Promotion and relegation would be introduced to the Rugby Championship and Six Nations and a blockbuster November final would be held at a neutral venue such as Wembley Stadium or Barcelona’s Camp Nou under a plan to launch a World Rugby ‘Nations Championship’ in 2022.
The Nations Championship, formerly known as the World League concept, passed a crucial litmus test during “very constructive” talks between the chief executives of all tier one Test nations in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Top World Rugby officials told the The Sydney Morning Herald: “It was very constructive, things are progressing well, there are still some things to overcome but they are not overwhelming”.
A report in London’s The Times newspaper on Wednesday laid out the proposal for the 12-nation competition, in which Test nations would play for points during the existing northern and southern hemisphere competitions the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, before meeting for a two-week finals play-off in Europe in November.
The final would be played at a neutral venue, The Times reported, with a World Rugby document nominating Wembley and Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona, plus Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
The proposal would be a radical shake-up of the global rugby calendar, not to mention the Test pecking order, offering nations such as Fiji, Japan and the USA their first genuine chance to climb into the realm of tier one nations with more regular Test match-ups.
Promotion and relegation would be introduced via two divisions, according to The Times. Division One would comprise the Six Nations and Rugby Championship teams as well as Fiji (currently ranked 8th in the world) and Japan (11th). Division Two would be based on the Pacific Nations Cup pool of Canada, Samoa, Tonga and the USA, and the Americas Championship, which includes Chile, Uruguay and Brazil.
In Division One each nation would play each other once in a regular season of 11 Tests, either six home and five away, or vice versa.
The Six Nations, which features the four home unions plus Italy and France, would remain as it is in its February-March window. The current June Test window – which will move to July in 2020 – will change so that the traditional three-Test tours would be replaced with one Test each in three different countries.
In August and September, the southern hemisphere nations would play a block of matches in a format expected to change from the home-and-away fixtures used now. Then in November they would embark on their usual ‘spring tours’ to the north for three weeks.
A play-off series based on final points positions across the two groups of six would determine semi-finalists in the fourth week, with the final in the fifth week.
Rugby Australia officials were not available for comment on Wednesday. It is expected all nations will be given time to digest the proposal