World Rugby is looking at “ways to inject further significance and excitement” into July and November Test match windows from 2020.
It follows meetings in Sydney of World Rugby’s executive committee, with World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont describing initial discussions as “highly productive”.
A World Rugby professional game committee will now be convened, comprising representatives from all Tier One countries and several from Tier Two, and report to the executive committee.
World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot, pictured, favours a so-called World League competition from 2020 onwards.
It would see the world’s top 12 nations competing in an annual tournament every November and being staged in alternate years by northern and southern hemispheres. It appears that idea is gathering momentum.
Agreement over a new global calendar from 2020 was reached in San Francisco last year. It included new fixed Test windows for July and November.
In a statement, World Rugby said: “With the San Francisco accord delivering long-term calendar stability between 2020-32, the international federation has begun exploring within that framework ways to inject further significance and excitement into the July and November windows and optimise the commercial model for all.
“International rugby is the sport’s global shop window, financial engine and catalyst behind a 28 per cent surge in fan-base interest driven by younger audiences in emerging rugby markets such as Brazil, China, India and the USA.
“There are currently 338 million fans and 9.2 million players worldwide, and next year Asia will host its first Rugby World Cup, demonstrating the significant opportunity that exists for the international game to broaden its footprint.”
Former England captain Beaumont, meanwhile, said that he feels “the time is right” to increase value of international rugby between World Cup competitions.
“Building on the solid foundations of the San Francisco calendar agreement, I believe that the time is right and the opportunity exists to do something really impactful that injects further excitement, significance and value into international rugby between Rugby World Cups for the benefit of all,” he said.
Pichot added: “It is critical that we must continually evolve to ensure appeal and relevance within a rapidly-evolving global fan, broadcast and commercial environment.”