Global title play-off 'on hold' until 2010
Hand-in-hand with the good news was some not so good - the International Rugby Board (IRB) has decided to shelve plans to hold a global championship play-off between the winners of the Tri Nations and the Six Nations until 2010.
'The possibility of a northern hemisphere against Southern Hemisphere battle has been taken off the table for the time being,' revealed Steve Tew, New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive officer, who was at Sunday's high-powered meeting of rugby chiefs from around the world.
But he said the preference was for a 'world series' between the top teams north and south of the equator, which could bring Argentina in from the cold.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, and vice-chairman Bill Beaumont, met with chief executives of all the leading rugby nations in Hong Kong where plans to hold an inter-hemisphere series was discussed.
Hong Kong had voiced an interest in hosting the proposed play-off between the winners of the two main competitions in each hemisphere. But those ambitions will have to be put on hold.
'Taking into account the in-depth work needed on the concept and the time needed to reach consensus on any proposal with all relevant stakeholders in the game, it is unlikely that any inter-hemisphere series concept would kick off before 2010,' said the IRB.
'A series could only take place in two out of the four years that comprise a Rugby World Cup cycle within the international playing calendar. In the other two years there would be the Rugby World Cup itself and a British and Irish Lions tour.
'Ultimately the IRB council will decide whether to go ahead with an inter-hemisphere series concept once analysis and discussions have been completed,' the IRB added.
According to Beaumont the IRB had brought forward the proposal as it was tired of 'meaningless test matches between the June and November windows'.