Eddie Jones questions whether South Africa should join Six Nations

Jack de Menezes
The Independent

Eddie Jones believes the Six Nations should be left as it is after the England coach expressed his opposition to South Africa abandoning the Rugby Championship to join the European competition.

Reports have suggested that the prospect of the world champions joining the Six Nations from 2024 have been held as the reshaping of international rugby union continues, with the Springboks keen to align themselves with Europe as it represents a better timezone for both playing and viewing.

A Six Nations source played down the claim at the weekend that the deal for their addition was as good as done and stressed that any such developments remain at an exploratory stage, though it does appear a matter of when rather than if the current state of Test rugby is revamped given Japan’s emergence and Fiji’s desire to force their way into the mix.

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A Seven Nations tournament, with potential relegation via a play-off with the Rugby European Championship winners, has been suggested while South Africa would be replaced in the Rugby Championship by Japan and Fiji, who would join New Zealand, Australia and Argentina in the annual competition, but Jones believes the Six Nations must remain untouched if it is to preserve its current status.

“I think it’s called the greatest rugby tournament in the world and I think it is, so why would you want to add other teams that are going to decrease the level of competition,” Jones said after England’s 13-6 victory over Scotland. “I can only talk from experience: Super Rugby was the golden egg of rugby, brilliant, 12 teams, competitive. As soon as it had gone out to 14 and 15, it had lost its allure. You want the best teams playing against each other.

“There’s something about the Six Nations, because of the history of the relationship between the nations – it makes it more outstanding. Someone was giving me a history lesson on Scotland – the number of different things that have happened. So there is a lot of meaning to a lot of people for a game like this.”

Jones disagreed with the suggestion that the southern hemisphere would have been put off by matters at Murrayfield, where England prop Ellis Genge mustered the only try of a Calcutta Cup that was dogged by extreme weather conditions and nervy performances, with neither side hitting their stride in torrential rain and 50mph winds.

The Australian, who has said previously that the perception that the southern hemisphere nation do not care about the Six Nations is a myth, believes that Saturday’s encounter was more of a freak occurrence rather than the regular standard, but he stressed gritty games such as the one witnessed at Murrayfied actually improves the quality of the championship on the whole.

“You get new fans by having a good product, and a good product is a game which is contestable, tough and played in a number of different ways,” added Jones.

“If you had that game every week for 12 weeks people mightn’t like it. But that’s a once in a five week game. Next week the ball might be fizzing around everywhere. I saw a bit of the Ireland versus Wales game and the ball was fizzing around everywhere. It’s the great thing about our game that we can have different sorts of games. We don’t want to take that away, otherwise it becomes like Twenty20 cricket. You know what the balance of the game is going to be all the time.

“The competition is a much harder contesting competition than the World Cup. The breakdown is much more … it’s become a lot more physical and it’s only going to get more so.”

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