Rugby

It's Nations Champs or bust for Fiji and Japan

07 April 2019 - 00:03 By LIAM DEL CARME


With World Rugby's proposed Nations Championship even more precariously placed, SA and their Sanzaar partners intend to go on with business as usual should the global event fail to get off.
That also means there will be no place in the Rugby Championship for Fiji and Japan, who will be part of the Sanzaar landscape if the Nations Championship happens to take flight.
SA Rugby's president, Mark Alexander, was clear that the two Pacific nations' participation in the Rugby Championships was dependent on the global Nations Championship getting the go-ahead.
"We continue as usual until a new plan lands on the table," said Alexander about the prospect of World Rugby's bold new venture being stillborn.
OUTSIDE FUNDING ESSENTIAL
"We will continue playing the Rugby Championship (with four teams). We are part of a global sport, but they (Fiji and Japan) don't have the financial muscle to be in the competition. They just don't have the money.
"They will need an outside party to come and put money in," said Alexander.
A dearth of investment in the game in the Pacific has long hamstrung the development of the sport there. That partly explains why the Sunwolves will be jettisoned from Super Rugby after 2020.
"It is not that we don't want them in. Fiji and Japan can't afford to get in and that means it is not practically possible. This (the Nations Championship) would have helped them to participate in the competition. That would have helped grow the game. That is the problem here."
If the concept fails, second-tier nations like Fiji, Japan, Romania and Samoa will continue to operate on the game's periphery.
NORTH STILL PLAYING HARD TO GET
Agreement on what form the Nations Championship should take is still dividing the sport across the hemispheres. Some Six Nations teams are jittery about promotion-relegation forming an integral part of the competition. They say they face financial ruin should they be relegated.
The uncertainty and indecision has necessitated World Rugby to push back their deadline for commitment to the project to later this week.
"You never know with these guys, you never know what is going to happen next," said Alexander about voting patterns in the north. "When you are part of the global game you must make global decisions. It just creates more hype."
Away from the Test arena, Alexander was lukewarm about SA forming part of Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest's Global Rapid Rugby. Forrest, the driving force in keeping former Super Rugby team the Western Force relevant, has promised to deliver the GRR - a competition in which matches last 70 minutes, with no kicking out on the full. It has been conditionally sanctioned by World Rugby and will carry a $1m (about R14m) winners' prize.
"That competition has been talked about for three years," said Alexander. "When they put something real on the table we will weigh it up, provided it adds value to SA rugby."

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