Radical changes coming to Rugby Championship
More countries could eventually be added to The Rugby Championship with the tournament's governing body SANZAAR announcing plans to radically restructure the competition after the four southern hemisphere giants all recommitted for another 10 years through to 2030.
The first changes to The Rugby Championship will be introduced next year and will include an immediate end to the existing home and away format.
Under the proposed new format, instead of countries playing each other once at home and once away each year, they will now embark on mini tours, playing two matches in one country one year, then two in the other country the following season.
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"There are some exciting times ahead for rugby in the southern hemisphere as we look to reposition our structure, competitions and future direction as an organisation," SANZAAR chief executive Andy Marinos said.
The announcement that each of the four joint-venture members Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina - remain committed to the tournament should put to bed speculation that the world champion Springboks could defect to Europe after withdrawing from this year's tournament.
That will come as a massive boost to Rugby Australia because it provides some desperately needed assurances about the future as they look to finalise a broadcast deal for 2021 and beyond.
Marinos said the four members had all agreed The Rugby Championship and Super Rugby needed to go in a "new direction".
It's already known that Super Rugby will undergo a radical change in the future, with Australia and New Zealand moving towards a trans-Tasman competition that could be expanded into Asia and the Pacific and South Africa shifting its provincial teams into European club competitions.
There's also been widespread speculation that The Rugby Championships, which was increased from three to four teams when Argentina joined, could be further expanded in the years to come.
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Japan and a team from the Pacific have been suggested as new additions though neither is likely to join immediately.
"This is the first of a number of announcements that will be made over the coming weeks and months as we continue to plan into 2021 and beyond," Marinos said.
"The disruption during 2020 has been significant, however, despite the numerous setbacks and the inherent complexity of our vast geographical expanse, we have managed to keep the game alive and look forward to the remainder of the revised Tri Nations to bring the curtain down on the 2020 season."
Originally published as Radical changes coming to Rugby Championship