World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont believes the “spirit of collaboration” the sport has witnessed in response to the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a new international calendar.
Former England captain Beaumont was behind plans for a new two-tier Nations Championship — encompassing Europe’s Six Nations and the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship — that collapsed last year amid reports the likes of Scotland were concerned by the risk of relegation from what is currently a ‘closed’ event.
But Beaumont, who must see off a challenge from vice-chairman Agustin Pichot if he is to be re-elected, believes the ongoing global shutdown of the sport caused by the virus has caused many within the game to rethink their views.
This week saw World Rugby launch a $100 million dollar virus relief package and Beaumont, 68, has been heartened by the co-operation shown by countries as they plan for a time when rugby can resume.
“I’m pretty confident that there will be a variation of the Nations Cup,” Beaumont told BBC Radio on Saturday.
“I think there’s a real spirit of collaboration between the north and the south, looking at what we can do with our playing windows and international windows that can generate more funds in another competition.
“You have to look at the calendar — the British and Irish Lions tour every four years, the Rugby World Cup every four years,” added Beaumont, himself a former Lions skipper.
– ‘Reality check’ –
“It’s a balancing act that you have to do to fit everything into this jigsaw.
“But I think in the past people have been quite protective about what they have got, what we are looking at now this is probably a reality check in the sport — are we doing things correctly?
“You are pretty foolish if you don’t learn lessons,” insisted Beaumont, who had previously warned there might be no more international rugby played this year.
That would be a huge blow to the sport given finances from internationals help subsidise all levels of the game.
The All Blacks accepted a 50 percent pay freeze on Thursday as New Zealand’s players’ association said it was preparing for the nightmare scenario of no more professional rugby this year.
Rugby Australia alone is forecasting losses of AUS$120 million ($76 million) if their entire season is wiped out.
Former Pumas scrum-half Pichot launched his bid to become chairman last week, with the 45-year-old saying the virus outbreak provided an opportunity for the “global realignment” of the game that should see its commercial income “moving on from the time where those benefits were for just a few”.
He promptly received backing from former England coach Clive Woodward, who played in Test sides captained by Beaumont.
Woodward said the equality and diversity needed in the global game was hampered by an imbalance of power on World Rugby’s council that sees the established Six Nations and Rugby Championship countries have three votes each, while the likes of ‘Tier Two’ Fiji and Samoa have just one vote each.