Stop the Rugby Union World League

Stop the Rugby Union World League

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Michael Keary started this petition to World Rugby and

World Rugby's proposed World League is bad for players, bad for supporters and, above all, bad for the financially poorer rugby nations. It needs to be completely revised.

The proposed League is designed to bring in more revenue for the rich traditional rugby nations, like Ireland and Australia, as well as rich countries for whom rugby is more of a fringe game, like Japan and the USA.

The consequence of this myopic focus on revenue, however, is that the poorer rugby nations, like Fiji, Georgia, Samoa etc., who lack wealthy audiences, have been shut out of the competition, despite being higher ranked than many of the participants.

On any metric beyond money, this is a cruel and unwarranted decision. In Fiji, for example, rugby is the national game and can boast extraordinary participation rates, while generations of gifted Fijian players have exemplified the very best in attacking rugby, making the Fijian style synonymous with skill and excitement. At ninth in the world, Fiji has been improving markedly in recent years and, with their recent victory over France, look best placed of all tier 2 nations to step up to tier 1 levels of competitiveness, something that can only be good for the game. Instead, shut out of top levels of competition, Fiji and the others will only get weaker and, most likely, their top players will see no point to playing international rugby, especially given the lucrative contracts they can earn in Europe if they choose to retire.

Additionally, as stated by current rugby greats like Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell, this new League is a worrying development for players. It is incredible that even as the dangers of high-impact collisions in sport become more and more evident, and the link between repeated concussions and a range of brain injuries is increasingly proven, the concerns of players about the toll this League will take on them, voiced through the International Rugby Players association, were entirely ignored.

Increasing the number of games between tier 1 nations will not make rugby more interesting, it will make it less so. So will the forced early retirement of talented players through injury resulting from overplaying. To really improve the game for rugby supporters, including those from poorer nations, World Rugby should focus their attention on strengthening those nations with real potential to challenge the tier 1 sides and enshrine rules that protect players from overplaying. This World League will move rugby union in the opposite direction. It should be scrapped and an entirely new plan created.

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