The rugby calendar is poised to be shaken up after European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) chairman Simon Halliday revealed the sport will soon welcome a Club World Cup every four years.
Many rugby fans have for some years hungered after a club competition pitting teams from both hemispheres against one another.
One-off fixtures have in the past been played between Super Rugby teams from the southern hemisphere and European counterparts from the north, but never in an organised competition structure.
Football already has an annual Club World Cup organised by FIFA, but there's a feeling a rugby equivalent held quadrennially could make for a more special occasion.
Outbound EPCR chair Halliday—an England international on 23 occasions—will leave the role after serving two terms in the post, and his parting statement confirmed the appetite for a new global club competition.
“EPCR has signed a new eight-year agreement which I believe is a triumph of negotiation and shared objectives between the leagues and unions of Europe," he wrote.
"This will guarantee the long-term future of both the Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup.
“From this new agreement, we are now working on the participation of the South African provinces and building towards a Club World Cup every four years which would replace the latter stages of the Heineken Champions Cup.
“Together with our improved formats, reduced pool matches, and more knockout rugby, EPCR is in a great position to grow. Our newly formed board is superbly well-equipped and structured to deliver on this growth and I wish them every success.”
The EPCR is currently on the lookout for a new chair, while Vincent Gaillard will also leave the chief executive role vacant after working alongside Halliday for six years.
One of the major hurdles in structuring any cross-equator contest regards timing, with Super Rugby teams from New Zealand and Australia currently in their off-season just as the European campaign is starting.
Toulouse were crowned champions of France's Top 14 in June, almost three months after Leinster defeated Munster to clinch their eight Pro14 title.
Clubs from Japan Rugby League One—the first tier of Japanese rugby—may also find their schedule conflicts against those of their worldwide peers if they were to participate.
The league's president, Osamu Ota, said in February that he felt a Club World Cup would be "a very good thing" for Japanese clubs to test their merit, suggesting it's a matter of when and not if the venture takes off.
South African teams will be able to compete in the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup from next season, having recently joined the reformatted United Rugby Championship, the heir to the Pro14.
Halliday's proposal that a Club World Cup could replace the latter stages of the Champions Cup are offered as an alternative to ensure the already congested rugby calendar doesn't become any busier.
Plans have been put forth for a new 'World 12s' competition to take place next August and September, but there are a number of obstacles that could prevent the 12-a-side competition from going ahead.
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