World Rugby have expressed their ‘surprise’ at the player backlash to their newly proposed 12-team World League.

The competition, which would include Six Nations and Rugby Championship sides as well as the United States and Japan, has been questioned by leading players.

The format would see the teams playing each other once during the year and culminate in semi-finals and a final in the northern hemisphere in early December.

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It would, however, exclude developing European nations like Romania, Georgia and Russia and the Pacific Island teams Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton led the criticism of the plans, saying; "To suggest that players can play five incredibly high-level test matches in consecutive weeks in November is out of touch and shows little understanding of the physical strain this brings."

However in a statement World Rugby hit back at the criticism of their plans and accused the International Rugby Players' (IRP) of reacting without having being in possession of the full facts.

The statement read: "World Rugby recognises and values the importance of player considerations and input into the annual international competition discussions. However, the manner the International Rugby Players (IRP) organisation has expressed these is surprising given regular engagement throughout this ongoing process.

"World Rugby’s commitment to player welfare matters is unwavering and we will continue to engage and give full consideration to the welfare of players within the ongoing discussions.

"It is inappropriate to comment on specifics whilst wider stakeholder consultation, including with IRP, is ongoing. However, it is important to note that some assumptions made in the statement regarding the proposed competition structure are inaccurate and that important matters such as playing load and emerging nation opportunities are at the heart of constructive dialogue on the overall concept.

"As instructed by our Executive Committee and the Unions, we remain committed to a process of constructive dialogue with all stakeholders, including the IRP, to deliver a model that ensures the best-possible competition and commercial outcomes for all and a truly exciting and meaningful annual international competition structure that is great for players, fans and unions."

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