World Rugby’s plan to revamp the international calendar has been scalded for abandoning the Pacific island nations and being ‘out of touch’ with player welfare standards.
The game’s bosses have been working on implementing a new format comprising 12 countries – England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, USA and Japan – ready to be brought into effect in 2020.
With plans still riddled with ambiguity, one CEO from the Pacific island trio of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have described the proposal as ‘the death of Pacific Island rugby’, according to Pacific Rugby Players chief Aayden Clarke.
And while World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot attempted to placate skepticism over whether promotion and relegation would be incorporated, there was further backlash from some of the sport’s most notable players as part of a statement released by the International Rugby Players group.
The body’s president, Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton, led the way by saying the structure of the league relative to club and international rugby showed ‘little understanding of the physical strain’ rugby has on an individual.
Sexton said: “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.
“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however 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.”
England captain Owen Farrell and New Zealand skipper Kieran Read also weighed into the criticism levelled at World Rugby, with the Saracens fly-half slapping down the proposal.
“This proposal shows no signs of improving an already difficult situation,” Farrell said.
“Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.
“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly.”
World Rugby have promoted the idea to unions with a television broadcaster already onboard following discussions over a rights deal, one which could earn each participating nation between £5m- £7m.
Phil4:13 I’m suprised to see that none of @fijirugby @officialTongaRU @manusamoarugby We have contributed a lot to rugby all these years and I believe one should be in the competition. Hope it’s not late. #13 🏉🌏🇫🇯🇹🇴🇼🇸❤️
— Waisale_Serevi (@Waisale_Serevi) February 28, 2019
A disgrace that cannot be allowed to happen. World rugby owes the Pacific Islands so much and yet this is how they treat them…https://t.co/aCMflXVxeq
— Peter Jackson (@JackoRugby) February 28, 2019
If what im hearing is true then R.I.P Pacific Island Rugby… money is the winner at the end of the day I guess. pic.twitter.com/oL5BrJ6wGm
— nemzy (@nemani_nadolo) February 28, 2019
BREAKING: Players highlight “major concerns” around World Rugby’s proposed International Competition
— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) February 28, 2019
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