Monday, February 3, 2014

Should Promotion / Relegation be added to the Six Nations?

Georgia led Ireland in the 2007 RWC 

In the aftermath of Scotland lackluster performance in Dublin on Sunday former Irish hooker and captain Keith Wood has come out in support of a changed policy - one which would benefit global rugby tremendously. Wood argues that Georgia ought to be given the opportunity of playing matches against the members of the Six Nations. Under existing policies there is no promotion or relegation to and from the Six Nations which has left countries like Georgia and Romania in no mans land. Georgia is, at present, the leading European country outside of the Six Nations and is yet to ever host a Six Nations member in a test match.

Georgia is ranked 16th in the world, three places lower than Italy. It has established itself as an integral part of Rugby World Cups over the past decade. Georgia debuted in Rugby World Cup 2003 with an 84-6 loss against England but when the teams met again at Rugby World Cup 2011 the scoreline was vastly different with England winning 41-10. At the same tournament Georgia defeated Romania and pushed Scotland with the Tier One side winning a tryless match 15-6.

Georgia has also created problems for other notable teams including Ireland and Argentina. Georgia was winning the pool match in Bordeaux in Rugby World Cup 2007 in the second half and very nearly won the match only to have a disallowed try with time running out. At the same tournament Georgia defeated Namibia 30-0 while in 2011 Argentina was behind at half time before completing a 25-7 victory. 

Rugby World Cups have been the only opportunity for the Lelos and Keith Wood argues that this should be changed starting with more test matches for the likes of Georgia in the autumn series. It could be the start of a new structure with a path to promotion to the Six Nations. Were there to be a system similar to what exists in FIRA then the winner of the Division 1A would win automatic promotion to the Six Nations with the bottom Six Nations member being relegated every year. Had such a system been in place last season then France would have been relegated as it finished bottom of the table. 

One line of thought is that a number of performances from teams in the Six Nations continue to be underwhelming with Scotland´s performance yesterday against Ireland being such an example. Had Scotland been under the threat of relegation then the players may have been in a different frame of mind. Knowing that the team must perform or face the consequences could have seen an entirely different second half performance from Scotland in Dublin.

Such a system would require a changed points system with the Six Nations overhauling the long lasting set up which awards one win for a draw and two for a win but no bonus points. If there were to be bonus points as in the Rugby World Cup, Rugby Championship, Super Rugby, Heineken Cup  and FIRA then England and Italy would both have collected one championship point for losing by less than seven while Scotland would have left Dublin as the only team on zero. 

Wood points out that the current system is failing the sport as there are no opportunities for the likes of Georgia. Wood contends that Italy had opportunities in what is know the autumn international international window while Georgia has no such luck. Indeed the 2014 Ireland v Georgia match set to be confirmed will be the first for Georgia and Wood would like Georgia to have two every year. Georgia has demonstrated its strength at home in recent years. This past November Georgia defeated Canada and Samoa. One year earlier Samoa defeated Wales in Cardiff and Scotland lost against Tonga in Aberdeen. Althoguh such teams have played in Tbilisi no member of the Six Nations has ever. 

Both Wood and Andy Nicol also argue that New Zealand´s opinion that it should not play test rugby in the Pacific Islands is wrong. An unnamed NZRU official made it clear that New Zealand is utterly correct in not playing test rugby there. The policy has seen New Zealand never playing a test match in the Pacific Islands despite the All Blacks opening the World Cup against Tonga in 2011. New Zealand played Japan in Tokyo in 2013 and is expected to play the USA in Chicago or Washington D.C later this year. 

2 comments:

  1. It was a stupid question put by the viewer to the pundits. What nation would ever accept even possible relegation from an elite competition and lose all their status and priveleges? Would any of the RC unions, including Argentina, accept relegation from the RC? We all know the answer, right?!!

    Both pundits not unsurprisingly didn't back the idea of relegation. However they both backed more opportunities for tier 2 nations, especially Georgia and Romania vs 6N teams, they just didn't know themselves, as Wood conceded, how that could be done.

    Yes, embarrasing for NZ (Although the question should be asked why Australia is NEVER mentioned in regards to the Pacific Islands. Surely they have just as much responsibility as NZ!) as it just gives the NH admins and fans an excuse to dodge the topic of their own lack of regional leadership! It must be said that 6N teams have been to the Pacific Islands which makes NZ's, and Australia's, absence even worse. The sooner NZ and Australia go to the Pacific Islands, the better it probably is for Georgia and Romania. Then no more excuses for the 6N LOL!

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  2. Promotion/ relegation is the way forward for long term interest in the 6N. Keep the yearly champions and same points structure. Then implement a two year table which determines the promotion/relegation of teams in line with the European nations cup. And to truly see who is the better team and deserve a place in the 6N let them have a playoff to decide.

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