LONDON: World 12s Limited, a newly formed international company, has launched a 12-a-side rugby union tournament that will see the world’s best male and female players compete annually around the world.
Kicking off in August 2022 in England, World 12s is aiming to bring almost £250 million ($345 million) of financial stimulus into the global game over the next five years while attracting a new global fanbase.
World 12s has assembled a board and executive team consisting of former CEO of England’s Rugby Football Union Ian Ritchie (chairman), former New Zealand Rugby Union CEO Steve Tew (non-executive director), and former Chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union Gareth Davies (non-executive director). Backed by a UK-based financial consortium, the competition will complement the existing global calendar.
“World 12s is a natural evolution for rugby union. We feel that this is a game for our changing, fast-paced world that can excite a global fan base in the way that we have seen with the [Indian Premier League] or most recently The Hundred in cricket,” said Ritchie. “In bringing together the most exciting players under the stewardship of some of the brightest rugby minds with commercial backing, we are looking to propel rugby forward and lay a positive roadmap for how the game is perceived for future generations.
“Early and informal discussions with World Rugby unions, clubs and player associations have been constructive, and in announcing today, we can continue our consultative conversations and collaborations with the relevant stakeholders,” he added.
The inaugural World 12s tournament will see 192 of the world’s best male players from Tier One and Tier Two nations selected via auction to represent eight franchised teams.
Hosted initially in England across three concurrent weekends provisionally set for August and September 2022, each franchise of 24 players, coached by some of the world’s leading coaches, will play in a round-robin format before the knockout stages crown the champions.
With Rugby World Cup 2021 now taking place in New Zealand in 2022, the women’s format of World 12s will launch from 2023 and will be played in tandem with the men’s tournament. The vision is for the World 12s to move to different global destinations each year and offer equal winning prize money for the men's and women’s competitions.
To help boost the development of the global game, each franchise will be required to select at least two players from Tier Two nations as well as one international Under-20s player.
Former Rugby World Cup-winning All Black coach Steve Hansen, an ambassador for World 12s, said, “The idea of an international 12s tournament involving the world’s best players alongside some of the most exciting developing talent in a short form, fast-paced version of the sport is extremely exciting for coaches, players and fans. I believe 12s will complement the existing calendar, attracting a new breed of fans from around the world.”