The chances of seeing a World 12s competition added to the rugby calendar appear slimmer than ever after the sport's governing body said it does "not wish to explore the concept further at this time."
World 12s was introduced in early September as a radical new 12-a-side format that would feature both men's and women's competitions, as well as a player action similar to The Hundred and the Indian Premier League.
Former Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Ian Ritchie is chairman of the proposed contest, while World Cup-winning coaches Steve Hansen and Jake White have each been vocal in their roles as ambassadors.
The new tournament was conceived with an August 2022 kick-off date in mind for the men's competition, with the women's contest to follow a year later to avoid clashing with next year's Women's Rugby World Cup.
But World Rugby appears to have ended any chance of the World 12s format being introduced as a platform for the sport's best athletes—at least for the time being—following consultation with teams, unions and stakeholders.
“World Rugby has shared the views of national unions, international and domestic competitions to the group proposing World 12s and confirmed that stakeholders do not wish to explore the concept further at this time,” the organisation said in a statement.
“This is a position endorsed by the World Rugby executive committee and professional game committee, which includes representatives from across the elite men’s and women’s game.
“The priority for the sport is advancing productive discussions regarding the establishment of a welfare-focused, streamlined and harmonious international calendar.”
Ex-international stars like Schalk Burger and Ugo Monye were also recruited to be World 12s ambassadors, but the announcement of the contest appeared to take rugby union's major powers by surprise.
Would you prefer to see a World 12s competition replace one of rugby union's Test windows? Let us know in the comments section.
While there was some appetite among fans for a new, shorter-code format, the congested rugby calendar and task of securing star players already under contract were just some of the major obstacles facing World 12s.
Organisers said the tournament aimed to raise £250million in its first five years of activity, but those figures look unrealistic without World Rugby's approval, which would be critical to signing the sport's top talents.
In addition to some unions and stakeholders, private equity firm CVC—which has bought stakes in some of rugby's top competitions in recent years—is also understood to be against the idea of a World 12s contest.
Rowena Samarasinhe, who was recently appointed as the tournament's new chief executive, said: "World 12s has been, and continues to be, in regular contact with World Rugby.
"The challenges around the international calendar are well known. World 12s is a long-term project and will grow over the years.
"We are optimistic that, even within the restrictions posed by the current calendar, World 12s will be able to host a tournament in August 2022 that includes a number of the game's leading players, who will not be impacted by fixture clashes at that time."
That could mean that instead of featuring top international stars from the Premiership, United Rugby Championship and France's Top 14, World 12s could be made up largely of out-of-contract players.
Those currently playing in the United States or Japan's Rugby League One would also be among the top candidates considering they'll be in their off-season at the time of the proposed August kick-off.
World Rugby is due to revisit the idea of a global 'Nations Championship' that could revolutionise the sport's annual July and November Test windows as it seeks to help develop lower-tier nations alongside the elite.
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