Within 24 hours of being re-elected as World Rugby’s chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont has admitted there is no sign of Six Nations officials making the radical concessions necessary to create a synchronised global fixture calendar which would transform the sport.
Beaumont, who also insisted World Rugby cannot force richer European unions to share their gate receipts with less wealthy visiting unions in future, has also made clear that efforts to revive the Nations Cup concept are still at the “embryonic” stage. One possibility is that the current July and November Test weeks could be combined into a two-month window in October and November but Beaumont has poured cold water on the idea of the Six Nations opting to shift from its traditional slot to April and May to dovetail with the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.
“No-one has ever mentioned to me that the Six Nations would move,” said Beaumont, who edged out his challenger, Augustín Pichot, 28-23 to remain as chairman thanks to the unanimous backing of all the Six Nations unions. “What would move, in my opinion, would be the July and November windows. There could be an appetite to put the windows together. But why would you move the Six Nations? It is not affecting anyone else’s window on the global calendar. It’s a six-week tournament that’s been played in February and March since I was a lad. It doesn’t affect anywhere else around the globe.”
Beaumont has also made clear that, while the home unions are open to the concept of a Nations Cup which would involve home and away fixtures against Rugby Championship sides in every two years of a four-year international cycle, there is still no sign of it involving relegation and promotion from the Six Nations. “The Six Nations is owned by the Six Nations and has been going for 150-odd years,” stressed Beaumont. “Certainly that would not be the intention currently. But we will be looking at the global season and maybe looking again at a variation of the Nations Championship. That was one of the big regrets that I wasn’t able to put away (last year) but we have learned from that experience.”
The only real certainty is World Rugby’s reaffirmed desire to bolster the competitions involving countries from outside the world’s top dozen. Reviewing Regulation 8 to permit Pacific Island players to revert to representing Fiji, Samoa or Tonga once they are no longer being picked for New Zealand or Australia also forms part of Beaumont’s manifesto but there is widespread dismay in the southern hemisphere that Pichot’s campaign fell short. New Zealand rugby’s chief executive, Brent Impey, said his union was “disappointed” and urged Beaumont to “heed the calls for change to the game.”
The 68-year-old former England captain is promising to try to involve the players more closely in determining the game’s future. “We need to take more heed of the players – I am committed to getting them involved in any decision we make.” He also wants to replace the divisive Tier One and Tier Two terminology by referring instead to ‘Emerging Nations’ and believes the coronavirus pandemic is encouraging countries to work together for the greater good.
“We are at a crossroads at the moment,” acknowledged Beaumont. “The pandemic has [led to] a real desire from north and south to reunite our game. One thing I will be desperate to do is pull this game together.”
Beaumont also added that he was “fully committed to undertaking a wide-changing governance review” after the British Olympic Association chairman, Sir Hugh Robertson, was selected to chair the committee. A former Conservative MP, Robertson was sports minister during the London Olympic Games.