SANZAAR open to Rugby Championship change: Marinos

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

SANZAAR is open to changing the Rugby Championship for the first time since 2012 in a bid to accommodate the proposed "World League", CEO Andy Marinos says.

Marinos is the latest rugby heavyweight to throw his public support behind the proposed World League as part of a new-look global calendar.

While the details are yet to be nutted out the league would likely see the top 12 teams pitted against each other for points before an end-of-year championship between the top teams during the November window.

UK reports have suggest that the competition would lead to a trimmed down six-team Rugby Championship that would include Japan and Fiji and Marinos said SANZAAR would certainly consider a change to the Rugby Championship, which has remained stable since Argentina joined in 2012.

The revamped competition would replicate the Six Nations format, with July and November Test windows to complete the season, culminating in an end-of-year World League final.

This new structure would still allow for at least two Bledisloes with the potential of a third to be played outside of the global competition.

Fiji has joined the World Rugby council. Photo: AFP“We certainly are open-minded about a format change, potentially to the TRC,” Marinos said at Tuesday's Super Rugby launch.

"There is an open-mindedness from SANZAAR and our national unions around the Rugby Championship, and that is one of the things we have been working on at the moment - the current format has been pretty set for the last six to eight years, since Argentina came in. 

“The question we have always had, is when you look at new markets, we have looked at doing it through Super Rugby, is there a possibility of doing it through international rugby?

“You have to make sure the competitiveness is there and there has been some pretty good lessons learned in the north when the Five Nations went to Six Nations. And we have seen the journey the Italians have had to have.”

Marinos said travel loomed as a potential hurdle when it came to convincing the Northern Hemisphere countries to sign up to the plan.

In the past, Northern Hemisphere teams have generally travelled to one country for three-Test series in June but a World League could see them playing in Australia one week and New Zealand the next.

“Us in the south, we are quote immune to long haul travel,” Marinos said.

“I don’t think people in the north, they have certainly never experienced it to this level.

“There is a lot of water to flow under the bridge but I think the overarching narrative of what’s trying to be achieved makes a lot of sense from a rugby and a business point of view.”

Marinos also moved to assuage concerns of a mass exodus of players to the northern hemisphere after this year’s World Cup.

Rory Arnold will head home on Monday night. Photo: Getty ImagesAlready a handful of Australian players have announced their intentions to head offshore at the end of the season and New Zealand is facing a similarly growing list of post-Japan departures.

Marinos said departures were only natural at the end of a World Cup cycle but SANZAAR countries had to prioritise keeping their emerging players on home soil.

“Obviously the players in the south are very valued and respected, especially for the northern competitions,” Marinos said.

“That’s a reality of sport, the dollars do count a lot. And there is a hell of a lot of money sitting in France and England, and probably some more money now into Asia and Japan.

“I think we are going to see a natural attrition as we do after every World Cup, with a whole lot of marquee players probably coming towards the end of their career and moving on, and going off as we say for their retirement.

“The biggest challenge for the southern hemisphere is the retention of our young talent, the guys coming through in the 19s and the 20s, and making sure we are able to keep them in our structures and develop them, and obviously have them ready for international rugby.”

Super Rugby kicks off on Friday February 15 with a clash between the Brumbies and Rebels at GIO Stadium.