Saturday 21 September 2019

Rugby chiefs set for crunch talks as world league proposal reaches pivotal stage

The Aviva Stadium. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
The Aviva Stadium. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Duncan Bech

Plans to launch a World League will reach a pivotal phase next week when the chief executives of all tier one nations gather in Los Angeles to discuss the proposal.

World Rugby's executive committee is hosting the meeting on Tuesday after their vice chairman Agustin Pichot initially floated the controversial idea four months ago.

Upon completion of the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship, Pichot has called for the strongest teams to clash in a global knockout tournament that will be staged annually in the autumn and would conclude in a final.

Apart from undermining the World Cup, there could be further ramifications if it is approved.

A report states that an unnamed broadcaster is driving the idea with the ambition of securing the TV rights for all three competitions - resulting in the Six Nations no longer being shown on terrestrial TV.

The Championship's existing deal with BBC and ITV, who share coverage of Europe's foremost rugby event, expires in 2021.

Acting Rugby Football Union chief executive Nigel Melville departs for LA on Sunday and the meeting will also be attended by Six Nations boss Benjamin Morel.

"We are approaching discussions with an open mind and will be listening and asking a lot of questions," an RFU spokeswoman said.

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"We already have our own strong autumn internationals, which sell out Twickenham, and are part of an extremely strong Six Nations, so for these discussions to proceed there would have to be something significantly better."

A number of obstacles block the path to the World League being set-up, among them agreeing an extended autumn window of five weeks to stage the additional international games - a move that will be opposed by clubs.

"The World League has been talked about for months and now it's time to see some details to assess whether it's viable. The meeting in LA is crunch time," a source close to the proposal said.

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