World Rugby’s Nations League expected to be rejected

Meeting will be hosted by Bill Beaumont in Dublin on Thursday to discuss the proposals

World Rugby’s proposed Nations League is expected to hit the buffers at Thursday’s summit in Dublin amid extensive opposition to the annual tournament.

Chairman Bill Beaumont will host the meeting that will be attended by representatives from all tier one countries plus Fiji and Japan, as well as the international players’ union.

The challenge facing Beaumont is to convince the Six Nations unions to abandon ‘Project Light’ — the pooling of TV rights from the Championship and the autumn Tests to drive up revenue — in favour of the three-tier Nations League.

However, that would involve promotion and relegation being introduced into the tournament — a possibility some unions including Ireland steadfastly oppose.


Strengthening the Championship’s position is the funding raised if a substantial offer for a minority stake from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners is accepted.

A Six Nations source states that the CVC money is not needed to bring ‘Project Light’ to fruition and there are several commercial options being explored.

Beaumont will argue that the revised Nations League, which has been altered in response to stakeholder feedback, will grow the global game and will knit together the fixture lists in the two hemispheres culminating in an annual final.

Cash strapped New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, who can not compete with the wages offered by French and English clubs, support World Rugby’s vision for creating greater international depth in the hope of securing greater funds.

All tier one nations must vote in favour for it to be given the green light, however, and that scenario is highly unlikely with the Six Nations unions instead defaulting to financial self-interest knowing ‘Project Light’ — with or without the CVC money — will deliver superior returns.

World Rugby, who was mandated by the unions to investigate the viability of an annual competition, argue that this is a short-term outlook on growth due, with the blocking of promotion and relegation reducing competitiveness.

Add in the willingness of the Gallagher Premiership and Top 14 clubs to take legal action to stop the Nations League encroaching into their domestic and European competitions — and the concern of the implications for player work loads as voiced by the players’ union — and the project appears doomed to failure.

English and French clubs are frustrated by their absence from the summit, but World Rugby argues that they are represented through their unions.

No decisive outcome is expected on Thursday as the proposals must be taken back to the various boards and voted upon, but it is almost certainly the final attempt to advance the case for the Nations League.

If — as expected — it is rejected, rugby will press ahead with the global season to begin from 2021 as agreed in San Francisco.