Rugby

Don't forget Pacific nations in rugby revamp, say Australia, NZ

2019-03-01 10:29
Raelene Castle (Getty Images)

Sydney - Pathways for aspiring Pacific island nations and other developing countries must be part of World Rugby's proposed 'League of Nations' tournament, Australia and New Zealand said on Friday after leaked plans drew strong criticism.

READ: World Rugby doing a fine job of killing world rugby

Proposals for a competition along the lines of football's UEFA Nations League have been mooted principally by World Rugby's ambitious Argentinian vice-president Agustin Pichot, reportedly involving a 12-year deal with a major broadcaster.

But International Rugby Players, the global body representing professional players, has made clear they are not happy with the speed at which things are moving and the apparent lack of consideration to player workloads.

Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle said she supported a model that benefited Australian rugby from a commercial, fan and player perspective, but insisted it was early days and no format had been agreed on.

She said that whatever happened, it must provide opportunities for developing nations and not just be a cash cow for established rugby powerhouses.

"These exploratory discussions have been robust and complex, with player welfare, the growth of developing nations and protecting the great history of the game front and centre in the conversation," she said in a statement. 

"The competition model must provide opportunities for the Pacific Islands nations and other developing nations to continue to grow and compete with tier one nations," she said.

The current model reportedly ring-fences 12 teams - the Six Nations countries, the Rugby Championship nations, Japan and the USA -- playing annually, but excludes Pacific nations like Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew also said no final decisions had been made and expressed frustration that the latest version of the planned competition had leaked less than 24 hours after it was finalised.

Tew said there were a number of fundamentals his organisation would insist on - such as a pathway for developing countries, including the Pacific, and no additional workload on players.

"There's no simple solution to this, but New Zealand Rugby remains committed to working through the proposals with the right people in the room," he said.

Tew said World Rugby would discuss the plan at meetings later this month.

World Rugby has refused to confirm leaked details of the competition but insists players' concerns are being addressed.

Pacific Rugby Players chief Aayden Clarke was concerned rugby union would wither in island nations if they were excluded.

"It's going to have a huge impact," he told stuff.co.nz. "We're going to see players withdrawing from Test rugby and signing three- to four-year deals with French or UK clubs."

Former All Blacks coach Graham Henry also warned a 'League of Nations' would kill off interest in the World Cup.

"The players don't want it (new league), they're overplayed now, so it's not going to happen," Henry, who steered New Zealand to World Cup victory in 2011, told TV3.

"It's going to kill the Rugby World Cup because you're going to have a mini-World Cup every year, so people are going to lose interest," he added.

Read more on:    world rugby  |  rugby

 

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