Switching Georgia in Six Nations is inevitable and a matter of time! Years ago, if it was a sin even to think about it, now the tournament organizers officially discuss it!
At the end of the month, the six-nation representatives will have an official meeting and will discuss the previous tournament and future plans.
Walesonline dedicated a special article to this topic:
“All three proposals have backers and critics. Switching the Six Nations to April would be the first move to creating a global rugby season and helping northern hemisphere players cut down on their increasing workload.
The performances of Georgia in the Rugby World Cup last autumn has pressed their claims to making the closed shop Six Nations open for business to other nations, while bringing in bonus points has been mooted for some time to make the European extravaganza a more attacking spectacle.
“We have a Six Nations council meeting at the end of this month and this isn’t to fuel speculation, it is an annual review of where the Six Nations sits,” WRU chief Davies told and continued - .“Is is worth considering moving it? “Do we look at bonus points which is something people have asked for regards making it more exciting? “Is the Six Nations a closed shop or do we open the gates to Georgia, Romania or anyone else deemed worthy of being there.
“Moving the Six Nations, I don’t see it as a problem if it helps other things. “I don’t think we have to move for the sake of it because it does work where it is now. “It gets a huge following and a huge TV audience, but if it were necessary to move it in order to enable northern and southern hemispheres to have a coherent season, then it’s worth doing. “It’s a bigger picture than the Six Nations. There are discussions and we were involved in talks with our counterparts from New Zealand on trying to look at a global season. The main reasons for a global season is player welfare just to try and cut down the number of games players are playing. “Our guys were in New Zealand up to the end of June and they started training in the first week of June the previous year. The New Zealand guys couldn’t get over the Welsh players had been going for the best part of 13 months. That is not sustainable.”
And looking at possible relegation and promotion which would put huge pressure on perennial strugglers Italy, Davies added: “Overall since 2000, Italy have generally been the weakest side, but other nations have had weak patches with Scotland two years ago finishing bottom.
“It’s a tough one to point the finger at Italy and they are the most sensitive of the Six Nations in looking at this review. But it’s important to do a review and this is happening.”
With that in mind we look at the pros and cons of all three proposals up for debate by the Six Nations Championship Council at the end of this month and give a verdict on each.
Moving the Six Nations
Pros: World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont wants a streamlined season to safeguard players against injury, particularly after the 2015-16 campaign when Test players in the northern hemisphere were flogged for the best part of 13 months.
So if moving the Six Nations to April eases the burden on our crown jewel stars, it has to be applauded. It could also give Pro12 and ERC chiefs the chance to bring some order to the domestic season when fans are left scratching their heads over the fixture schedule.
Cons: There’s an argument if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and the Six Nations Championship in February and March remains the blue riband tournament that’s the envy of the world game.
Verdict: Also there can be nothing worse for fans and players when the current season is so fragmented, bouncing back and fore from varying competitions.
With both camps seemingly entrenched it’s going to need some serious compromises to see an April Six Nations in 2020, which is thought to be the first season it can kick off.
Pros: Remember that Super Saturday on the final day of the 2015 Six Nations Championship season? Wales put down a marker for the title with a 61-20 thumping of Italy in Rome before being usurped by Ireland next up when the Emerald Isle won 40-10 at Murrayfield to throw down the gauntlet to England last up. The Red Rose beat France 55-35 but couldn’t overhaul Ireland on points difference.
Advocates of the bonus points system predict games like this every week in the Six Nations with the inducement of bigger rewards for crossing the whitewash.
Cons: Critics rightly point to teams having three home games in a Six Nations season having a distinct advantage over those with just two matches as the likelihood of running in more tries in familiar surroundings increases.
Also there’s a geographical argument to the case with sides on a sun-baked March afternoon in Rome likely to fancy crossing the whitewash far more than a dank drizzly biting cold trip to Murrayfield.
Verdict: The case for bonus points has one major flaw and for me kills the debate once and for all. If there was bonus points then it is feasible a team could complete the Grand Slam yet not win the title.
France completed a whitewash in 2002 picking up 10 points from their five games but would have pocketed just one bonus point in a 49-5 win against Ireland.
England were runners-up with four wins and eight points but would have picked up bonus points for big wins over Italy, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as well as a losing bonus point for a 20-15 defeat to Les Bleus.
It would have given them the title on 13 points.
Relegation and promotion
Pros: The Six Nations Championship currently being a closed shop provides a comfort zone for those left holding the wooden spoon. Put relegation or a play-off with a team finishing top of a second tier European Nations Cup competition and suddenly those struggling sides in the top flight face the prospect of missing out at the top table the following season and the serious financial implications that follow.
Also the likes of Georgia and Romania shouldn’t be denied the chance of progression and development playing against top tier nations more regularly than a World Cup pool every four years.
Cons: Trips to Tbilisi or Bucharest might not be an attractive proposition for fans than a regular springtime journey to Rome or a biennial pilgrimage north of the border to Edinburgh for that matter.
Georgia pack the home fans in but how many away fans would we see in Cardiff on Six Nations match days?
It would mean half-empty stadiums for home games with Georgia and Romania which wouldn’t go down well with the WRU bean-counters.
Verdict: Don’t bet your bottom dollar on seeing promotion and relegation from the Six Nations any time soon.
A more likely scenario is perhaps making it an expanded Seven Nations Championship down the line and then introduce promotion and relegation to appease the Union accountants.