Body representing Welsh rugby regions throws weight behind Club World Cup plans
The United Rugby Championship has given its backing to a plan for a rugby Club World Cup which could see Wales’ regions facing off against clubs from New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands.
The United Rugby Championship, which represents clubs from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales, have agreed in principle to take part in the tournament.
Discussions with the English Premiership and French Top 14 are also at an advanced stage.
The Club World Cup would start in 2025 and involve 16 teams from across both hemispheres.
It would involve teams from Europe and South Africa that reach the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup against those from the now Oceania-specific Super Rugby. A single Japanese team would also be added.
Martin Anayi, the chief executive of the URC and representative on the EPRC board, told the Telegraph that his league was fully behind the proposal.
“We want to make it happen,” Anayi told Telegraph Sport. “It’s about being joined up enough to have a vision for the world club cup. Everybody’s largely agreed in principle, and we just need to figure out dates.
“We do like the idea of a Japanese team in there as well, I think that’s quite an interesting conversation we’re having. It adds quite a flavour to it.
“In the future, I think we need to try and help the domestic leagues in America and in South America and the rest of continental Europe, for example Spain and Germany, to bring teams through. I’ve always thought maybe the Challenge Cup was a good route for that.
“But the long-term vision for a Club World Cup, and I’m not saying the first cycle, must be that we get competitive US teams in there as well. Especially now we’ve got a men’s Rugby World Cup there in 2031.”
The competition as envisioned would replace the knockout stages of the European Cup in years when the British & Irish Lions are touring, and end with a cross-hemisphere final.
The plan is for the competition to start in 2025 when the Lions tour Australia, with a final decision to be made this autumn.
However, the new cross-hemisphere competition would only include Europe and South Africa’s eight best teams. A Welsh team hasn’t reached the last eight of the Heineken Cup since the Scarlets in the 2017–18 season.
The new club competition would be in addition to the Nations Championship, an international tournament involving the top nations culminating in a grand final between the two hemispheres every two years, which plans to provide more meaningful July and Autumn fixtures in between World Cups.
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