PRPW WELCOMES ABANDONMENT OF NATIONS CHAMPIONSHIPS

- ‘THE PLAN WAS A SINKHOLE FOR THOSE IN TIER 2’

- ‘THE TRICKLE-DOWN THEORY IS NOT A VALID ECONOMIC THEORY AND IT IS NOT A VALID WAY TO DEVELOP RUGBY IN THE 21ST CENTURY’

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The Pacific Rugby Players Welfare group has welcomed news that World Rugby has withdrawn plans to launch a 12-team Nations Championships saying those countries playing professional rugby in the second tier of the game were facing ‘a sinkhole … a lifetime of playing Test rugby in isolation, impoverishment and falling standards’.

At least that threat has been lifted’, says PRPW chief executive Dan Leo.

The former Manu Samoa lock forward said World Rugby had not tried to explain their plans let alone build consensus outside the Tier One rugby-playing unions.

‘It was totally bizarre that any substantive information that our membership learnt about the Nations Championships, as player-stakeholders, came not from World Rugby but from leaks to the media,’ said London-based Leo, whose PRPW represents Pacific Island-heritage players throughout the European leagues - from the Top 14 & Premiership to National 3 & Fédérale 3.

There was initial controversy in March this year when New Zealand media report that World Rugby was looking at a 12-team competition structured over 10 or 12 years could start as early as next year and would see additional TV income of between NZD10m and NZD14m per union on top of existing contracts.

Fiji was initially reported to be in World Rugby’s plans, and then dropped in favour of the United States, said Leo. ‘And then Fiji was reinstated, but then they were not, because some teams were ringfenced from relegation, so Fiji might join if they won promotion … the whole thing was a mess,’ said Leo.

Italy – a Tier 1 union with three guaranteed votes at the World Rugby Council – were included in all versions of the Nations Championships despite never reaching a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal, a 22-match losing record and a World Rugby ranking of 14.

Two unions [Tonga and Georgia] with a World Rugby ranking higher than Italy were not included in any version.

All you need to know about this plan is that for the Tier 1 unions who dominate the World Rugby Council maintaining Italy’s position within the Nations Championships, despite not winning a Six Nations’ match since 2015, may have ended up being more important than a credible plan to develop all Test-playing nations across the world.’

Even if there was a straight-up, regular mechanism for promotion and relegation from Tier 2 to Tier 1 – which it is not clear was ever really on offer - those Test teams who were not promoted would be shut out effectively of all Tier 1 matches in the four years between Rugby World Cups’, said Leo, whose 600-plus-member PRPW does not seek nor receive any funding from World Rugby or related parties.

‘Students of economics would recognise this as World Rugby’s version of the Trickle-Down Theory: that development and investment should focus on the wealthy and eventually something will trickle down to everyone else,’ said Leo.

‘But the Trickle-Down Theory is not a valid economic theory and it is especially not the way that World Rugby should be developing rugby in the 21st Century,’ said Leo, a 39-cap Test veteran with Manu Samoa.

NewsMark Sowerby