If you have been hiding under a rock, time for a news flash that is all over the internet. Twelve countries playing against one another in every year apart from World Cup Years.
Sounds good in theory. There are a lot of holes though, and a lot of insane models floating about that do nothing to address player fatigue, nor offer opportunity to the Pacific Island nations who are close friends of Australia and New Zealand and have certainly earnt their place in such a championship.
Let’s see if we can steer idea in better direction.
First of all, which countries should be entitled to play in the competition?
Fiji and Georgia are top 12 nations. However, they would be locked out of the recently reported 12 Nations Rugby Championship. Instead, teams ranked outside the top 12 such as Italy and the USA would gain entry. Samoa and Tonga would also be locked out of the tournament.
This is unacceptable.
To address this, a type of promotion and relegation should be implemented, however, foundation teams should be protected from relegation.
Five Nations teams England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France, as well as Rugby Championship teams Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina should never face relegation. All of these teams except Ireland have played in a World Cup semi-final, while Ireland proved themselves the best team in the World last year when they defeated the All Blacks.
The fight is then on for the final European spot. As perennial wooden spooners of the Six Nations, Italy should have to defeat other European Nations such as Georgia, Romania, Russia and Spain for entry.
Next, the southern hemisphere. Two spots remain. A rethink is required on how best to approach the southern hemisphere. The logical choice is geography and a two conference system. Let us call the conferences the Anzac Conference and the Triple Continent Conference.
Australia and New Zealand have the blessings of geographic proximity. We always have. For this reason, Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa would compete each year for entry into the Anzac Conference.
Either that, or Fiji, Tonga and Samoa form a united Pacific Nations team. A Pacific Nations team would be preferable as teams will need a lot of depth to compete in the 12 Nations Championship.
The Anzac qualifier or Pacific Nations team would play one or two home games. The remaining ‘home’ games for the qualifier would be played in Australia and New Zealand. Adopting this centralised approach would no doubt be preferred by the touring countries and provide commercial benefits to all.
Triple Continent Conference
Now onto the problem conference comprising South Africa and Argentina. The worst and best thing that happened to rugby was arguably South Africa’s great triumph in 1995.
However, SANZAAR ushered in the era of insane travel. The final Triple Continent Conference spot would rotate each year between Japan and USA.
Tactics such as hosting the Triple Continent conference at two venues each year should be employed to reduce international demands. Ideally, every second year, European versus Triple Continent games would be hosted in South Africa, while Anzac versus Triple Continent games would be hosted in the United States.
The next time the tournament is held, European teams play Triple Continent teams in Argentina, and Anzac teams face Triple Continent teams in Japan.
Triple Continent nations should be guaranteed at least one game each year against a fellow Triple Continent nation.
Now to player fatigue. Strict international rule needs to be imposed.
An agreement should be reached which caps the number of hours each year a player can take the field and the number of games played each year at Test, Super Rugby and club rugby level.
Equally important, there should be a cap on the number of domestic flights, international flights and travel distance a player flies each year.
This would go a long way to protecting the players.
What do you think? Should the Pacific Nations be excluded? Would this be a better system than players jet setting every year all over the planet?
And is it time to finally introduce player welfare rules that reduce exposure time to the often hazardous Test Match rugby playing environment?