World Rugby issues lukewarm response to proposed new World 12s competition
World Rugby and the Gallagher Premiership have issued lukewarm responses to the proposed new World 12s competition that is being positioned as rugby’s equivalent to the Indian Premier League and The Hundred.
Organisers intend for 192 men’s players from tier one and tier two nations to be picked via auction to represent eight franchises consisting of squads of 24 who will be overseen by established coaches.
The format will consist of round robin games before a knockout phase determines the winners and the inaugural men’s tournament will be staged in England next August and September with the women’s event launching a year later.
Equal prize money will be offered for both competitions and the expectation is that the World 12s will be staged in different global destinations.
It is hoped that £250million will be generated over the next five years, while also increasing the global appeal of rugby.
Backers for the new concept include New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup-winning coach Steve Hansen, who is a World 12s ambassador alongside ex-South Africa boss Jake White, while former Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie is acting as chairman.
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.”
It is difficult to see how the World 12s belongs in an already congested schedule and details beyond the format and rules of the event are thin on the ground.
Former New Zealand boss Steve Hansen is one of several heavyweight backers of the World 12s (David Davies/PA)
Unquestionably the biggest problem it faces is player release with clubs and provinces in European leagues unlikely to allow their stars to take part during a time of year when they are either on holiday or in pre-season.
And the prospect of All Blacks, Wallabies or Springboks being involved are minimal because of the Rugby Championship being held at the same time.
“We were made aware of the project to create a new 12-a-side tournament on Monday,” read a statement released by the Premiership.
“We believe any proposed new competition will require extensive consultation. It can only be considered in the broader context of player welfare and the already congested global calendar.”
Ritchie, however, sees a bright future for a competition backed by a UK-based financial consortium and claims he has had made headway with the unions, leagues and players associations he will need to convince if the project is to get off the ground.
Twickenham could be a venue for the first Rugby 12s final (Mike Egerton/PA)
“World 12s is a natural evolution for rugby union. 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,” Ritchie said.
“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.
“Early and informal discussions with World Rugby, unions, clubs and player associations have been constructive, and in announcing today we can continue our consultative conversations and collaborations with the relevant stakeholders.”
Each team will consist of six backs and six forwards with matches lasting 30 minutes and the competition will take part over three successive weekends.
Jamal Lewis remains confident Newcastle can finish in Premier League top 10
Jamal Lewis has admitted he understands the frustrations of Newcastle fans after a slow start to the season but still believes the Magpies are good enough to finish in the top half of the Premier League.
Steve Bruce’s men have taken only one point from their opening three league matches, losing at home to West Ham and away at Aston Villa before exchanging late goals with Southampton in a 2-2 draw last time out.
Though fans are back at St James’ Park this season and turning up in their usual numbers, results have done little to ease long-standing discontent on Tyneside.
“Of course you have to understand the underlying frustrations,” Lewis told the PA news agency. “Without the fans the game would be nothing so you have to respect their feelings and understand where they’re coming from.
“As a player, I’m only in control of a certain amount of things, my performance on the pitch and how I can affect my team-mates and help get results on the pitch.”
Fans have long been dismayed by a perceived lack of investment in the club under owner Mike Ashley, with their frustrations hardly eased by a quiet transfer window in which the only signing was Joe Willock – back after last season’s loan from Arsenal to leave Bruce with the same first-team squad.
The Magpies managed 12th place last season, though they were 10 points off 11th and only six above 17th. But they did that despite injuries to key players Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin, and Lewis believes Newcastle have the resources to look higher this season.
Jamal Lewis is a proud ambassador of McDonald’s Fun Football (handout photo)
“I think this team is capable of an easy top-half finish, stringing performances together that the fans love,” he said.
“Obviously with the fans coming back, being strong at home and hard to beat, we can create some great memories this season.
“I think the top half is a viable target for us. But executing it is different. We need to talk less and string these performances together.”
Lewis, who contracted coronavirus in the second half of last season and then had a hernia operation at the end of the campaign, has been limited to one League Cup appearance for Newcastle this term, but was one of only two players to feature in both of Northern Ireland’s wins last week.
Lewis, seen in action against Lithuania, played in both of Northern Ireland’s wins last week (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)
He is also expected to be on the team-sheet when Switzerland visit Windsor Park on Wednesday in a crunch World Cup qualifier.
Any meeting with the Swiss brings back painful memories for Northern Ireland after the controversial penalty which ended their bid to reach the 2018 World Cup four years ago, but Lewis – yet to make his debut at that time – said it is not a grudge match.
“I watched both of the games on TV and saw how tight it was,” he said. “It’s been discussed how close we are to qualifying for the big competitions. We know where the level is.
“Switzerland are a top team who have kicked on in terms of getting to international tournaments. That’s the level we need to aspire to as a national team. We’ve seen we can compete with them but we need to do it on a more consistent basis.”
Northern Ireland fell just short against Switzerland in qualification for the 2018 World Cup (Nick Potts/PA)
Sixteen thousand fans are due to be back at Windsor Park, close to capacity after 18 months in which most games were played behind closed doors, and only modest numbers attended the others.
“I love playing at Windsor Park so much,” Lewis said. “I don’t know how such a small crowd generate so much noise. The boost they give us is honestly like a 12th man on the pitch.
“We’re all looking forward to using them as a driving force to getting a great result.”
:: Jamal Lewis is a proud ambassador of McDonald’s Fun Football. To find your local session head to www.mcdonalds.co.uk/football
THE 5 A SIDE HOCKEY REVOLUTION IS COMING – Leisure Leagues
A new network of community Hockey Leagues is announced, with the simple aim: let’s bring the sport to a new audience and let’s get everyone fit!
The leagues (so far slated to be in three places, Evesham, Sheffield and Warwick, with many more to follow) will be playing to a brand new set of rules, with five players and no goalkeeper and as organiser Martine Verweij explained, the idea was to involve the whole community: “The 18 months of inactivity has taken a toll on everyone,” she said. “What we want to do is make the sport of hockey as accessible as we can to everyone.”
To help with this, the leagues will have equipment available to make sure even the most enthusiastic of amateurs can enjoy the match thanks to their “don’t have a stick? We’ll give you one” pledge.
Martine – a skilled hockey player herself with experience of playing in countries throughout Europe – explained the ethos for this was bound up in the company’s DNA: “Our entire thought process is to open sport up to everyone, whether you’ve played before or whether you just want to try our message is simple: let’s get fit together.”
The winners and runners up will be entered into a prize draw, with a break away for the team the top prize.
Hockey Leagues is a new company backed by the world’s largest provider of community sport, Leisure Leagues, a not for profit organisation which has received accolades from the UN, top politicians, and major sporting figures like Ronaldinho and Usain Bolt or their work with communities across the globe.
Martine added that the community aspect of what they did was integral, commenting: “Many people get left behind in sport, we give them a home, but of course, there is a multi-divisional format to ensure that even a top team playing for training purposes – or even as a bonding exercise – can get a competitive game.
Discipline in the league is ensured, too, as top referee , Mark Clattenburg is a Leisure Leagues ambassador.
Umpires are asked to register here if they want the chance to take charge and really make a difference.
To join the hockey revolution, click here: https://www.hockeyleagues.co.uk/