World Rugby has unveiled a fresh competition set to commence in 2026, marking a substantial revamp of the men’s international calendar.
This tournament will comprise 24 teams, organized into two divisions of 12 teams each, with promotion and relegation mechanisms scheduled to kick in from 2030.
The premier division is slated to feature the ten teams from the Six Nations and Rugby Championship, in addition to two yet-to-be-disclosed participants.
Among those expressing discontent with this announcement was Sir Clive Woodward, who authored a scathing column for the Mail Online.
He wrote: “It is no ‘quantum leap forward’ if you are Georgia, Samoa or Portugal. Their opportunities to take on the top rugby nations are no better than before.
“The old boys’ club remains. The current status quo has been altered, but only slightly. Rugby has missed a huge opportunity to allow new nations to shake up the established order.
“But, then again, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, do they? This is the problem at the very highest level of rugby’s corridors of power. It always has been and it looks like it always will. The top countries want to protect their position.”
Woodward continued: “The fact the Nations Championship will be controlled entirely by the Six Nations and the Rugby Championship countries says absolutely everything.
“I read Gus Pichot’s interview with Mail Sport last week with huge interest. His views were fascinating and absolutely on the money. I backed Pichot to become World Rugby chairman in 2020.
“It’s crazy he is not in charge of our global game. Pichot wouldn’t have let what happened on Tuesday come to fruition. Like me and many others, he was frustrated by rugby’s politics.”
The 30 best rugby players in the world have been ranked
#30. Dan Sheehan (Ireland)
A rising Irish hooker known for his powerful scrummaging and dynamic play in open field. Sheehan’s agility and tackling prowess make him a vital asset in set pieces and loose play alike, hinting at a promising future in international rugby
#29. Owen Farrell (England)
England’s steadfast captain and fly-half, Farrell’s tactical brilliance and accurate kicking guide his team’s gameplay. Renowned for his leadership, his defensive grit and ability to control the game’s pace make him a linchpin in England’s rugby strategy.
Wales Online wrote: “The 31-year-old has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons recently but is a player you’d rather play with than against. Farrell is a natural leader of men, and will play a crucial role if England are to drag themselves out of the rut they find themselves in.”
#28. Thibaud Flament (France)
A versatile lock for France, Flament’s towering presence in the lineout and ferocious work rate define his style. With his strong carrying and breakdown skills, he is a force to be reckoned with in both set-piece dominance and open-field encounters.
#27. Shannon Frizell (New Zealand)
Frizzell’s imposing physique and aggressive ball-carrying mark him as a formidable All Black flanker. His offloading ability, coupled with his defensive prowess, cements his position as a player who consistently makes his presence felt on the field.
#26. Steven Kitshoff (South Africa)
An anchor of the Springboks’ scrum, Kitshoff’s experience and technical expertise are unmatched. His exceptional work rate and relentless tackling contribute to his reputation as a reliable front-row stalwart, key to South Africa’s forward dominance.