World Rugby recently announced significant calendar reforms, including the expansion of the next Rugby World Cup, and the launch of the Nations Championship from 2026.
Any new competition’s success depends on whether it exhibits the fundamental components of a compelling sporting product. In theory, the Nations Championship assures quality by having rugby’s best nations compete, and enhances fan connection by giving more meaning to summer and autumn internationals.
The challenge will be delivering jeopardy: where uncertainty meets high stakes. The Nations Championship will only implement promotion/relegation between the two divisions from 2030. Having a closed system in the new Championship’s first phase is understandable; the relegation of a top team would significantly undermine the competition’s value in a key market (‘connection’) and therefore likely break the commercial viability.
But it does reduce the stakes: finding a way to deliver high stakes will be key to the competition’s long-term success.