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Leinster vs Crusaders and Munster vs Sharks - World Champions Cup gathers momentum in global calendar talks


Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster

European rugby could be set for a radical overhaul with the introduction of a World Champions Cup tournament, as early as 2022.

As discussions continue over how best to align the global calendar, it has emerged that at Monday's virtual meeting between the game's major stakeholders, World Rugby was presented with a 40-page proposal for a new 16-club competition, which hopes to generate millions of euro in lost revenue.

The idea of the best teams from the northern and southern hemispheres going up against each other would hold huge appeal for players and supporters alike.

The tournament, which would include the best 16 teams in the world, would be held every four years and would not clash with either the World Cup or the Lions.

It has been suggested that the World Champions Cup would replace the knockout stages of the Champions Cup, although exactly how the format would work has yet to be finalised.

"The clubs are very united in terms of how we see things moving in the medium-term, and the World Champions Cup is a fundamental piece of it," European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday told the Daily Mail.

"The clubs are the driving force behind this. It's driven bottom-up by the three leagues. The English clubs aren't just supporting it, they are part of it.

"It would take over from the latter part of the Heineken Champions Cup.

"When we have an impression of what a good format will look like, we will engage with the southern hemisphere. We have total clarity in our minds that it's what we're going to do.

"You've got a Lions tour in 2021 and a World Cup in 2023, so it won't be either of those years.

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"The first years it could be are 2022 or 2024. We're all trying to do things quicker because of the crisis.

"We need to excite the fans and generate revenue, but nothing can be done in isolation.

"There is an attempt to revolutionise the calendar and there could be two great new tournaments — club and country — that could bring in millions of pounds of revenue."

Speaking back in April before rugby was put on hold due to Covid-19, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster admitted that he would relish the chance of going up against the best teams from the southern hemisphere.

"Yeah, of course," Lancaster enthused.

"From a club point of view, with the magic wand and the new global season that we’ll all hopefully see in the future, that would be brilliant.

"It would be brilliant to actually do that, to actually create some form of competition – whether it’s the winners of each league or the top four or whatever.

"I wonder whether TV and the drive for growing the game would want that. I think they would, personally.

"I don’t know how you’d do it. Obviously, I’m not privy to all that sort of stuff but a chance for Leinster to play the Crusaders, for example – who wouldn’t want to watch a game like that?"

That sentiment was echoed at the other side of the world when just last month, All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, admitted that his Crusaders side would love a crack off Munster.

"In general, aligning the world's competitions to open up these possibilities is a good thing," Whitelock said.

"You can imagine having the best northern v southern hemisphere clubs and international sides meeting every couple of years would be pretty cool.

"There is an appetite to see that - Munster v the Crusaders sounds pretty cool. There are options on the table, and we just need to work through those and debate them."

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