World Rugby Respond To Sexton, Read, Farrell & Co Being Strongly Against World League

“Inaccurate.”

In a statement released this morning, World Rugby said it was ‘surprised’ by the stance taken by the International Rugby Players (IRP) Council regarding the proposed new ‘World League’ and claimed that some of the assertions made were inaccurate.

The International Rugby Players Council of almost 40 players spoke via conference call on Tuesday night to discuss the potential 12-year deal, with nine of the world’s top ten international team captains dialling in.

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Senior players from around the globe were united in their concern about the proposed format, in relation to:

  • Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
  • Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
  • A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
  • Increased conflicts between country and club demands and Regulation 9 release periods
  • Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
  • The long-term quality and integrity of the international game

International Rugby Players President Jonathan Sexton has suggested organisers are “out of touch” if they think players can “play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks.”

“While players gave this idea a cautious welcome when we met at the end of last year, it now seems like a commercial deal on the future of the game is being negotiated at a rapid pace with little consideration given to the important points we raised with World Rugby in November.

“The issue of player load has never been so topical, however needs to be properly understood. To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November, is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings”

But in a strongly worded statement of their own – World Rugby says it was “inappropriate” to comment on the specifics of the proposed competition while negotiations are ongoing, and says some of the “assumptions” made are “inaccurate.”

“World Rugby recognises and values the importance of player considerations and input into the annual international competition discussions. However, the manner the International Rugby Players (IRP) organisation has expressed these is surprising given regular engagement throughout this ongoing process. World Rugby’s commitment to player welfare matters is unwavering and we will continue to engage and give full consideration to the welfare of players within the ongoing discussions.”

“It is inappropriate to comment on specifics whilst wider stakeholder consultation, including with IRP, is ongoing. However, it is important to note that some assumptions made in the statement regarding the proposed competition structure are inaccurate and that important matters such as playing load and emerging nation opportunities are at the heart of constructive dialogue on the overall concept.”

“Consumer research confirms a structured annual competition would make fans and new audiences more likely to watch, attend and engage with international rugby, exposing the sport to new fans worldwide. There is also no doubt that a structured annual international competition would deliver significantly greater long-term broadcast revenue for reinvestment in the global game. This project has at its heart long-term growth and stability, not short-term wins, and that includes greater opportunity for players.”

“As instructed by our Executive Committee and the Unions, we remain committed to a process of constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the IRP, to deliver a model that ensures the best-possible competition and commercial outcomes for all and a truly exciting and meaningful annual international competition structure that is great for players, clubs, fans and unions.”