World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has agreed to adapt plans for a new international league following widespread criticism ©Getty Images

World Rugby has announced a change to the plans for its new international league system after an emergency meeting with the sport's major stakeholders in Dublin.

Plans for a new Nations Championship featuring promotion and relegation were first put forward by World Rugby's vice chairman Agustin Pichot as a way of developing the international game.

But the idea received criticism from some players and unions for, among other things, supposedly not prioritising player welfare or taking into account concerns of the club game.

The original suggestion for a 12-strong league of the world's best teams, split between the current Six Nations and Rugby Championship, but also featuring season-ending semi-finals and finals, was criticised on player welfare grounds as it would have forced finalists to play five weekends in a row.

However, following today's meeting World Rugby has announced they will not hold semi-finals and said that player welfare was a "central consideration".

It means that under the proposed new international system, players would play a maximum of 12 Nations Championship matches a year, compared to an average of between 12 and 14 matches currently.

The Six Nations is Europe's top competition with the Rugby Championship featuring the best southern hemisphere countries.

"At the meeting of unions, competition owners and international player representatives, World Rugby outlined details of a game-changing competition model that delivers a true pathway for all unions through a three-division format and a system of promotion and relegation," the body said in a statement.

Crucially, the governing body also said they are committed to working with "leading domestic club competitions" to optimise the model.

It comes after the English Premiership and French Rugby League released a statement of their own criticising several aspects of the proposal.

They were concerned with the prospect of a five-week international block, something they said "had been specifically rejected" for established international competitions in a deal known as the San Francisco agreement, reached between stakeholders in January 2017.

The leagues had hinted they might pursue legal action to protect their interests but today's announcement from World Rugby to remove semi-finals could make such a move less likely.

"I would like to thank my union, competition and player representative colleagues for their candid, constructive and positive contributions," England's World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.

"There was strong recognition that World Rugby's Nations Championship proposal, based on a true pathway for all, has been developed with great care, extensive evaluation and with the global game at the forefront of our thinking.

"We are encouraged that the format revisions and robust financial model has been well-received.

"Everyone, not just the established teams, will benefit, accelerating the development and competitiveness of the global game.

"However, as you would expect in an ambitious, complex and multi-stakeholder project, not everyone is in full agreement on the way forward, including the matter of promotion and relegation, but we will continue to engage and consult."

England captain Owen Farrell is among those to have previously criticised the idea ©Getty Images
England captain Owen Farrell is among those to have previously criticised the idea ©Getty Images

Among other announcements made by World Rugby, the proposed new format would be "underpinned by a record commercial partnership" with marketing company Infront, which they say will guarantee almost £5 billion ($6.6 billion/€5.9 billion) for investment in the sport over 12 years.

Of that figure, World Rugby say £1.5 billion ($2 billion/€1.8 billion) would be guaranteed as incremental revenue for the game.

"The proposed business model covers both media and marketing rights but does not include any sale of equity in the competition and therefore full control of the competition and its revenue redistribution model would be retained by the unions, the current major competitions and World Rugby," their statement reads.

Earlier this month England captain Owen Farrell said players were "definitely open" to the idea of a new global season, but that any changes "has to work with the club game in order to reduce conflict, deal with player release issues and make sure their welfare is looked after".

After today's meeting Pichot, who put forward the original idea, said rugby is at "an important time" in its history.

"We have an opportunity to change the landscape of the game for the long-term betterment of all unions," he said.

"We must work together to ensure the best possible future for our sport - a future where everyone is included and where everyone contributes to and benefits from a truly global game."