Johnny Sexton and the International Rugby Players (IRP) council have outlined “major concerns” with World Rugby’s proposed changes to the structure of international rugby.
The New Zealand Herald claimed on Thursday a new 12-team World League will see teams from the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship joined by Japan and United States in a new competition from 2020.
After a conference call discussion, the IRP council released a statement to announce its issues with a planned overhaul of the international schedule.
Chief problems with the supposed format were the increased workload for top players and a lack of progression for tier two nations.
IRP president and World Rugby Player of the Year Sexton said: “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, it 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.”
New Zealand skipper Kieran Read said officials should be “very careful” when balancing commercial ventures against the needs of players, while England captain Owen Farrell added that the proposal had not considered conflict with the club game.
BREAKING: Players highlight “major concerns” around World Rugby’s proposed International Competition
— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) February 28, 2019
However, World Rugby responded by saying it would take the players’ thoughts into consideration and was surprised by the response.
It clarified that several of the details seemingly discussed by players were inaccurate.
“World Rugby recognises and values the importance of player considerations and input into the annual international competition discussions,” it said.
“However, the manner [in which] 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 while 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.”
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