Rugby Club World Cup: what is it, why does rugby need it and what will it mean for Champions Cup?

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Rugby Club World Cup: when is it, why does rugby need it and what will it mean for Champions Cup? - Getty Images
Rugby Club World Cup: when is it, why does rugby need it and what will it mean for Champions Cup? - Getty Images

Can a week go by without rugby union dreaming up a new competition and throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks? Those of you still reeling from the World 12s might have raised an eyebrow when reading former European Professional Club Rugby chairman Simon Halliday's exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport this week, when Halliday confirmed that a Club World Cup has been agreed in principle for 2024.

The concept of pitting the champions of Europe against the winners of Super Rugby has been a pipe dream for rugby supporters since the 2000s. Now, we may finally get to see it. But how would it work?

Who would qualify?

Halliday's comments differ from the proposal laid out by World Rugby vice-chairman Bernard Laporte earlier this year, when Laporte called for an annual 20-team competition which would see the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup abolished.

Instead, Halliday has suggested to The Times that the eight quarter-finalists from the Champions Cup would progress to the CWC, with that year's Champions Cup therefore concluding at the quarter-final stage.

Presumably, those eight teams could then face eight sides from Super Rugby Pacific, which currently consists of 12 teams - five from Australia, five from New Zealand - plus two new sides in Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika.

Two leading rugby nations are notably not represented in either of those competitions, Argentina and Japan, with the Jaguares and Sunwolves no longer part of Super Rugby. Finding a way to involve both of those countries in the qualification process feels imperative given the upward curve both rugby nations have been on over the past 20 years.

It's also worth noting that South African sides would qualify through the Champions Cup places, with the Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Bulls now part of the United Rugby Championship and set to become part of the Champions Cup from the 2022-23 season.

When would it take place?

The plan is for the competition to take place every four years starting from 2024. As mentioned above, the knockout stages of the Champions Cup that year would be replaced by the Club World Cup, with Super Rugby presumably adopting a similar stance.

Replacing the Champions Cup knockout stages would be a positive move given it removes the need to add more fixtures into an already bloated calendar. Super Rugby has traditionally finished later in June and July, so some tweaking of that calendar may be required.

According to Halliday, the finals of the Premiership, URC and Top 14 would need to be brought forward in each CWC year for the tournament to then take place in June 2024. That idea would require full cooperation from the different leagues, which may prove difficult diplomatically.

Where would the matches be played?

One set location, alternating between the two hemispheres every four years, makes sense. Given that commercial, sponsorship and broadcast contracts still need to be confirmed, those deals may dictate where the first Club World Cup takes place.

England and France feel like obvious, somewhat unimaginative but commercially fruitful options for the inaugural tournament, but it's vital the Club World Cup explores new territories as well as the established markets.

How pleased will Test sides be at the prospect of their leading players potentially flying off around the world in June, before embarking on a similar national side tour in July? Not very, is probably the answer.

How close is this to happening?

World Rugby are yet to receive a formal proposal for the competition, according to The Times report, but the concept has been discussed.

The idea seems more likely to happen than the World 12s, for example, but will still require copious amounts of bureaucracy in order to get all parties on board.

Would fans want this? After years of fantasy matchmaking wondering what it would be like to see Saracens or Leinster face the Crusaders, for example, you would certainly hope so.

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