Rugby’s radical World 12s concept is set to collapse just two months after its launch as clubs and countries unite against rebel money-spinning league… which was introduced without consultation with unions
- World 12s was a 12-team, men and women’s 12-a-side IPL-style franchise league
- It was also backed by World Cup winning coaches Steve Hansen and Jake White
- But the idea was introduced without consultation from top clubs or the unions
- Now, the concept looks destined for the scrapheap two months after its launch
The radical ‘World 12s’ concept looks destined for the scrapheap two months after its launch, with clubs and countries standing firm against the rebel league.
The idea – for a 12-team, men’s and women’s 12-a-side IPL-style franchise league to be played in England next summer – was backed by World Cup winning coaches Steve Hansen and Jake White and fronted by former RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie.
However it was introduced in September without consultation with the top clubs or unions who own the players.
The radical ‘World 12s’ concept looks destined for the scrapheap two months after its launch
It claims it can bring £250million to the sport over five years and has at least 10 wealthy individuals or companies willing to invest.
But while some players – who could earn six-figure sums for a month’s work when playing in it – are interested Premiership Rugby, the French Top 14 league bosses, those at the United Rugby Championship and some home unions are dead against it.
They do not want another format crowding a calendar that is fit to bursting already, and will not countenance releasing players for it at a time when the clubs are in pre-season, and the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship is on.
The idea was backed by World Cup winning coaches Steve Hansen (pictured) and Jake White
World 12s said it can bring £250million to the sport over five years and had plenty of interest
It is understood they have expressed this to governing body World Rugby, who have told World 12s their plan will not be sanctioned in time for its proposed launch in 2022 – effectively killing their dream of gathering the world’s best players together.
World Rugby’s statement read: ‘The game’s major stakeholders welcome innovative thinking that has the potential to enhance the sport, and new concepts are always given full consideration.
‘World Rugby has shared the views of national unions, international and domestic competitions with the group proposing World 12s and confirmed that stakeholders do not wish to explore the concept further at this time.
Former RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie also supported the idea before its expected collapse
‘This is a position endorsed by the World Rugby Executive Committee and Professional Game Committee, which includes representatives from across the elite men’s and women’s game. The priority for the sport is advancing productive discussions regarding the establishment of a welfare-focused and harmonious annual international calendar.’
Without official sanctioning, something World 12s craved, they cannot attract the sport’s top players, so will have to make do with fading forces, those out of contract or playing in Japan, the USA or elsewhere.
World 12s sources tried to play down the body-blow, saying they have a good relationship with World Rugby and that the first year was never going to be the ‘all singing, all dancing’ event they hope fits in properly to a globally aligned calendar from 2024.
World 12s still want to launch in 2022, with a women’s event in 2023, and on Wednesday appointed a CEO, Rowena Samarasinhe, who remained optimistic.
It was introduced without consultation with the top clubs or the unions who own the players
‘I look forward to working collaboratively with the game’s bodies to try and make this exciting concept a successful reality,’ she said.
‘World 12s has been, and continues to be, in regular contact with World Rugby.
‘The challenges around the international calendar are well-known. World 12s is a long-term project, and will grow over the years. We are optimistic that, even within the restrictions posed by the current calendar, World 12s will be able to host a tournament in August 2022 that includes a number of the game’s leading players, who will not be impacted by fixture clashes at that time.’