Darren Cleary
Darren Cleary

09.26 28 Feb 2019


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Johnny Sexton is among a number of players voicing concerns about the proposed World Rugby League.

The 12-team tournament is reportedly a step closer to coming to fruition after teams from the Rugby Championship and Six Nations agreed in principle to join the United States and Japan for a new competition.

Each union will be paid €8.5 million a season for their participation. Early indications are that the competition could begin from 2020.

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However speaking through the International Rugby Players group, Sexton warned of serious “player welfare and integrity concerns” around the proposed competition structure for the global game.

The International Rugby Players Council consisting of 40 players met via conference call on Tuesday night to gather reaction from concerned members.

Players have lent their support for the concept of the new tournament over the past year, but as a group have decided to speak publicly about their worries surrounding the detail of the competition format that has been shopped to stakeholders in recent months.

Among their concerns are:

  • Player load challenges from multiple top-level test matches in different countries and time-zones in consecutive weeks
  • Increased long-haul travel in short time frames
  • A lack of real opportunities for Tier Two nations to progress
  • Increased conflicts between country and club demands
  • Potential impact on Rugby World Cup and Lions tours
  • The long-term quality and integrity of the international game
Players speak out ahead of radical international rugby shake-up

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”

Meanwhile, England captain Owen Farrell said: “Players are definitely open to discussing a new global season, but what we develop has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after.

“The proposal presented to us at the moment doesn’t seem to have considered this properly and shows no signs of improving this already difficult situation.”


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