Why rugby's 'world championship' idea won't go ahead

England last toured New Zealand in 2014. Photo / Greg Bowker
England last toured New Zealand in 2014. Photo / Greg Bowker

An English rugby writer has poured cold water on Steven Hansen's proposal of an annual match between the Six Nations and Rugby Championship winners because he says World Rugby won't agree to it.

Officials have held talks about the scheduling of rugby after the next World Cup, with proposals to align the northern and southern hemisphere playing calendars.

All Blacks coach Hansen told the Daily Mail that a clash between the best nations from each hemisphere should be part of the new rugby calendar.

"It's a no-brainer," said the double World Cup winner. "You've got to say, 'What's best for our product so we can keep attracting people to come and watch it?'"

"First, our players need a decent pre-season. You'd play club competitions simultaneously. We could have the European Cup winners play the Super Rugby winners and the Six Nations winners play the Rugby Championship winners.

Evening Standard writer Chris Jones told Radio Sport's Martin Devlin on the DRS that it would be fantastic to see the clash between the likes of the All Blacks and England for a world championship go ahead, but says the main issue will be scheduling and getting World Rugby to sign it off.

"Figuring out how to do it is the bit left hanging there. He [Hansen] says 'it's a no brainer' it 'has it be done', which is fantastic. We all know it's just an idea to get more money out of the TV guys out of the Southern Hemisphere.

"If you do have the Six Nations champions against the winners of the Rugby Championship, let's just say the All Blacks because that's how it's going to be for the next 10 years then the next thing we're going to hear...'Let's play it in Chicago. Let's play it in Tokyo'. It will all be about money.

"It's not about what we want, which is a straight fight, as should be happening this year, between England and New Zealand. If you put that on in a major rugby stadium, people will watch it. If you put it on a Twickenham can you imagine if the All Blacks could beat England, the number two team in the world, in their own backyard. It'd be fantastic. But it ain't going to happen."

Jones says test matches at Twickenham generate around $12m pounds a game and that if a match did go ahead, New Zealand Rugby should demand a decent stake.

"It would be a special game outside the normal ticketing prices and everyone would want to see it. Around 12 million pounds is generated through every Twickenham match through hospitality, ticketing and TV rights. If you gave the All Blacks a couple of million that could make such a difference to the player salary capabilities of the union and there's an argument they should get more if they're playing a head-to-head for the championship of the world.

Jones said the incentive is not there for World Rugby however.

"World Rugby, are they really going to want to see an annual world championship battle when they have the World Cup. They will protect that come what may because they know that is the only way they front the game and they are out to make as much money as possible and I just think they will look at this and say 'hold on a minute. We don't mind if the European Cup and the Super Rugby champions played but really the top of the Rugby Championship and the top of the Six Nations?' That is getting very close to what they control which of course is the World Cup."

Jones said the game could be organised in relatively short notice but there are too many hurdles stopping it from happening.

"It is possible to organize. But there are so going to be so many hurdles and the hurdles are erected by men wearing blazers and the old union ties - that is the problem."

Jones said the recent experiment where the Highlanders, as Super Rugby champions, played European Champions Toulon didn't work well because of the inability to find a right time of the season to play the game. He says it looked more like an extended training game.

- NZ Herald

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