SYDNEY – Fiji, Japan and even the United States could join an expanded Rugby Championship now that World Rugby's proposed global league has collapsed.
Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle revealed Friday that governing body SANZAAR had been working on new models for the southern hemisphere competition in case the Nations Championship didn't work out.
“Certainly what World Rugby Nations Championship has done with this project is allow us to think outside the box about different things, around the calendar, the timing, inclusion of different teams, all of those things,” she told the Rugby Australia website.
“It's allowed the SANZAAR nations to think about the expansion of TRC, how does that would work from a team participation point of view, a commercial sustainability point of view, how does it work to grow the reach of TRC, and one of the options is the expansion of TRC.
“But no final decision has been made.”
Changes could see Fiji, Japan and potentially the USA invited to join traditional powers Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina to broaden interest as negotiations open on a new broadcast deal due to take effect from 2021, Rugby Australia said.
Castle added that SANZAAR would need to have a close look at commercial returns, the ability of any team to consistently play at the required level and whether they had the necessary facilities to host matches.
“So, there's really different elements that you would need to work through with any country, criteria and those are the types of things that we'd be considering before any teams are brought into the Rugby Championship,” she said.
It follows World Rugby on Thursday shelving its ambitious plans to revolutionise the sport with a global tournament from 2022.
The format would have seen the northern hemisphere Six Nations and an expanded Rugby Championship funnelling into an end-of-year finals series.
But plans for promotion and relegation were met with resistance from some unions who would run a huge financial risk if relegated.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)