Ulster could find themselves in the running for a Club World Cup in a radical shake-up for the game which is believed to be on course to be rolled out in 2025.
It’s been reported that a blueprint for the new 16-team elite competition has been agreed in principle by the main stakeholders and involve the top eight sides from the northern hemisphere and seven from south of the equator, the total being made up by a club from Japan.
It is believed that this contest to determine the world champions of club rugby will initially be played out every four years and replace the existing knockout stages for the Champions Cup for the season in question.
The concept has been designed to fall in the middle of the existing World Cup schedule and, though in the same year as the next British and Irish Lions tour, it will not, it is claimed, overcrowd the calendar.
It is thought that the Club World Cup will be made up of four pools containing the same number of teams. Eight will be drawn from the URC, Premiership and Top 14, seven from Super Rugby and one coming on board from Japan.
It has also been reported that private equity firm CVC’s involvement in the higher echelons of the game has helped trigger the momentum towards finding and developing further exposure and new revenue streams for rugby.