Qatar eyes Rugby Nations Championship


Qatar’s Supreme Committee soon a rugby body Image: Coliseum GSVA

Qatar is close to agreeing an eight-year deal to host the finals of rugby’s Nations Championship beginning in 2026.

The Telegraph said Qatar has entered an exclusivity period with Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR, the two bodies that will run the tournament.

World Rugby confirmed plans for a biennial Nations Championship last year, with the Six Nations to tour the southern hemisphere for three matches every other summer before playing three home games against the other southern hemisphere sides in the autumn.

Six Nations Rugby and SANZAAR will own and operate the competition, which will take place in alternating years, between the British and Irish Lions tours and the Rugby World Cup.

The Qatari bid team are understood to have sent an offer promising commercial returns of up to £800 million over the first four editions of the finals.

In what has been described as the ‘Superbowl of Rugby’, Qatar is proposing to host a three-day sporting festival to be held every two years from November 2026.

The tournament would take place at various stadiums in Doha, including the venue that hosted the FIFA World Cup final in 2022, Lusail Stadium.

The new competition will not affect the club calendar and organizers insisted players had been heavily involved in the discussion process over the tournament.

There have been growing concerns over player burnout and calls for greater focus on rest and recovery periods between domestic and international commitments.

Under the proposals the top-ranked European team following the six group matches played by each side would face the leading southern hemisphere team in a grand final to determine the Championship winners.

In addition the second-ranked Six Nations side would play the second team in the southern hemisphere table, with third playing third and so on down to sixth vs sixth.

Alongside the new competition, World Rugby is set to also create a second-tier competition made up of teams from Europe and the rest of the world, which will eventually allow for promotion and relegation matches.

Fiji and Japan are expected to join New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina in facing the European nations, with the sides being ranked on results in two six-team tables.

Qatar’s bid is based on the country being the perfect neutral venue for a final series offering huge commercial returns and is accessible to the teams and fans.

The gulf state is located almost halfway home for the southern hemisphere nations who will be travelling back from Europe, has seven world class stadia located within a 33-mile radius of Doha, and with winter temperatures in the low 20s offers excellent playing conditions for rugby.

The Qatari government is keen to build on staging the 2022 World Cup by hosting more international sporting events.

Next year’s World Aquatics Championships will take place in Qatar, as will the 2027 Basketball World Cup, while a bid for the 2036 Olympics is also being considered.

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