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World Rugby sets Friday deadline for decision on Nations Championship proposal

Reaction to the plans for a new international rugby format has been mixed.

England and New Zealand would be playing to meet in the final of the new Nations Championship format (Mike Egerton/PA)
England and New Zealand would be playing to meet in the final of the new Nations Championship format (Mike Egerton/PA)

Global rugby chiefs face a deadline of Friday to back or shun World Rugby’s Nations Championship plan.

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The governing body is understood to expect the Six Nations and Rugby Championship unions to deliver an answer on the radical proposals by the end of this working week.

World Rugby needs unanimous support from the 10 unions that make up Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship to progress its Nations Championship blueprint.

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Wales completed a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019 (David Davies/PA)

The proposed format would launch in 2022, with the Six Nations winners facing off with the top team from an expanded, six-team Rugby Championship.

World Rugby anticipates end of business on Friday as the deadline for unions to show their support – or otherwise – for the Nations Championship, but opted not to comment further at this stage.

Final competition proposals would eventually face a vote before the full World Rugby council, but not without full support from the top 10 European and southern hemisphere nations.

The controversial plan has had its opponents ever since it was first floated by World Rugby.

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New Zealand are the defending Rugby Championship winners (Mike Egerton/PA)

The proposals include creating two-tier tournaments for both the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, including promotion and relegation.

The Six Nations unions have previously shown resistance to promotion and relegation, while leading players criticised World Rugby’s lack of engagement over the entire issue back in March.

Pacific Islands campaigners fear the shake-up would reduce opportunities for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, given the November internationals would be redrawn.

The November-scheduled Nations Championship finals could cut down the regular chances for Pacific Islands to take on the world’s top teams.

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Tonga (pictured playing against Wales) and the Pacific Islands fear their opportunities to face top-level opposition could be limited (Mike Egerton/PA)

England rugby boss Bill Sweeney last week admitted a decision time was looming on World Rugby’s plans.

The new Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive also conceded there are still issues to be ironed out.

“It’s coming to the sharp end of that,” said Sweeney of the World Rugby plans.

“It is well known publicly that June is a key month for where that is going.

It's good for the global growth of the game. RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney

“We support the concept. We think it makes sense. It’s good for the global growth of the game. From a financial point of view, the numbers are good to enable us to reinvest back into the game.

“It is such a complex proposal. There are a number of issues around governance, around competition structure, around player welfare that we need to see a bit more detail on before we sign on the dotted line and I think that is the same with some of the other nations, so we are right in the middle of that process right now.”

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