It is kind of fitting that news should break yesterday morning that CVC Capital Partners private equity firm is set to invest £300m for a 15 percent stake in the Six Nations, just a few days before the start of the 2019 World Cup, a time when the strengths and weaknesses of the sport are in sharpest focus.

The tournament has grown massively during the 32 years since its launch, but the arrival on the scene of one of the biggest and most cut-throat private equity firms on the planet is likely to change the rugby landscape beyond all recognition.

A £300m investment might not seem particularly significant when compared with the astronomical bucks that float around English football, but in rugby itis game changing, especially as CVC have already bought a 27 percent stake in the English Gallagher Premiership for £200m and are in the final stages of a £115m deal for a 27 percent stake in the Guinness PR014.

Given that CVC is now in a commercial partnership with two of the three leagues that constitute the Heineken Champions Cup, that tournament has become part of its European business by default. The British & Irish Lions are in a similar boat.

Whatever way you look at it, CVC is destined to become a big voice in European rugby and the consequences are likely to be far-reaching. The equity firm’s first mission will be to wrap all the TV rights from its

various competitions and sell them as one mega-package.

While significant outside investment such as this is not a bad thing in itself, there are a number of reasons for concern. Not least CVC’s record as owners of Formula One between 2006 and 2017, when they made a £4.4bn return on their initial investment but stood accused of hollowing out the sport for their short-term gain, damaging visibility through a preference for ‘paid-for’ TV deals and leaving competing teams struggling to generate their own advertising income due to a lack of exposure.

Bob Fernley, former principal of the Force India F1 team, accused CVC of “raping the sport” in 2016. “All their actions have been taken to extract as much money from the sport as possible and put as little in as possible,” he added.

The southern hemisphere rugby nations are naturally very concerned about the impact this CVC deal will have on their future. They already struggle to compete in the player market against free-spending clubs in Europe, and this latest development can only exacerbate the problem.

World Rugby had hoped to block CVC’s encroachment into rugby by attracting their own significant outside investment through their ‘Nations Cup/World League’ proposal, which would involve a

£6 billion investment over the course of a 12-year television deal, but that was rejected by the Six Nations countries back in June.

Not surprisingly, Brett Gosper, the chief cxecutive of World Rugby, was fairly cool about the imminent arrival of CVC money when he was asked about it at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday.

“As you are all aware, we had another alternative on the table when we were looking at investment in the global game and how we can take that forward with a ‘World League’ to generate the possibility of funding. Six Nations have chosen to take another route, I have to say we don’t know enough about the ins and

outs of that yet, so we can’t really comment at this stage if it is good or bad,” he said.

“Certainly, a big investor in the sport [such] as a private equity firm like CVC, is going to create influence, and that would be, in some areas, something that concerns us. So, it is important that we understand from CVC exactly what their medium- to long-term plans are. And from that information we can react.

“The areas of concern are that when you have a high-funding commercialiser of the sport that isn’t a governing body, their interest is in the commercialising of it, which may not be the interests of the growth of it [the sport], player welfare or other areas. So, we would want to make sure that, for the right reasons, our influence isn’t usurped.”

“We have met with CVC during the conversations we had on the World League and so on, when we were considering meaningful types of investors in the sport. Of course, given CVC’s recent positions taken in the world game, it would be madness for us to not put ourselves up for communication.

“There are lots of areas of commonality, as well as divergence in some areas. I think we all want a healthy, growing sport. We’re probably coming at it from a slightly different angle, but we still need to get together and ensure what we are all doing is for the good of the sport.”