Organizers of the presented World 12s tournament have already been approached by people interested in forming a franchise, says one of its backers.
Gareth Davies is an Ex Welsh Rugby Union chairman and has represented it on the global governing body World Rugby.
He also says he warmed to the plans after initial “skepticism”.
“We’ve already had approaches since Tuesday from possible individuals and possible corporates who are very, very interested,” he told Radio Wales Sport.
“Some sponsors are very, very interested, some broadcasters are very, very interested so you’ve got a lot of things in position already with, admittedly, fairly scant pieces of information available if you like.”
Davies is on the board alongside ex-Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie and former New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew.
He stressed their collaboration should not be interpreted as a “rebel” threat to the sport’s governing bodies.
“One of the earliest things I said was, ‘Look, I’m not getting involved in any sort of rebel or ambush of the game’,” said Davies.
“This has got to be done in conjunction with World Rugby, then obviously the national governing bodies and, of course, the clubs and the players.
“Then if that mix of constituency doesn’t work, then fine if everybody’s given it a shot.”
Davies added: “It’s going to be a tremendous challenge to get this off the ground, but… I hope people can be mature enough to get around the table.”
In announcing the proposals, organizers proposed the 12-a-side rugby competition would take place over three weekends in England next August, with the expectation it will generate up to £250m of income.
Davies says that money will be spread “over five years coming into the game – that’s obviously if it works”.
World 12s Limited said the competition is intended to feature 192 of the world’s best players, picked via auction to represent eight franchises who will then compete in a round-robin format before knockout games.
A women’s tournament would also follow and have equal status and prize money in 2023, with the delay caused by the women’s World Cup being played in New Zealand in 2022.
‘They actually care about the game’
Davies says he was attracted to the concept for a variety of reasons, but says the backing of Tew and Ritchie, and approval of the likes of former New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and England boss Eddie Jones, was also a factor.
“Once you’ve started talking to people – and you’ve talked about people like Steve Hansen and Eddie Jones, etc – while yes, they’re employees and earn money through the game – they actually care about the game as well though,” said Davies.
“And that was the attraction for me. Other guys on the board like Steve Tew from New Zealand and Ian Ritchie of England, yes, they’re business guys, but they’ve spent a lifetime in rugby really so this isn’t people coming along with big cheques and what have you.
“It’s a proper, structured entity that hopefully can fit into the very fabric of the game, that takes a bit of financial pressure off the game and hopefully helps to improve the skillsets and enjoyment for people.”
Davies says talks with World Rugby before the announcement started “a good few weeks ago” and revealed a mixed reaction to the proposals.
He added: “But obviously we had to limit it to one individual, really because of having to sign non-disclosure agreements.
“So there have been discussions there at World Rugby and [they] deemed it as ‘an interesting project’ and it went no further than that and you wouldn’t expect them to.
“Likewise, the reactions we’ve had from the unions – I’ve spoken to a few who said it is ‘pretty great’ and were amazed how we’d kept it so quiet.
“So that’s been the sort of reaction and others have stated as we’ve done and I did initially, ‘How on earth do we fit it all in?’
“But that’s the challenge now for us to take this on board, are we going to be serious about it, and is it something that is going to reward the game. If it does, brilliant. If it doesn’t, well, we’ve given it a shot.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Davies also stated:
- He was approached before the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and denies the World 12s plan was a reaction to the Test matches that were widely condemned for the style of play
- World Rugby, national governing bodies, clubs, and players must all back the idea for it to flourish.
- It must find a place in the global rugby calendar and “cheer up as many people as is possible”
- Match law lawsuits can occur without “angry” fans of the established 15-a-side format