Fifteen years ago, Italy joined the Six Nations with big aspirations. Since then, their record reads 85 games played, 72 lost. A disappointing return not only for Italy, but for the competition as a whole.
There are now calls to include more nations to the Top Tier European competition. The major positive of adding Romania and Georgia to an 8 nation tournament would be to Italy’s win record. Overall, the tournament would lose a huge amount of appeal and their premature inclusion would be a step backwards for European Rugby. However, there should be a clear meritocratic route to the top table for these teams and here’s how:
The Four Nations x2
Create two four nation tournaments in Europe and schedule home and away fixtures for both competitions. The Top four teams in Europe will compete to be crowned Kings of Europe, while the second group will battle to obtain a play-off match against the bottom placed team in the premier competition. So based on the results of 2016, the competition tables in 2017 could hypothetically look something like this, including bonus points:
England would be crowed champions of Europe, whilst Scotland would be forced into a Play-off game versus France for the right to remain in the Premier competition.
This tournament ticks so many boxes.
It provides a route for Georgia and Romania to enter the elite competition, It creates a fairer top tier competition with Home and Away fixtures and it would promote a higher standard of rugby in the premier competition.
Each year the Six Nations creates some epic encounters and quite often a lot of emotion and controversy is left on the pitch come the final whistle. Imagine being able to back this up with a return fixture a few weeks later!
Also, whoever wins the competition would well and truly be the best team in Europe. At the moment “Home” or “Away” fixtures have a huge impact on the results each year.
Based on the above example, the initial losers would be France and Italy and it would be a tough pill to swallow. But ultimately it’s a proposal that would benefit the game by engaging lower tier nations, but also improving the quality of Europe’s Top teams.
Italy for all their passion have not been up to scratch, and adding Georgia or Romania to the competition will not help things.
The best way to create a competitive environment is to give teams the opportunity to prove themselves. Georgia have a bright future no doubt, but they need to earn their inclusion, just like they earned the respect of the All Blacks in this World Cup.
Written by The Rugby Pod - www.TheRugbyPod.com