International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton has hit out at the newly proposed 12-team World Rugby tournament which could begin as early next year.
The ‘World League’ model, which has received considerable media attention in recent months, has come in for criticism from many quarters but most notably the players themselves.
The new tournament will consist of the Six Nations and Rugby Championship nations but will also include Japan and the USA who will join the southern hemisphere competition.
Those two competitions will continue to operate in their current format but the major difference sees the traditional summer and November Test series included in the overall proposed tournament.
This means that Six Nations sides will travel to the southern hemisphere in the summer to take on three different nations.
The Rugby Championship sides will then travel to Europe in November to take on the three teams they didn’t face in the summer. This will complete the ‘regular season’ which will be immediately followed by semi-finals and a final, something which Sexton believes is a cause for concern.
“While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November,” Sexton said.
“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however, it needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings.”
One of the biggest criticisms of the proposed model is that it will leave out the Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji for at least 10 years – which would stifle the growth of rugby in those countries.
Samoa captain Chris Vui said: “For countries in this bracket and for Pacific Islanders, in particular, our biggest issue has always been the ‘club versus country’ factor. We feel that a 12-year deal is not workable, particularly when it presents no hope of advancement during that period. This will have the dangerous knock-on effect of luring senior players away from their countries and more towards the clubs, which is the exact opposite of what we’re all trying to achieve.”
The NZ Herald reports that the proposal has ‘captured the imaginations’ of the unions involved and that an unknown broadcaster has already tabled a deal which would see each nation receive €6-8 million per year.