- Eight international teams to be picked via auction
- Male and female players will receive equal prize money
A new international competition called World 12s has been launched with the aim of enabling the best male and female players to compete annually around the world.
The inaugural men’s tournament, which will be contested by teams containing 12 players, will be staged in England next August with the women’s event taking place for the first time a year later.
It is hoped that £250m will be generated by competition over the next five years, while also attracting fans.
Organisers intend for 192 men’s players from tier one and tier two nations to be picked via auction to represent eight franchises that consist of 24 players and are coached by established names. The format will consist of round-robin games before a knockout phase determines the winners.
Equal prize money will be offered for the men’s and women’s competitions, and the expectation is that the World 12s will be staged in different global destinations. Backers for the new concept include New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup-winning coach Steve Hansen, who is a World 12s ambassador alongside former South Africa head coach Jake White, and former New Zealand chief executive Steve Tew, a World 12s non-executive director.
“World 12s is a natural evolution for rugby union,” chairman Ian Ritchie said. “We feel that this is a game for our changing, fast-paced world that can excite a global fan base in the way that we have seen with the IPL or most recently The Hundred in cricket.
“In bringing together the most exciting players under the stewardship of some of the brightest rugby minds with commercial backing, we are looking to propel rugby forward and lay a positive roadmap for how the game is perceived for future generations.”
Despite the heavyweight names attached, the sport’s global governing body World Rugby has responded to its launch by questioning how it will fit within the new global calendar which is currently being drawn up.
“We are aware of the proposed new World 12s competition,” a World Rugby spokesperson said. “While we welcome innovative thinking with the potential to advance the reach, attractiveness and growth of the sport, comprehensive consultation with the organisers is required to understand the viability of the concept, particularly in the context of ongoing global calendar discussions and the priority area of player welfare.”
Story first published on The Guardian