Despite recent reports, Georgia’s hopes of being given the chance to earn a spot in the Six Nations have been shot down, after chief executive John Feehan insisted there are no vacancies in the competition.
There have been calls from many, including Sir Clive Woodward, to introduce promotion and relegation. However, Feehan has ruled out any changes to the Six Nations for at least 10-15 years.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Feehan said:
“It is a closed competition, owned and controlled by the six unions concerned. There is no vacancy. Right now we are perfectly happy that we have the six strongest teams in Europe in our competition.
“Are we closed to every scenario? No, but it takes a while to see a convincing argument — 10 or 15 years. We have to take a good, considered view about what is right for our six unions. They would all have to agree that this is what they want. At this stage, talk of bringing in other teams is premature.”
The chief executive also stated that critics are waiting for Italy to fail, in order to try and push through change.
“You wait for the weakest animal to fall and you are on top of them,” he continued.
Feehan’s argument that the competition has the strongest teams in Europe is against what the stats say. Georgia are currently ranked 12th in the world, whilst Italy are in 14th.
Italy have suffered two home defeats in this year’s competition, whilst Georgia continue to dominate the Rugby Europe Championships. Despite this, Georgia seem no closer to a place in the Six Nations.
Former England captain Bill Beaumont, the current chairman of World Rugby, has insisted there’s nothing they can do in this situation. The Six Nations is owned by the teams involved and therefore World Rugby cannot say who plays in it. However, he did say they are doing all they can to reward Georgia for the progress they have made.
Also speaking to the Mail, Beaumont said:
“What we have to do at World Rugby is enhance the fixtures for a team like Georgia, as a reward for their progress. But tournaments are owned by the countries involved.
“The only properties World Rugby have are the World Cup, the Under 20s championship every year, and the world Sevens series.
“We are helping Georgia as much as we can and they are hosting the World Under 20 championship this year.
“We want to grow the game, so it can be enjoyed by more countries than the historical unions who have always played it. But to tell the Six Nations or SANZAR who should be part of their competitions is nigh-on impossible.”
So, it seems the promotion/relegation debate will continue for a while yet.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena