New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew has rejected any claims a decision has been made on the future format of international rugby.
The Herald yesterday revealed that World Rugby has been negotiating the establishment of a World League involving 12 nations who will play each other every non-World Cup year. The intention is for the league to be running from next year and for at least 12 years before the deal is re-negotiated.
It means Japan and the USA will join the All Blacks, Australia, Argentina and South Africa in the Rugby Championship. Those six will play the nations who make up the Six Nations; England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy.
The world's best players, including All Blacks captain Kieran Read, quickly reacted to the plans – yet to be confirmed by World Rugby – by listing their worries, including the freezing out once more of Pacific Island nations.
But in a statement released today, Tew said nothing had been agreed and insisted any plans must include a "pathway" for the Pacific Islands nations and others. He also said the sustainability of Super Rugby and the Mitre 10 Cup must be protected.
"New Zealand Rugby continues to advocate for an international rugby calendar that ensures the future growth of the game in New Zealand and around the world, including the Pacific," said Tew.
"No decisions have been made about the future format for international rugby, with the most recent proposals less than 24 hours old when it was made public.
"World Rugby and the national unions including New Zealand Rugby have been working hard to increase the meaning and value of international Test matches. It is well documented that the game is under pressure to grow revenues so the game from the community level up can thrive. It is obvious that here in New Zealand we are under pressure to retain our top talent as the international player and coach market continues to be challenging. In addition we have a huge opportunity to grow the woman's game in this country that will also require new resources.
"We are all working hard to find a balance between a model that delivers what fans are demanding, the welfare of our players, while at the same time ensuring we are preserving the integrity of rugby and providing a pathway for the smaller and developing nations here in Oceania but all around the world to develop and participate.
"It is fair to say that taking all of that into account, managing multiple stakeholders is complex. We cannot go into the detail of any of the proposals because there is a layer of commercial sensitivity to these discussions as we are trying to introduce new capital to our game.
"Having said all that there are some fundamentals that New Zealand Rugby has made very clear from the outset. Any new competition must have a pathway for new and developing countries to join including our pacific neighbours. That is not only fair and the right thing to do, but it also preserves the integrity of any competition. We can not add to the work load burden of our players with out making other adjustments and we are also mindful of the role of our other competitions Investec Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup.
"World Rugby have been proactive and bought an idea to the table, we have been refining it over several months and a positive spin off has been some real commercial interest in backing it.
"Having said that nothing has been decided, we have not agreed to anything at this stage and have always been working to the March World Rugby meetings as the next opportunity to discuss the details.
"There's no simple solution to this, but New Zealand Rugby remains committed to working through the proposals with the right people in the room."