Inbound series to cease under World Rugby's League of Nations plan

by Sam Phillips

The inbound three-Test series in June/July could be abolished by 2020 as World Rugby eyes a drastic shift in the structure of the international season.

A new "League of Nations" concept has been settled upon as a preferred model to enliven international rugby, according to The Daily Telegraphand while the proposal is still in its infancy, the inbound June series appears in peril.

The League of Nations idea would see a rolling tournament in which the top 12 nations in the world will play each other once a year.

The top four nations at the end of each year would then square off in finals to decide an annual champion.

The new World Rugby concept, which is still to be debated, is argued to have two aims.

It is being pitched by World Rugby boss Brett Gosper as a way to up the stakes of each Test between the world's leading nations and thereby boost broadcast revenue for competing nations by selling it as a package.

But to fit all the games in under the new model, teams would have to play three different nations in July (the old June window, given Super Rugby will now not stop from 2020 onwards), instead of the three-Test series that have become a feature in the last five years.

"The premise is we need to generate more money for the international game and the more meaningful those games are, the more likely they are to generate broadcast revenue so we’re doing an exercise in the viability of a broadcast uplift in those fixtures," World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper told the Daily Telegraph.

"It just makes sense and it would seem to be the time to do this and there’s a consensus and a desire to try and do that.

"It’s not just Australia, everyone can do with more revenue in this area and the sport deserves to get the value it can get for those fixtures."

The proposed structure would see the top six teams from both the northern and southern hemisphere feature in the competition.

Matches played during The Rugby Championship and Six Nations would count for competition points with the remaining matches to take place in July and November.

"The team coming south (in July) would have to play three teams, but it’s making sure each game count towards an end that is more interesting to the fans, and therefore a more viable product," Gosper said.

British and Irish Lions tours will not be hampered and there will also be a promotion and relegation system included for the world's second tier nations.

The tournament will also determine seedings for the World Cup.

"I think we’ve now spoken to most CEO’s across the borth and across the south as well as unions across the north and the south and I think everyone wants to see if the theory leads to higher values and the implications," Gosper said.

"It’s interesting from a rugby point of view but it’s also regrouping the rights of these international games at one purchase point which in itself creates an uplift in value so all international rugby, including World Cup, including all the November, July, Six Nations, Rugby Championship, all grouped together."