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Rugby union’s first Club World Cup set to be staged in June 2028
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Rugby union’s first Club World Cup set to be staged in June 2028

Rugby union’s first Club World Cup is set to be staged in June 2028 after the major men’s leagues in both hemispheres agreed key principles on the project, the Guardian can reveal. The plans also mean the Champions Cup will have no winners that year as the global tournament will replace its knockout stages.

Eight teams from the Champions Cup will qualify for the new global event, six from Super Rugby and two more, probably from Japan’s Rugby League One, most likely competing in a knockout format across four weekends of June.

Qualification will be meritocratic, with no allowances to ensure representation from each of the participating countries. The 2028 competition will be held in the northern hemisphere and subsequent editions will be played at the same time every four years.

The format of the Challenge Cup will also be adjusted every four years to make room for the new global event. Under the current arrangement, 16 teams qualify for the Champions Cup knockout stages, eight of which would instead take part in the Club World Cup. The remaining eight who do not make the global event will instead compete in the latter stages of the Challenge Cup.

The idea of a world club championship has been years in the devising, but the breakthrough has been an agreement by all parties on the dates of the competition. Currently, the finals of the two major competitions involved, north and south, are played in June. All have agreed to move their finals to May, which will be achieved in the north by filling in the four weekends usually occupied by the Champions Cup.

Scott Barrett holds the Super Rugby trophy after Crusaders won last year’s final.View image in fullscreen

Super Rugby’s final this year is scheduled for the weekend of 22 June. Without a break in their schedule till then, they would need to start their season at the end of January, three months after the 2027 World Cup, to complete by the end of May. The Japanese are not thought to have signed up yet, but this year their finals will be completed on the weekend of 25 May.

As ever, it is the French who will make or break the new competition. They are understood to have come round to the idea in a meeting in November and have agreed in principle to the plan. Their beloved season finale, for the Bouclier de Brennus, will be played this year on 28 June.

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With 26 rounds of regular competition and three rounds of knockouts, the Top 14 is by far the most fixture-heavy of the domestic leagues involved. Their current season started in mid-August and paused for the World Cup, which is to be contested in the same season as the mooted club equivalent. There have been Top 14 fixtures every non‑Champions Cup weekend since, bar one – the second weekend of the Six Nations.

There seems no let up in the demands on the players. The authorities are anxious not to make the same mistakes with the women’s game. To that end, stakeholders are being invited by European Professional Club Rugby to a conference in June, where details will be discussed for an inaugural Women’s Champions Cup in 2026. This is expected to involve the winners of four leagues to begin with – the English and French champions and the winners of the Celtic Challenge and the Latin Cup, the latter involving clubs from Italy and Spain – and to expand from there.

Source: theguardian.com