Dublin rugby summit to decide on radical new test model that would change game: report

The All Blacks would be part of a six-nation southern hemisphere top division that would play crossover games against the Six Nations teams to compete in a global grand final staged every two years, under a bold new model that could take rugby a huge step forward this week.

According to a report in The Timesglobal rugby bosses are meeting in Dublin early on Wednesday (NZT), with the so-called ‘Nations Championship’ firmly on the agenda.

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith is tackled by Melvyn Jaminet of France in Paris last November.
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith is tackled by Melvyn Jaminet of France in Paris last November.

There are hopes that the much-discussed concept could gain broad support before the end of the week, before being put to a formal World Rugby vote in November.

If agreement is forthcoming, the new competition – which would start in 2026 – would represent the most significant restructure of the game since the advent of professionalism in the 1990s.

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The Times reported that the new competition would see Fiji and Japan join the All Blacks, Australia, South Africa and Argentina in the southern hemisphere top division.

Relegation and promotion in both the southern and northern divisions would also be part of the competition, although this would not affect the structure of the Six Nations.

Each of the six teams in the top division would play each other once during the existing July and November test windows, with the top two test teams playing each other in a grand final to be held in the final weekend of November.

The Times reported that the new model is expected to turbocharge the game’s revenue by 40% or more, although the commercial split between competing nations remains one of the sticking points to overcome.

New Zealand Rugby has been trying for decades to gain a revenue-sharing agreement with the richer northern nations, but to date has been unsuccessful.

The other difficulty is getting an agreement with clubs in Europe to allow a fourth test weekend in November.

At present, the World Rugby test window is for three weekends in November, and clubs are not obliged to release players for additional fixtures organised by test nations outside that window.

However, there is a belief that an improved relationship between the clubs and their respective unions could lead to a deal.

Separately, the clubs are also keen on establishing a World Club Rugby Championship that would see the likes of the Crusaders or Blues compete against Toulouse or Leinster.

The Blues or Crusaders could eventually compete in a world club championship between hemispheres if the new proposal is accepted.
Peter Meecham/Getty Images

The Blues or Crusaders could eventually compete in a world club championship between hemispheres if the new proposal is accepted.

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