Sir Graham Henry predicts World League would kill World Cup

Opinion 01/03/2019

Former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry is adamant the proposed World League would kill the Rugby World Cup and doubts the new competition will ever get off the ground.

Plans for a new 12-team international competition have been slammed by some of the world's top players, including All Blacks captain Kieran Read, because it ignores the issue of player welfare.

The proposal also leaves second-tier rugby nations, including the Pacific Islands, out in the cold.

Sir Graham told The AM Show he saw no future for the World League. 

"It won't happen, I don't think," he said. "Only the 12 nations that have been included will develop - the rest won't, including the Pacific Islands.

"And the players don't want it. They're overplayed now, so it's not going to happen."

Sir Graham feared the concept would kill interest in the Rugby World Cup, the flagship of the international game, currently contested every four years and won by the All Blacks on the last two occasions.

He guided New Zealand to victory at the 2011 tournament.

"You're going to have a mini-World Cup every year," said Sir Graham. "You don't want it every year - people will lose interest.

"They'll find it very difficult to make it happen if they don't have the support of the players and clubs.

"I think the big problem is they're short of money, they need the money and this is a way to get the money, but they need the players to play the game and you need the support of the game.

"I think there are solutions and maybe this idea will create the solutions of the game."

The proposed format would include the Six Nations rivals - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy - and Rugby Championship nations - New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina - plus Japan and the United States.

Among those left out - along with the likes of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga - is European up-and-comers Georgia, coached by Kiwi Milton Haig.

"You would hope the expansion is good for all, not a few," he tweeted.

Sir Graham suggested he would simply tweak the current international modeal, promoting more full-blown tours that featured tests and provincial games.

But he would restructure Super Rugby into two tiers of 12 teams, including teams from the Pacific Islands, Canada and the United States, with automatic promotion-relegation.

More to come