Monday, May 11, 2015

International Rugby: Paraguay Seeks Involvement in Americas Six Nations

The advanced plans for the Americas to have an annual Pan-American Six Nations competition replicating that of Europe are for Brazil to join Argentina, Canada, Chile, Uruguay and the USA. The proposed new tournament is scheduled to be played in February and March which would enable professional players based in Europe to be released for international duty. Not included but seeking to be so is Paraguay. Coming off an away victory against Brazil this weekend the South American country believes that it should be included in a new competition. 

Following Paraguay's 20-11 win over Brazil on Saturday the union showed it's frustration at not being a part in the plans to start an annual Pan-American Six Nations tournament starting in 2016. The new competition is to involve Argentina, Canada, USA, Uruguay, Chile and Brazil who, until today, were the six top ranked teams from the Americas. 

Saturday's result saw Brazil falling from 36th to 40th in the World Rankings while Paraguay is now ranked 35th having risen from 40th. The win was Paraguay's second in as many years after having won 31-24 in Asunción last May. The results and World Rankings combine to provide Paraguay with a strong argument which Brazil can answer in large part by not selecting the leading players who are also a part of the Sevens team preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games. 

Paraguay is to face Argentina on May 23 and is to due so after having earned the right in 2014 by finishing second to Uruguay in the South American Championship. Paraguay's win over Brazil in conjunction with Chile losing in São Paulo led to this eventuality. In the 2016 competition, however, Paraguay will not take part with Chile instead joining Uruguay. 

The official twitter account Unión de Rugby del Paraguay (URP) tweeted no fewer than four different messages to it's followers to outline the frustration at delivering results in the South American Championship but being outside of the six countries to play in the new Pan-American competition. The tweets, some of which are shown below, argue that Paraguay's win have given CONSUR a tremendous headache and that economic factors have driven the inclusion of Brazil at the expense of Paraguay.

Paraguay is by no means a small country. With a population of 7 million and a land area close to the size of California Paraguay is the 60th largest country in the world. It is, however, no Brazil. The Portuguese speaking country has a population of over 203 million and is the world's fifth largest country. The inclusion of Brazil carries with it huge financial gain due to the size of the economy and the potential for rugby. 

Paraguay's exclusion could, nonetheless, not be permanent. The Goff Report has suggested that the new Pan American Six Nations competition is to be the elite division of a competition. It could be joined by a second division of which Paraguay would be involved. The article implies that the initial phase of the tournament will be focused on consolidation with promotion / relegation to be added over time.  

The promotion / relegation debate is of immense relevance. It provides developing teams from lower divisions the opportunity to participate at the elite level and do so on merit. Current holding of the European Nations Cup (ENC) Division 1A title, Georgia have held their own in the competition since 2007 but have no means of playing in the Six Nations. This is the case despite Georgia now being ranked higher than Italy in World Rankings.

An argument against Georgia has been that there is no room to expand to include a seventh team while the potential relegation of Scotland could ruin Scottish rugby beyond repair. Not withstanding Paraguay and the Americas is not an identifiable case as that of Georgia and the Six Nations. A seven team competition in the Americas would be entirely managable and enable an even split of three home and away matches per team.  

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