benefits from World Rugby but, as a coach, you learn against Tier two and three countries.

"That's a key part of rugby - they're an integral part of it, the Georgias and Fijis.

"I would be a little disappointed you wouldn't have that opportunity to play them."

Complex stakeholder discussion

Brett Gosper, chair of World Rugby has tweeted about the competition.

"Nations Champ's is still an evolving concept that continues to be shaped by multiple and complex stakeholder discussion. Objective is to propose a more compelling and sustainable global international game for fans, players and Unions. Discussions continue with all stakeholders."

And he added: "We have carried out fan research via independent company in major broadcast markets. Fans were resoundingly positive about concept."

Nothing decided

The Head of Communications for World Rugby, Dominic Rumbles, has also tweeted.

"Lots of inaccuracies being reported re player welfare, the lions (protected) and emerging nations opportunities. This is a complex-multi-stakeholder dialogue & World Rugby focused on game growth & expansion."

"Nothing decided. Player views central. Dialogue ongoing."

'Cash is king'

South African rugby columnist on [https://www.sport24.co.za/Columnists/GarrinLambley/world-rugby-doing-a-fine-job-of-killing-world-rugby-20190228

Sport24, Gavin Lambley,] believed that the concept showed "cash is king".

"The concept is basically an admission that cash is king and trumps everything in rugby and is the real reason the foreigner-laden Japan and the 13th-ranked USA have been given the nod thanks to their commercial clout.

"Immediate thoughts, in no particular are:

- Should the tournament get the official thumbs-up, the Rugby World Cup will lose all relevance as the World League basically represents a mini-World Cup every year, while British & Irish Lions tours will have no place in the calendar.

- The All Blacks could top the log and 'host' England at Twickenham. An advantage? No.

- More air miles for everyone! Long-haul flights will increase significantly, making life in an aeroplane home away from home for the southern hemisphere Super Rugby and Test players in particular.

- Even greater friction than currently the case between countries and clubs who have players already on their books long-term.

"Go back to the drawing board, World Rugby. This concept requires more thought."