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World Rugby announces €92m relief fund as plans for rugby's restart go on

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World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont

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World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont

World Rugby has announced a €92m relief fund to assist unions struggling financially as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown.

For the leading Six Nations and Rugby Championship teams, draw-downs are likely to come in the form of advances or loans against future income, with the governing body conscious of the impact on less well-off nations below the top tier.

Across the globe, clubs and unions have been hit hard by the sporting stoppage, with the New Zealand Rugby Union the latest to introduce pay-cuts of up to 50% on its highest earners overnight.

In Ireland, all IRFU staff have taken temporary pay deferrals of between 10 and 50% for the duration of the cash crisis brought about by the public health emergency.

As well as providing financial assistance to member unions, World Rugby have been attempting to co-ordinate a plan for the resumption of the sport when it is permitted by public health officials.

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They say this is likely to include a "short-term reshaping of the international rugby calendar, optimising competition opportunities for unions and domestic leagues".

They note that cross-hemisphere competition may not be permitted and are working on contingency plans.

One such plan could see the Six Nations expanded and played on a home and away basis either side of Christmas, with the Rugby Championship taking precedence in the Southern Hemisphere.

They are also using the period of co-operation to map out potential long-term changes to the sport's scheduling.

Players body International Rugby Players are involved in the discussions and World Rugby's statement noted that player welfare will be central to their plans.

"Global sport is facing a crisis never seen before and at this most challenging time we are taking unprecedented action as a sport united to support global rugby, its unions, competitions and players through the enormous challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.

"The measures announced today will provide support and short-term relief in the form of a US$100 million relief fund, while we are committed to exploring calendar options that reflect and address a dynamic, complex and uncertain environment.

"I have chaired many productive meetings in recent weeks with my union, region, competition and player colleagues and we are rapidly moving towards a viable calendar solution and, while compromises are being made, the outcome will be in the best interests of the whole game.

"This is a process with solidarity, unity and leadership at heart – one that sets a potential blueprint for successful collaboration in the future and I would like to thank everyone for their openness, cooperation and global view."

Amidst the talks about the reshaping of the game, Beaumont is locked in a battle for the leadership of the governing body.

And his rival for the chairman's position, Agustin Pichot, has indicated that his home nation Argentina could drop out of the running to host the 2027 World Cup.

That would allow Australia the rights to bring the tournament back for the first time since 2003.

Rugby Australia seconded Pichot's nomination for the position on Wednesday.

Beaumont, meanwhile, has pledged a full review of World Rugby's structures if he wins, while both men remain committed to a form of Nations Championship.

Online Editors