RFU want Nations Championship 'outstanding issues' resolved
By Sky Sports Rugby Union
Last Updated: 18/06/19 5:52pm
Bill Sweeney has confirmed the RFU are backing World Rugby's Nations Championship plans, but that there are still some issues to be resolved before they could sign up to it.
The proposed tournament, tabled to begin in 2022, would see the winners of the Six Nations face off against the winners of an expanded six-team Rugby Championship, with the global governing body having set Friday as the deadline to win the unanimous backing of the 10 Tier One nations.
The plans have proven controversial, with concerns over reduced opportunities for the Pacific Island teams and criticism from leading players over a lack of engagement from World Rugby over the proposals.
But while RFU chief executive Sweeney believes the plans have a lot of potential, he conceded there are still plenty of questions which need to be answered before English rugby's governing body could agree to the Nations Championship going ahead.
"The RFU supports the concept," Sweeney told Sky Sports. "It's a good concept in terms of developing the game globally, it will help to improve the quality and competition levels for Tier Ones, it certainly helps us to support the SANZAR nations, which is good.
"The numbers - the commercial side of it - are good and strong, so we're very supportive of it on that front.
"We're at that final stage of conversations around 'Is the right time to go ahead?' - There are lots of parts of it we're saying 'Absolutely, yes' and there are lots of parts of it we're saying 'We need some more clarity and information and clarity around what is happening'.
"We're in that moment of where we stand on these outstanding issues."
One of those outstanding issues is that the current proposals would see promotion and relegation introduced to the Six Nations.
Any prospect of bringing in relegation is likely to be fiercely resisted by the six leading Northern Hemisphere unions, with Sweeney confirming the RFU could not accept those proposals as they currently stand.
"The topic of relegation really revolves around the heath of the Tier Two competition, so if you were to be relegated...it would be significantly financially harmful for us," Sweeney said.
"You'd have impact on broadcast revenues, ticketing and sponsorship, so we can't simply sign up for it until there are certain other things are in place.
"We've discussed with World Rugby what the compromise situations we could have around that are.
"We couldn't sign up 100 per cent to relegation, we can look at when it would come in, under what conditions and what would be the criteria which would allow us to agree to that."