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Can the Six Nations change to become a bigger tournament?

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John Beattie | 18:24 UK time, Sunday, 11 September 2011

The World Cup causes us all problems - or at least Saturday's Scotland game against Romania caused me a problem.

After it I thought to myself: "hang on, if we can bring Italy into the fold and create the Six Nations do we have to stop there?"

What do you think, is there justification for saying that, actually, there should be promotion and relegation into an elite Northern Hemisphere tournament?

Could the Six Nations be expanded?

Or is the key a play-off system between two European leagues?

For the rest of the year there are very special versions of self preservation societies who continue to claim to be the elite of world rugby.

In the Southern Hemisphere South Africa, New Zealand and Australia play in the Tri-Nations.

Actually, they are the top three sides but how I hope Samoa, Fiji or Tonga cause an upset.

Meanwhile in my neck of the woods, north of Hadrian's wall, we Scots continue to take part in the Six Nations as of right.

Our professional teams take part in a Celtic league and we make money from a television deal because of our continued participation in the top tournament in the northern hemisphere.

Then - bang - the World Cup arrived.

The gap is closing between the rich and the pretenders; nobody can deny that Romania gave us a fright at the weekend - they were winning with ten minutes remaining.

So what does that mean?

If I am being honest, I was one of the people who argued long and hard against Italy being brought into the then Five Nations, and that was despite having beaten France and Scotland in "friendlies" at the time.

But the addition of Italy has been a masterstroke.

On the one hand rugby has spread, and on the other Italy has been a credible force and a great location for rugby.

However, already this first round of matches has meant that Europe can no longer rightfully exclude the likes of Romania - and the USA caused Ireland some problems too.

My gut feeling is that Scotland would be against any expansion of a European spring competition, as we probably have most to lose.

More than any other country we need the Six Nations, and we would fear play-off games with Romania, Georgia and, maybe one day, Russia, Portugal, and Spain.

But I can't see us ignoring them for long.

My gut feeling is that things will change; one day there will be play-offs to get into the annual Six Nations tournament.

What do you think?

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    The irb must spread the game around the globe John,so really the likes of georgia, romania etc should have a chance to at least reach a higher point in the pyramid. At the moment they are restricted i believe to a nations cup comp ( which enables qualification for the wc. Maybe the six nations should be in two groups of 4 with the top two in each then playing a semi and final. I'm also all for a pacific islanders team in the the tri nations.

    On a side note ,did you go to firhill on Friday? Munster were just too streewise for a young glasgow pack. Impressed with Hogg, and nick campbell certainly has the size to play at the highest level. Shocking challenge on harley.

  • Comment number 2.

    John - I think you're probably right, 6 Nations will become 8 or 10, one day.

    Developing countries need exposure to grow and develop to their potential, as we all know playing regularly against superior opposition helps you learn.

    Bringing in more teams to our annual northern hemisphere tournament is attractive, if only because it reduces the odds of us collecting the wooden spoon!

    Still, nothing like home nation v home nation though...

    On that note, if we can pull ourselves together (primarily sort out that bloody scrum!) and beat Georgia, scoring 4 tries in the process, I think we can use that as a springboard to go on and beat the Puma's or (dare I say AND) Engand...

    Romania was far too stressful for me! - so a typical Scottish performance then!

    However, believing it as I type it, I do believe Scotland will win this World Cup!!! - now where does that come from!...?

  • Comment number 3.

    I think its a little early Scotland weren't ready, certainly, though I still think they'll top the group and wind up with at least 4th place.

  • Comment number 4.

    A bigger six nations would depend upon several things, firstly would it increase revenue, and is there enough space in the schedules.

    The English premiership clubs would not be interested in losing players for two more fixtures, Would the the introduction of Georgia and Romania increase the pot, or would it just dilute the share the existing members get. I think the latter. ERC has cornered all the spare sponsorship cash at present. Finally England would not be interested in playing more games with what they perceive as lesser teams, and Scotland can't risk losing any revenue. That makes at least 2 vetoes, the game's a bogey.

  • Comment number 5.

    What's stopping Romania and Georgia expanding upon their existing links and developing their own version of the 6 Nations with Russia, Portugal, Spain et al? There is no room for adding more and more teams to an annual international tournament during the regular season and commercial interest is insufficient for it. The Tri Nations tournament will shortly add Argentina to a tournament already stretched beyond sustainable interest in non World Cup years, so why would you want to add another two games no-one is interested in to a 6 Nations Scotland is already struggling to fill its ground for?

    Romania has enough players playing at the highest level of club rugby in France to justify giving us a fright, but that was far from our strongest pack and our standing in the world means we have another game to play just a few days later, against a fresh Georgia. The 11 changes made are little surprise and I really don't care if it's a dull game, as long as we win, even by a narrow margin. There's then plenty of time to recover for the game against a wounded Argentina.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think you're right John and the time will come to restructure the 6 nations, possibly something similar to the restructured Scottish Premier 1 and 2 leagues where the bottom teams in the top league then play the top teams in the bottom league to gain promotion to the following years top tournament. I can see a restructure being accelerated by the undoubted development of Argentina in next years tri nations.

    On another note! After Scotland's game on saturday Ally Kellock said in his post match interview that Scotland needed to go back and work on the basics as there were too many dropped balls etc. I can't believe you go through months and months of intense training and still need to work on the Basics! I would hope the countries elite professional athletes would have nailed the basics before arriving at the biggest tournament of their career!?!

  • Comment number 7.

    I agree with most of the comments above and have a strange feeling of Deja Vu about the whole issue. A proposal was made for a 2 league system, the existing six nations in one league and the likes of Romania, Georgia, Portugal, Spain, and maybe Holland, Russia or whoever making up a 2nd league. Both play seperately for a couple of years and then the intersting bit happens - the wooden spoon team gets relegated and the top team in league 2 gets promoted. That would shake a few things up don't you think?

  • Comment number 8.

    While it would be great to get more teams on board, and it would certainly improve the quality of Romania and Georgia the way it has with Italy, logistics and fixture congestion will get in the way. There wouldn't be enough time for every team to play every other team once, so you'd be looking at some kind of "group" structure like football's Champions League or the NFL in America.

  • Comment number 9.

    Scotland's standing still and the so called second rate nations are getting better and better. Saturday morning proved that!!!! Playing for ten minutes in the first half and ten minutes in the second half, wasn't good enough and fell sorry for Robinson because he's the one going to carry the can, if they keep preforming like this, the blame should lie at the SRU's door, but they'll blame Robinson and sack him and go back to patting each other on the back and flashing their old school ties.

    The last time you had this as your blog a few years ago I said the same, yes there should be a B, C league with promotion and relagation. It's good for the game. One of the suggestions about semi-finals and a final is great idea. If Spain or Portugal know they where going to play against England, France, Ireland, Wales, Italy, and Scotland (In order beatable), they would grab it with both hands.

  • Comment number 10.

    Fixture congestion would be the main problem, and conversely it might hamper these countries as many of the pro teams in France employ Georgian and Romanian props because (a) they are good enough (b) they are not going to loose them during the 6 Nations. So I think it would increase some of the club v country tensions we are starting to see.

    That said, I don't see why a tournament like the Nations Cup could not be revamped. Have the 6 top ranked Northern Hemisphere teams not in the 6 Nations play in this comp. The winner of the Nations cup then plays the bottom team in the 6 Nations for promotion - over two legs or in a grand play off, to be played in the Autumn international playing period? I don't know. So at present You'd have Romania(17), Georgia(16), USA(18), Canada(14), Russia(19), and Portugal (21). Could you imagine the sponsorship potential if the USA were promoted to the 6 Nations? Once this is up and running you then develop a Nations Cup B include the likes of Spain (24), Belgium(25), Moldova(28), Czech Republic (30), Ukraine(33), and Poland (34), and have promotion and relegation into Nations Cup (or whatever you wanted to call it).

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with many of the comments. These annual group competitions need to be expanded in some format. I like the two European leagues with one up and one down. Spain, Portugal, Romania, Georgia, Russia could start the league.

    We had some years ago a Pacific Rim competition with Canada,USA,Korea, Japan and Fiji.

  • Comment number 12.

    Peverse as it sounds, if we hadn't scored so quickly then perhaps the game might have gone better for us, but we scored quickly, then complacency set in.
    That said, it was good (in a sense) to see the panic button being pushed and the lads pulling up their socks, taking a deep breath and getting it sorted, so late in the game too.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Actually, they are the top three sides but how I hope Samoa, Fiji or Tonga cause an upset"

    Yes particularly John if one of them was to beat Scotland although I suspect that this would not constitute an upset.

  • Comment number 14.

    To a few of the commenters above, the likes of Romania, Georgia and Russia already have a "6 nations" like tournament, it's called the European Nations Cup, which is run home and away over two seasons. I see no reason why we can't leave the 6 nations as is and award a trophy at the end if each season, but then after two years use an aggregate to determine a team to either be directly relegated or play off against the winner of the Nations cup. So you wouldn't gain anymore games (less dilution of sponsorship money and keeps the clubs happy) but the next level of European rugby gets a chance at the big guns.

    Also need to limit the number of teams in the H-cup and amlin from each country to allow the top players from these countries experience of the more physical competition. Maybe bring start a third level competition with a couple of lower French and English teams but the top teams from Georgia/Russia/etc.

  • Comment number 15.

    There are actually different 6 nations leagues. There is a 6 Nations A with England, France, wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy but also 6 Nations B, C and D with promotion and relegation. They are home and away over a year period and the winner of the 6 Nations B are crowned European champions and the top 3 qualify for the World Cup.

    I've seen quite a bit of the 6 Nations B which has Georgia, Romania, Spain, Portugal and normally the team promoted from the 6 Nations C who normally then gets relegated.

    To improve European Rugby there needs to be a promotion and relegation to and from the 6 Nations A. However, from what I've seen only Georgia would really make a go of it as they are the only team with the ability to beat scotland and Italy and give Ireland and Wales a good game. To make relegation and promotion to work the domestic leagues of the 6 Nations B teams need to be professional and for that to work the federations need help to promote the game in their countries and / or like Basketball, Handball etc Rugby clubs need to be absorbed into the umbrella of top football teams like Real Madrid (who have done this, I think), Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Spanish Rugby needs to be on the same level of handball at least in Spain for professionalism to work.

    The Spanish national team I think is only at National League 1 level at best and the part time Honor Division (First division) teams get hammered every time against professional opposition in European competitions. In a professional league the Spanish players would be bigger, stronger and fitter making domestic Spanish teams more competitive and in turn the national team.

    To further my point I saw an England Counties team beat a combined Madrid XV easily. Also on that tour the England Counties team beat the Spanish national team.

    I'm unsure what the short term solution would be. Maybe the youth teams can go on summer coaching work shops to professional clubs in England, France, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy and if there are any good players they can have the chance to join the clubs Academies.

  • Comment number 16.

    Perhaps this is naive of me but it seems that there is a very simple solution. Leave the 6 Nations as the 6 Nations - it works! Argentina join the Tri-Nations - fine so far. Georgia, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Russia form the new 5-Nations (with room for another team one day) and finally a pacific league of Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Japan.

    There - 4 solid competitions with a bit of room for expansion and no shaking of the established order. I must be missing something because this does not seem so far fetched to me.

  • Comment number 17.

    Following my previous comment one thing I have disliked from Rugby is the protectionism in traditional Rugby countries such as no relegation from 6 Nations A, the English Premiership trying to abandon relegation etc

    Argentina took a long time to be given a chance to play in a yearly international tournament worth their while. A Pacific 2 tier Tri-nations tournament with relegation and promotion to include South africa, New Zealand, Australia, A Pacific Islanders team and Japan.

    However, the bottom line in Rugby is money and with the difference in TV revenue between A and B divisions being huge I can't really the top nations really wanting to share the wealth.

  • Comment number 18.

    It would be good for European rugby if we expended what is the top competition on earth. I would have two tiers of 5 or 6 teams and have relegation and promotion between the two. This would give the up and coming nations a goal for winning tier B, and also make the tier 1 also rans of that season play hard until the end of the competition to ensure they do not get relagated.

    Who do we invite to play - Georgia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Holland and Russia spring to mind right away.

  • Comment number 19.

    "A Pacific Islanders team "

    Non starter I'm afraid. The formation of a PI side was always purely to generate revenue and the respective Pacific Island unions have no appetite for it. In fact we are extremely unlikely to see such again. Nor do they wish to join the trinations. Samoa and Tongan have openly stated that they do not have the resources (playing mainly) to compete nor do they wish to be the trinats wiping boys (which would inevaitably happen) Instead they are quite happy competing in the Pacific Nations Cup which is a highly successful tournmanent.

  • Comment number 20.

    Six Nations:
    1st England
    2nd France
    3rd Ireland
    4th Wales
    --------------
    5th Scotland
    6th Italy

    With the bottom one or two dropping down to the European cup. With the top one or two entering the six nations.

    I think it is a farcical that Figi, Samoa and Tonga havent broken into the Tri-Nations and Argentina have.

  • Comment number 21.

    Georgia / Romania / Russia already play in the European Nations cup (or 6 Nations B) which is played home and away over 2 years. there is already promotion relegation in place down to level 2 and 3 of the European game. Its only the 6 Nations itself that teams in Europe cant get promoted to. I have advocated for years that there should be some form of Promotion & Relegation to the 6 Nations as the other teams in Europe are never going to get any better without the competition.

    Its been the same at every world cup so far, we all applaud the minows for putting up a good show, but never winning any games, but they are never going to improve enough to win if they dont have the experience of playing big games apart from the world cup. If we are not going to have Promotion to the 6 nations, or at least a play off of wooden spoon vs top of 6 Nations B, then maybe a European Cup competition, maybe knock out with the top 12 teams in it over a 2 year period, and use 6 nations fixtures where possible. Or would it be possible for the IRB to enforce some sort of internationals on countries ie. in November the home nations have to host a test against one of the so called minnows, not just cash cow games against the tri nations countries?

    The majority of the Georgian and Romanian players already play Top 14 in France so are playing at a good club standard every week, I just think they need the match practice as a team to improve.

    On another note, i notice one of the tongan players on Friday (i think it was the prop who plays for Northampton) only had 8 caps for Tonga, and 4 of those were at the last world cup. Is this a problem of the beast pacific island players dont want to play for their countries unless its a big occassion, or has he just been really unlucky with injuries?

  • Comment number 22.

    Why not have a European championship on the same years as Lions’ tours?
    That way the second tier teams get a chance against the 6 Nations teams while the home nation players not on the Lions and younger players can get international game time.
    I accept that France would probably be the favourites for this tournament on paper, but that very fact may encourage the home nations to give it some kudos.
    The tournament could be held outwith the old 5 Nations in an attempt to spread the game. This would not only benefit the development of the game in Europe, but bring on our own players and coaches as well.
    RWC started low-key and is now huge, so there is no reason why a bit of vision here wouldn’t create a successful tournament. In essence this could be a simple re-direction for the present IRB trophy which Scotland won a couple of years back.

  • Comment number 23.

    "finally a pacific league of Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Japan."

    There is one already???? It's called the Pacific Nations Cup. Guess who finished bottom this year; yep Samoa.

  • Comment number 24.

    "I think it is a farcical that Figi, Samoa and Tonga havent broken into the Tri-Nations and Argentina have."

    Why is it "farcical"

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with #5: Don't expand the 6 Nations further.

    I am married to an Italian whose uncle played for Prato - now Italy's best side underneath the two regions. The game is really flourishing with young people there and its wonderful to see - and this wouldn't have happened had Italy not been included in our competition.

    However...

    There is more to the competition than either the mechanics of promotion, or evangelising the game. The 6 Nations is an institution which needs cherishing:
    1) I would argue against over stretching our players - and the ability of our clubs to function for even longer without those players.
    2) The social aspect of the 6 Nations is something which needs being mindful of.
    3) Italy has done significantly better upon joining than apparently France did when we added them, and it would be unlikely that the East Europeans can provide a credble force for some time. But I wouldn't hang my hat on this argument, as for me, whether they could get a strong enough side or not is a secondary concern.
    4) Almost 10 years ago my Romanian host in Bucharest complained at the unfairness in ringfencing our competition, protesting there ought to be promotion and relegation. It was a simple argument to refute - we have a good thing going, we don't need promotion and relegation, we can support your game in other areas. "Fairness" is a wholly inappropriate charge to level at our institutions, culture, needs and resources.
    5) Why are the Home Nations so rubbish at evangelising ? - the combined efforts of our four teams pale into comparison with the work done in the last 40 years by the French - in Africa, Romania, Italy, Spain and Georgia. (Notable exceptions do exist, such as Ireland accepting a punishing schedule in Romania, and Wales helping put Tonga and Samoa on the map). It is high time that each Home Nation "adopted" a minor nation. The import of Canadians to the fledgling North Wales region certainly does not fall into this category, but does stand as an example of creative thinking.
    6) I am unaware of problems with the current competition that the other nations in Europe have. Whether there are problems or not, they need to build their own instituions, culture etc. Whatever we can do to assist them in that enterprise, we ought to go ahead and do it, but not at the expense of our own.

  • Comment number 26.

    "On another note, i notice one of the tongan players on Friday (i think it was the prop who plays for Northampton) only had 8 caps for Tonga, and 4 of those were at the last world cup."Soane Tonga'uiha.

    He is a Tongan New Zealander who played NZ under 21s. He started as a rugby league player only swictihing to uniion when he was 15.

  • Comment number 27.

    John, I feel that the time for talking about this was the last world cup when Georgia gave Ireland a run for their money losing 14-10. I genuinely believe that both Georgia and Romania could compete with the likes of Italy & Scotland in the 6N.

    Maybe we need a new system with all 8 Nations Playing in 2 Pools of 4 with each team playing their equal in the opposite group as a decider. The pools are drawn randomly and if you are good enough you will win.

    The real question is will the have's want to share a slice of the pie with the have not's? I think it will be a case of "Well Done Boys!, See how you do in 4 years then we'll discuss it." Which is a pity, but that is how the IRB and the Big Unions are.

  • Comment number 28.

    I watched the Romania game and like others I was really dispairing at times. I probably even woke the neighbours too! However I'm not sure on the basis of this performance we should conclude we're absolutely hopeless. We certainly weren't the only established team to have some difficulty with a so called minow. A win's a win so onward and upward!

    Regarding the inclusion of the emerging teams in an expanded 6 nations, I think there is something irresistible about it and for that reason it will happen one day. Surely the game of rugby owes it to those emerging nations? Short term, self interest never does anyone any good in the long term. As others have said it would surely have to be in some sort of two tournament format with winners and losers being promoted/demoted. This would terrify Scotland in particular so we'd better get our a8ses in gear!

  • Comment number 29.

    For a long time I have thought there should be a relegation and promotion place available for a two division 6 Nations. I don't think you can increase the number of countries in the division beyond the current 6, simply due to fixture demands, but by introducing one promotion place from the second tier and a relegation place from the top tier, you would give the likes of Romania, Georgia and Russia a chance to have at least one season against England, France and co. Whoever got relegated it would most likely be just for one season anyway. Plus, who doesn't like the sound of England v Russia rugby in Moscow? This would need to be given a long term chance and it would undoubtedly bring up the standard of rugby in those other nations, with a genuine opportunity open to them.

  • Comment number 30.

    John, whilst on the subject of expansion, what are your thoughts of a tier 2 world cup for nations ranked 13-32 following the current format with the 8 Quater-Finalists then qualifying for the tier 1 world cup?

  • Comment number 31.

    I readers cared to look at the FIRA website they would see that there already exists a shadow six nations involving Georgia (2011 champions), Russia, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Ukraine. The matches are even played on the same February to March weekends at the Six Nations tournament. The ignorance of rugby fans in Six Nation countries of wider developments in Europe is breathtaking and is widely resented across wider Europe (although this is not expressed by Romanians or Georgians as it would hit their chances of taking part in an expanded six nation).

    Also, the shadow six nations is just the top of a pyramid system of leagues, inolving every country in Europe down to Azerbaijan and Finland, with promotion and relegation offering ambitious countries a route to the top. Lithuania won 18 matches in a row in recent years as they advanced up the divisions, beating the All Blacks' world record. The vast majority of players, especially in the old Eastern Europe, are products of small, highly enthusiastic and committed amateur national set-ups (historically nurtured by France and ignored by the home countries). Rare are the expats (this isn't Dubai) or English public-schooled sons of the local rich.

    So, fed up of sterile six nation matches and £100 tickets, get on Easyjet or Ryanair and take in Belgium v Germany, Lithuania v Sweden or Israel v Denmark.

    Share the touchline with committed, knowledgeable local fans, not corporate hooray Henrys. Those nostalgic for the days of amateur rugby will love the lack of wall to wall TV coverage and video refs, no sponsorship on jerseys, collection buckets and raffles to cover team travel expenses, standing crowds moving up and down the touchline to follow play, approachable players in the bar afterwards, blood and guts effort and schoolboy errors instead of overcoached defences.

  • Comment number 32.

    Thanks #31 - interesting reading.

  • Comment number 33.

    I would protect the heritage of the 6 Nations by keeping it as it is and as an annual tournament. Why not introduce a European Championship every four years two years after the World Cups like in football and get the likes of Romania, Georgia, Russia, Germany and Portugal involved?

  • Comment number 34.

    I don't know why the Six Nations has to change for the developing European teams, especially in light of others' comments - that there is an existing competition for these teams.

    Perhaps the home nations should be including the developing European teams in the autumn tests? A mixture of teams which test Scotland, for example, and teams which are tested would surely help development of the sport, development of our team, and development of home-grown interest and support.

    We are never happy unless we're moaning though, are we? Sure, Romania were leading with 10 minutes to go, but they had been trailing for 60 minutes. And Scotland did end up winning the match (and fraying my nerves!), bagging the bonus-point too. Not very long ago we were bemoaning the fact that Scotland couldn't score tries at all...

  • Comment number 35.

    There is no room in the calendar for an expanded six nations. Allowing promotion/relegation between the various pools of teams may well lead to significant improvement among the likes of Georgia or Romania, but at what cost. Rugby is a marginal sport already in Scotland and Italy. Does it really make sense to push for the advancement of emerging nations and simultaneously risk killing the game in established ones?

    An alternative to this might be a formal European Championship every four years between world cups. This would give the smaller nations a second focus and ensure that the likes of Spain, Portugal, Holland, etc. get their day in the spotlight. It also allows more potential professional players to put themselves in the shop window.

    A Euro competition played in the autumn doesn't need to impact on the 6N, but would reduce the number of opportunities for the southern hemisphere sides to play in Europe, so I would suggest that the 6N take a sabbatical every four years to make room for an expanded competition.

    A reasonable compromise?

  • Comment number 36.

    I would love to see the tournament become a true European National Rugby Championship by expanding first to 8 and then, one day, to 10 teams. I would suggest that the tournament could actually mirror the ENC leagues and by played over 2 years. At the end of the two years in the 8 team league the 10th team is automatically relegated and 9th could play off against 2nd in the league below.
    Before this world cup and the last people went on about the minnows as cannon fodder only to be surprised. If we want our sport to be taken more seriously (rather than as a protection elite) we need to cultivate the sport around the world and give these teams something to constantly strive for. We pride ourselves on the ethos of honour inherent to our sport and we really need to start doing the right thing. It would even give the teams in lower leagues (like Germany & Belgium) greater reason to fight their way up through the pecking order. After all guys like Lund and Visser have proved that great players are just waiting to be found in less traditional rugby countries (Norway and Netherlands)
    (Incidentally wouldn't it be great to have a continental tournament someday with Europe, Oceania, Africa, Asia, North America & South America fighting it out?)

  • Comment number 37.

    For many years I have supported the idea of a two-tier system that could/would be expanded over time. Start with a League 1 and League 2 composed of four nations each (total eight nations (not 6)). Each nation plays the other three nations, both home & away each season (6 games each). At the end of the Championship the bottom team in League 1 then plays the winner of League 2 (at a neutral venue) - in a play-off styled decider (winner plays in League 1, Loser plays in League 2 of the following season). In order to expand add a third tier/league and repeat the above process for League 2 (bottom side) and League 3 (top side). Thoughts?

  • Comment number 38.

    Wow... you mean like 1984...

  • Comment number 39.

    6 Nations should be a 2 League proposition .

    1) England / France / Ireland / Scotland / Wales / Italy
    2) Romania / Spain / Russia / Georgia / Portugal / Belgium

    Last in 1) plays the winner of 2) for the right to play in next years 6Nations group 1.

    Group 2 ) should be the 6 highest European teams ranked , any teams in group 1) not effected by world Rankings.

  • Comment number 40.

    An expanded six nations is a non starter. Only Wales manage a full stadium for all their matches. Last time with Italy at Murrayfield the stadium was half full. England, France and Wales would not want relegation and clubs would not want to lose players. A larger competition would have to run both sides of Christmas, so no Autumn internationals against the Southern Hemisphere teams.

    Scottish Rugby is in a perilous state at the moment, weak clubs, struggling regional sides, huge debts, an ordinary international team (what has happened to our front row?) and junior international sides that get cuffed week after week and which are predominantly made up of a small pool of players from the public schools.

    The lesser nations may be catching us up or we may be going backwards. The top six nations teams are now looking for regular parity with the Tri nations. Although Ireland are needing to rebuild their national team, their regions are strong as is junior rugby. I suspect Scotland needs to follow the model of our near neighbour after all, we've double the population.

    We have three teams in our group with limited games. Romania and Georgia rely on 10 man rugby and a strong pack. How many breaks did Romania's backs make in the match? Argentina are a bit more expansive but mainly rely on kicking and slowing the ball. When will Scotland get in into their skulls that the way to beat these teams soundly is to run them off the park or was all that sprint training for nothing? This is why Andy Robinson is so frustrated when we try to mix it in the forwards or play kicking tennis as this plays straight into the lesser teams strategy. Twice on Saturday, in the last ten minutes, Scotland kicked away possession in midfield when they should have recycled and developed quick phases. We seem to lack the forethought to do this. When we did recycle quickly we went through Romainia like butter.

  • Comment number 41.

    Grassroots rugby in Wales is also approaching a negative tipping point due to low participation. As a parent, I worry about whether my lad should follow the family sport now that it is an impact sport between bodybuilders. Twenty years ago there was a debate as to whether to broaden or deepen the EU. The British pushed to broaden its membership, and resisted getting in deeper. Conversely, I think British rugby now needs to concentrate its efforts on getting the sport safe according to 21C expectations, and then it will be an easier sport to sell.

  • Comment number 42.

    can't see the six nations being expanded purely because of when the tournament is. If you make it an 8 or more nations then clubs will lose their players for too long in the 2nd half of the season, the risk of injury increases and of pure tiredness. I think the play-off system is the way to go personally although that does risk a yo-yo effect with one team going down and then bouncing straight back up. But i believe resurrecting the churchill cup would help both these 'lesser' nations and our own home nations because we could use them to develop young talent before throwing them straight into the first team but also give the other nations more rugby experience and get the profile of rugby in those countries higher and higher.

    I also, unfortunately, don't see a tonga/fiji/samoa in the tri/four nations because a load of those players play over here and i don't think they are quite there yet in competing with the established forces in the southern hemisphere. I agree and am glad that argentina have been included because, despite the travelling, they are a quality side that is always written off, they don't play together at all really and always show true passion and heart in their game. They got to the semis last time and are weakened with injuries atm so shouldn't be judged on this world cup.

  • Comment number 43.

    I notice all those who are against the expansion give reasons such as maintaining the elite standard.

    Absolute rubbish. Your just scared that one of the little teams may give you a bloody nose.

    It wouldn't be impossible for Italy or Scotland to be relegated to Tier 2 and then be runners up in that setup to Georgia or Romania. That is why they are scared. Because if they get relegated they may not bounce straight back, just like Woucester didn't a couple of years ago.

    They hate the idea of an Exeter type breaking into the top tier and keeping their place. And Georgia or Romania could realistically do this.

  • Comment number 44.

    Leave the 6 nations and have another 6 nations with the likes of Spain Romania Russia and 3 others. The two winners have play off final. No relegation or promotion.

  • Comment number 45.

    A play off between the bottom of the 6N and the top of the ENC may be the best compromise - though I fear that this may still feel too close for comfort for some teams. Increasing the competition to eight teams may be more palatable in that case.
    If this doesn't happen it will be a great shame. Whilst commercial factors obviously have to be considered if a way isn't found to make something work then it may be a sign that the sport is going the way of football - more money, less morals. If done correctly developing rugby in the rest if the world will lead to greater commercial opportunity.
    To develop the sport we need to be quicker at adapting. Rather than seeing 'small teams' overcome huge adversity to become forces in the game only for there to be such long delays adding the team to the main international scene that the team has give backwards (as has been the case with Italy and Argentina)

  • Comment number 46.

    hi no #43,
    my post at #25 makes standards an incidental point.
    However, I am afraid of the secnario that you illustrate. I believe that we are in danger of not appreciating what we have till we've lost it.
    It may well be that rugby culture in 21CN is neither as plastic nor as durable as some would assume.
    p.s. am welsh.

  • Comment number 47.

    I don't agree, the whole reason the 6 nations is so successful is because of the history and rivalry that exists between these teams. People are willing to pay big money to watch scotland take on england, but who'd bother paying to see england trounce russia etc?
    The way forward as I see it is to create a competition where by the existing rivarly between these teams is nurtured. Think of a tournement where Russia take on Georgia, or Spain take on Portugal? The recent interest in the USA vs Canada series is an example of how this would work. Once there is sufficient interest, the standards will rise because of the increased investment.

    And in a somewhat irrational and sentimental way, I would also hate to see a home nation become relegated. What would the six nations be without the annual thiller of Wales vs Scotland?
    A playoff system like the NFL I would also dislike because you wouldn't have a Grand Slam, where the winning team had beaten all of the others competing.

  • Comment number 48.

    While I enjoy the occasional sevens, and am pleased that the sport is expanding in that direction, I see sevens as a 'gateway' to fifteens and feel it is important that fifteens remains the top level of the game. To do so the appeal and reach needs to be expanded drastically to compete on the order of football.

    For me the answer is an adoption system, followed by a promotion system in the 6 nations sometime around 2015.

    First up, each top tier nation would 'adopt' a tier two or three nation, mainly meaning that each professional club would have to have two or three backs and two or three forwards from that nation on the books.

    There'd have to be some sensible control on such a system, for instance established minor nations players such as Saracens Burger could be counted towards the cap at that club irrespective of the country Saracens were linked with. On the other hand, Edinburgh's Visser wouldn't count until he accepted a cap from the Dutch. I think most sensibly being accepted on such a contract would disallow the residency qualification so as to avoid draining players from adopted countries.

    This would also require some adjustment on the adoptions. For instance, England and France might adopt two or even three nations, due to the number of clubs, whereas Italy and Scotland might adopt the same country due to the relative lack of top level clubs...

    Another aspect would be tours by the clubs to their adopted country every two years or so. An opportunity for the club to give youngsters a run out against local teams and develop local youth programmes in the style of Lions tours visiting schools etc.

    The Unions would also be on hand to assist in the development of the game in each adopted country, with the eventual goal being the establishment of professional leagues in countries that can support such.

    Finally, a full second tier 6 Nations with promotion/relegation. Scheduling this competition would be a problem, as clashing with the 6 Nations and Autumn Internationals would both anger clubs and probably reduce the playing opportunities of the players we're trying to help when they could be filling in for Internationals. The Summer break would seem to be the best slot, and would rely somewhat on the players getting some rest during the regular season.

    To note: I would apply exactly the same system to the Southern Hemisphere, and also apply this to league below the top in whichever country that were still professional [reducing the player requirement to perhaps 1 back and on forward at those levels due to fewer resources].

    In the long term, once countries can compete and have their own professional leagues in place their adoption would end and the top tier nation would adopt someone further down the rankings. The ex-adoptee can then repay the favour to yet another nation.

  • Comment number 49.

    #48
    loved the first half of your post, with adopting minor nations.

  • Comment number 50.

    @Etiene
    That sounds like a promising strategy and deserves to be explored and hopefully applied in someway - even if it were simply a case of the IRB providing professional clubs a reimbursement for adopting players of specific nations
    I've often thought about New Zealand co-operating with USA rugby. Can you imagine building Maori rugby culture within the Native American community?

  • Comment number 51.

    #43

    What exactly is wrong with wishing to maintain the only means by which Scotland can continue to function as a first class rugby nation? I don't want to pitch up at Murrayfield to watch Scotland struggle to beat the likes of Spain, yet that is exactly what will happen once Scotland loses its current status. Rugby in this country simply will not survive without the annual subsidy from competing in the 6N and interest in the sport will undoubtedly wane.

    How does that help spread the rugby gospel? Boosting the game in one country only to see it die in another makes no sense whatsoever. Rugby is a professional sport and the only line that matters isn't the try line, it's the bottom line. If you can't fill enough seats at Murrayfield five or six times a year, the game ceases to be viable. 6N rugby only just achieves that. ENC rugby most certainly will not.

    The argument is exactly the same as the one that keeps Rangers and Celtic out of the English Premier League. Firstly, the existing teams see no reason to make their survival any more difficult than it already is, and secondly, Rangers and Celtic have no right to play in that league anyway.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ #51 That is exactly the narrow minded, self preservation view that too many people adopt. Just because Scotland played in the 1st ever international with England does not give them a Divine Right to be at the top of the pecking order. If they are good enough they will stay there.

    Maybe the real issue is with the SRU who have failed to develop the scottish game beyond public schools, not providing enough support to the 2 regions and generally failing to improve the image of scottish rugby.

    And if we lose 1 nation but gain 4 or 5 as we may do with Georgia, Russia, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Ukrain and The Netherlands all knocking on the door then so what?

    If it helps, England will adopt Scotland as their minnow country and support them as suggested by poster #48. We will play you for the Calcutta cup every year whether you are ranked 5th or 50th in the world as that is a tradition that should be kept alive.

  • Comment number 53.

    And what makes you think that the other Europeans don't have any right to play in the 6N's.

    You are comparing apples and oranges here pal. As you quite rightly point out it is the ENGLISH PL not the GB PL. Also Rangers and Celtic have always wanted a guarantee that they would be in the Top division which no other team in the competition has.

    The 6N's is a competition played by European INTERNATIONAL sides so playing in another countries comp does not come into it. If Scotland can't take care of their own backyard why should they be a protected species?

    I for one don't care if Scotland v England is the oldest contest in rugby. If you have not noticed times have changed and the game has spread and the more countries that become competitive the better off the sport as a whole will be.

  • Comment number 54.

    @Philip Tibbetts #50

    I think if done properly the IRB wouldn't need to provide the funding in many cases. The clubs could get a cut of the TV rights to broadcasting their domestic [and European] matches in the adopted country. Clearly it would be good to funnel some of that money into the national set-up of the adoptee, but it would be a way of sweetening the pot for the clubs.

    A compulsory adopter-adoptee Autumn International, with the profits to the adoptee would also help to fund the development of the adopted nation. If England and France were to have two adoptees then one might have to play the Saxons [alternating annually] so as to avoid crowding or extending the November window.

    It would be nice to think that with the right promotion the scheme would engender an affection for the adoptee that would fill the stadia for these fixtures, but the other option might be a double header with two minnows playing before/after a regular AI and getting a majority of the profit.

    In a wider sense too, the link could be promoted with administrative/organisational help from the unions for club tours [junior and senior] to the adopted nations with the aim of expanding grass-roots participation [in both countries].

    @obangobang #51

    I realise this is a Scottish blog, and I have no wish to see the demise of Scottish Rugby, but I feel short-sighted protectionism is a very bad option. The SRU must save the game in Scotland by building from the ground up, not attempting to throttle opposition from overseas.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi John - sorry Joker here again.

    I'm not sure you've thought this one through. Whilst an "expanded" 6N would help the 'lesser' teams I'm not sure that it would help any of the current 6N teams. Before all those above start their banal moanings about elitism, etc, the idea of professional sport is to be successful, is it not? In effect to be the the best (winning World Cups, etc).

    Scottish rugby has 2 goals - (1) to beat England (2) to be better/the best. Well, lets not go off at a tangent about (1), but as for (2), you yourself have commented previously about the problems with the SRU/the failings of the Scottish side, to compete at the highest level. How is playing against "lesser" teams going to help that? Whether the Scots like it or not, Scotland needs to play against NZ,Oz, SA, Fra, Eng because its these teams you have to beat in order to win competitions. Playing against Romania is not going to help!

  • Comment number 56.

    For the future of the game , some time soon there needs to be a "re vamp" of the major European championship. I understand that a couple of the smaller unions will feel threatened to lose their status as a "protected species" which the current 6N set up provides them , however I feel if one looks to what has happened in football ( Soccer) with the now defunct home nations championships , rugby would be taking a huge gamble to not pro-actively shape the future of it's sport. Ignoring the growing strength in Russia, Romanian, Georgia , Spain, Portugal etc etc runs the risk that the 6N will eventually become a bit part in the history of the sport as did it's football counterpart. That would be a shame and a waste of the history of the current 6N. It's a few years until any of the non 6N will be ready to compete in the 6N , but that doesn't mean they don't deserve the chance to win their place.
    I favour a multi tier system with playoffs for promotion/demotion. If the bottom of the 6N can't beat the top of the tier below them, I would ask what justification is there for their place in the top tier? I would go for a single play off game, played in the home of the top team from the league below. It would be a HUGE money spinner/reward for the 2nd string teams and give their union a great boost to market their game. It would also put some pep into , what sometimes , become "dead rubbers" at the end of the 6N with teams having nothing tangible to play for in their last game other than pride. The thought of an away day to Tiblisi to play Georgia in front of 70,000+ rabid Georgians for your place in the top tier of rugby is likely to sharpen the focus.

    For the game to grow , not just in developing nations , there needs to be a clear an achievable path for them to develop (AKA a big carrot) . Within the "developed" nations , there also needs to be a reason ( AKA a big stick ) for them to evolve and improve. The playing side of the game has become hugely more professional , however much of the infrastructure and running of the game remains in the dark ages, run by those who Will Carling aptly called the "old farts in suits" . The fans of the sport need to keep those administrators reminded of their duties to continuously develop and market their sport in their own country. I agree with #52 the real question from the fan base should not be "how do we keep our protected species status" it should be " if Russia, Romania and Georgia can improve so much , what can we learn from them so we can have a similar rise" .

    My question to #51 is , if as you say, rugby in Scotland ( and I don't think Scotland will lose their place unless their suits fail to wake up) can't continue without being bailed out by the money from the 6N and their standard of play is such they would lose to the top team from the tier below. Is that money being put to effective use? Why should the IRB pour money into an in-efficient union when that money could be better used elsewhere. The pressure should be put on the game's administrators in that union to get better.

    IMHO the alternative to a revamped 6N , which runs annually , would be a 4 yearly "European cup" ala football. I think this would lead to major disruption of the domestic club leagues every other year (one in 4 to WC and one in 4 to a Euro cup). With the physical demands of the sport, I don't think that is in the interests of the players or the fans.

  • Comment number 57.

    The idea of a Euro-Cup every 4 years is ill thought out. In between world cups we already have the Lions tours. Meaning that either the best players would not be at the Euro-Cup or the best players would not be playing for the Lions. Either way it is not the correct solution.

    Personally the only part of tradition I feel that should be kept is the Lions tours as they are a great ambassador for the game. Though I would like to see them play a tour match against the Pacific nations and maybe even play a European 2nd Tier nation as a warm up in their own country. (All proceeds to go to the developing nation)

    This would help add to the aura around the Lions and provide a good revenue for the smaller nations as well as giving them exposure to better players. Lions vs Russia in Moscow or Lions vs Georgia in Tiblisi sound good to anyone else?

  • Comment number 58.

    This seems to come up every time a 'smaller' rugby nation does quite well against one of the more established sides. As it stands I can't see how expanding the 6 nations to more countries could be done without damaging the domestic leagues. You only have to look at how much Northampton dipped during this year six nations to show how much it can effect a team.

    If it's going to happen it has to be a two division system which kind of destroys the point of doing it in the first place, the idea of giving the 'smaller' sides more top flight games when they'd only end up playing the 'lesser' six nations teams. You would also probably end up killing off the top part of the six nations with fewer games and cutting out some of the historic encoutners. For example imagine if Scotland or England dropped to the lower tier, we'd lose the iconic Calcutta Cup game. I for one don't want to see this happen.

  • Comment number 59.

    Lions old school, the days of touring is over. Leave touring to the amateur. The suggested of the Euro cup two years after RWC is a great idea.

  • Comment number 60.

    52

    You are wrong.

    The SRU has worked hard over the past 5 years to spread the game beyond the private schools. my club for one has no players that went to private schools, we have joiners, farmers, fishermen, who all went to state schools, and we have benefitted from SRU support in coaching, fundraising, and player development. Of course it is not perfect and must continue to improve.

    As for being adopted by England, would that mean we would have to start playing ten man rugby, and would all the other teams start to hate us because we have an arrogant, self centred, vainglorious parent.

  • Comment number 61.

    It is understandable to want to help the smaller rugby nations but could it actually work?

    Would there really be a huge uptake on the likes of England vs Russia or England vs Georgia, this is without even mentioning lower key matches like Wales vs Romania or Scotland vs Portugal?

    There needs to be an interest in watching the smaller teams.

    Are there not sufficient competitions for them currently? Haven't they taken part in the Churchill Cup and Nations Cup?

  • Comment number 62.

    Food for thought here, John. Some good ideas from you and other contributors.

    The main problem with any ideas that mean many more international matches is that it will cause more troubles with the clubs. In England especially just recently we've seen the club sides form-book turned on it's head because of missing players on world cup duty. I think this will be a big obstacle, but perhaps one that needs addressed, if only because in Rugby Union the international game is the pinnacle, unlike other team sports. Let's face it, if you had three times the capacity at Twickenham, Cardiff or Dublin, those places would still be full.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ #60 xcoach

    If you talk to anyone about scottish grass roots rugby the common consensus is the majority of its players are ex-public school boys. I'm glad to hear that your team is different. But if your club is more of an exception than the rule then scottish rugby is still in trouble at grass roots level.

    The fact is that your professional domestic game is in dire straights however you look at it. Whilst the Welsh regions are filling there grounds and English clubs are trying to expand them, the 2 Scottish clubs are failing to attract fans.

    There is a reason for this, mainly a lack in direction from the the top of the SRU down. You need clubs to be successful to attract fans. But in order to be successful you need to keep top players. In order to keep top players you need funds, which is either from a wealthy benefactor (SRU) or revenue from winning and attracting investors/fans.

  • Comment number 64.

    Wow, thanks for these comments. Isn't it a great World Cup though? Don't know how I am going to get through it all these sleepless nights.

    Warriorwarcry - No, I didn't got to Firhill but I guess Munster are more streetwise. I think Robert Harley will go all the way - but it might be second row.

    Sir William 1980 - stressful for me to, was sitting there with ten minutes left thinking it was going to be a disaster. I like your optimism!

    PT 8475 I love your optimism too!

    x coach, I am not sure I really mean a bigger Six Nations, as you're right the space isn't there in the tv schedules, but we might see play offs to get into the Six Nations with a link between the SIx NAtions and a lower league - what a threat that would be to Scotland though

    Drowningnotwaving - I think my reply is the same as to xcoach in that it's more about the capability of other teams to join a six nations

  • Comment number 65.

    Silverspider - I think he probably meant in terms of game plan. I guess Georgia will expect Scotland to play that wide game they tried early on against Romania, I have always believed you take a team on where THEY think they are strong - so hammer at the Georgian pack

    JR doobidoo that's it, that relegation issues is the one

    Einveldi - yup, same argument promotion and relegation

    Alex - yes they would, oh dear am I repeating a sentiment.

    Theosportsfan - you are on to something. I guess you have to have various "peaks" in a rugby life and you couldn't have a rugby world cup every year but some kind of major league would be interesting. It's amazing how competitions have varied over the years with transport becoming quicker - cricket has more one day internationals etc

  • Comment number 66.

    Duncan Coull - yes, the players have said that haven't they - it must have felt easy at the start and then, whoosh, the whole thing started turning - just like my run just now which was one and a half miles into the wind, and then on the way back a magic carpet, except the reverse was true for the Scotland rugby team

    Falling TP I get your point. I meant in their pools.

    Rawxing - that's it in a nutshell

    I'll come back in a wee while, off to hide from the gales now battering Scotland

  • Comment number 67.

    63

    The SRU are not wealthy they are in debt because of the headlong rush to pro rugby, so there is no more money for the two teams. I for one would be delighted if all our pro players moved to other countries and our two teams were disbanded. We could then put all that money into grass roots. The pro players would improve as would the club game. Just look at Argentina , 3rd in the last WC and all their players in European Clubs.

    Our starting team for Geogia has only 4 home based players, and i think they will do better than the 9 home players that faced Romania. But we will have to see.

    You are wrong about the the majority of players being ex private school the split is probably 50/50 at best throughout the clubs.

  • Comment number 68.

    #43 Do they? You should read more of them. Rugby is a minority sport in Scotland and is already struggling to survive financially. How well do you think it would do if it didn't have the income from the international matches people do want to see? When Scotland is already struggling to ensure it has the players available for training and autumn internationals, how likely do you think it is the clubs will want to release them more often? It's the paying fans who keep the game alive in Scotland, alienate them and watch the game die.

  • Comment number 69.

    @#67 XCOACH

    As someone who has only toured in scotland I will take your word for it on the 50/50 Public school split. In England it is probably 15/85 - 20/80 tops. Which still indicates that the game is still dominated by an ex public school players image, which needs to be changed.

    Also if you don't want to have a professional league, then what makes you think you have a divine right to be in the 6N? Russia have a fledgling pro league, so surely they have a better setup and could be deemed more worthy of a place?

    Personally I am in favour of promotion & relegation between Tier 1 and Tier 2. If your good enough to be there, your good enough to beat the Tier 2 nations and come back up. We should at least offer a bottom vs top play-off to see if the 2nd tier is closing the gap.

    Food for thought

  • Comment number 70.

    @ #68 Drowningnotwaving

    The arguement that we can't let Scotland be relegated because it will kill the game there is ridiculous. If it was the other way round with England floundering the Scots would be all for letting Georgia or Romania in.

    The fact is if we keep the top tier as a closed shop then there is no way of scotland remaining competative. You will become the whipping boys of the 6N if you aren't scared of being relegated, because there is a safety net in place. Competition and threat of relegation breeds success. Look at the French top 14 and English Premiership.

    Also we can't go on about being a global game for everyone when we won't let our little cousins have a seat at our table.

  • Comment number 71.

    Have you been at Murrayfield recently? When did you last see it full and do you remember when it used to be very, very difficult to get tickets for a match? The SRU have managed to cut their overdraft, but it's still sizeable and the budgets for the two pro teams are under a lot of pressure. They also keep losing, so they're neither going to attract more spectators or tempt more youngsters to take up the game. Relegation wouldn't change that either.

    If the SRU loses income by not having the big teams playing at Murrayfield every year, what's your realistic solution to keeping the game alive? The pro teams wouldn't improve and those wishing to watch or play the game themselves wouldn't increase. When Edinburgh and Glkasgow were competing at the top of the Magners League, the crowds grew. Last season put paid to that.

    Fear of relegation wouldn't fire up a team if they can't get fired up already for competing in the 6Nations. If you can't understand that, you don't have much to back up anything else you have to say.

  • Comment number 72.

    In short, no. In the 6N you only need to win one game to avoid being bottom, as long as it is against the team at the bottom at the end. At some point Scotland will be at the bottom and relegated to the 2nd tier. Given the current fragile state of the pro game in Scotland that will be the end of Scotland as a top flight rugby nation. Is that what you want, John?

    That may smack of self interest but I see no reason why somebody should not look out for their own.

    For the benefit of #70, yes it would kill the game in Scotland if they were relegated. The current state is 2 professional teams struggling to attract crowds and a second tier with little or no crowds whatsoever. Drop Scotland off the top flight of international rugby and the current pro teams would disappear and the new top tier, P1, would implode through infighting as to who should represent Scotland in Europe - and so be the whipping boys of Europe for a couple of years before they are flung out for not being competitive. As Scotland would have no attractive international matches there would be no revenue for the union to distribute to the grass roots. The game would go so far backwards that Shinty would become our 2nd team sport.

    The situation is no less fragile in Ireland where only success keeps the crowds coming back. BTW, the All Ireland football final is on at Croke Park next weekend and they expect a full house of over 80,000 - rubgy is not their number 1 or number 2 team sport.

  • Comment number 73.

    52. Hooker.

    The tone of smugness in your comments at times are incredible. Rugby in Scotland is a secondary sport as it is in England. The only saving grace is that England have ten times the resources of the SRU.
    Was it you or another your arrogant ilk that was getting up set in a previous blog because SRU did not wish the English well in 2003 final? With an attitude like yours is it little wonder we Scots like to take a pop at you.
    Here is hope the English team carry the same arrogance through to the Oct 1st Test and complacency gets the better of on the night... because it nearly dealt to them on Saturday.
    Scotland are a small nation treading water in professional rugby... getting no handouts from the IRB and if anything they often punch above their weight. England are the exact opposed financially rich in money, resources and player base... yet still have to shop for players in the Southern Hemisphere to help their cause.

  • Comment number 74.

    John, you mentioned your opposition to Italy joining the 5 nations but you forget that before them Romania were contenders for joining, and probably still were when Italy did join. Not being selected must have been quite a blow to Romanian rugby and it has taken them a while to recover from it.

    Anybody who thinks that Scotland could survive a similar blow (being relegated from the top tier of international rugby) is sadly deluded. Almost as deluded as thinking that doing away with our remaining 2 professional clubs will be good for the game in Scotland.

  • Comment number 75.

    Perhaps it would be better for these emerging nations to build up some support base and rugby awareness first, by the IRB funding a fully professional team in each of these countries. They could play in the French leagues or RaboDirect and Heineken Cup. Eventually there would be no need for their players to have to wander abroad to earn a living. Likewise for the Pacific Islands and Argentina, who could each have a professional team in the Super 15/20. It is a matter of time before the likes of Russia, and its oligarchs, take rugby seriously and challenge the established nations and their elitism.

  • Comment number 76.

    on the comments about growing the game in Scotland and the number of Former Private school pupils playing:

    Think about it, how many state schools play rugby? What percentage of State schools is this? Of these schools how many have more than a First XV? Now do the same for the Private schools. You'll find that all the private schools (that admit boys) will play rugby, and will have multiple teachers on the role that can coach it. When I was at school we had 4 senior XVs made up of pupils in S4-S6, as far as I'm aware, the school now only has 3 senior XVs, but that's still more teams than the 6 state schools in my local area (only one of which plays rugby). State schools will generally only do rugby if they happen to have a teacher that is willing and able to take rugby. Bellshill Academy used to have a team, but when the teacher that took rugby retired in 2007, they stopped. Braidhurst in Motherwell (a so called sports comprehensive), started up touch rugby last year because a probationer there had a passion for the sport.

    #63 I'd say xcoach's club is not an exception, my club is the same, 5 former private school pupils in the senior club. Maybe you're just asking about around Inverleith in Edinburgh or Anniesland in Glasgow where there is a larger proportion of Former Private School pupils, but the reason for that is somewhat obvious.

  • Comment number 77.

    From what I can gather the SRU just don't appear to be very proactive in getting into the state schools the length and breadth of the counrty to try and push the game. It should be there goal to make sure that every school in Scotland has a rugby team, that every area of Scotland has a club so that these school boys have a club to join after they leave school.
    The grass roots up is the only way to build the sport and getting bogged down with the old school tie mentality of never the twain shall they meet has got to go.
    Whilst the SRU are down in NZ during the World Cup these should get out and about and just see how well the school and club rugby is run there from ages 5 up.

  • Comment number 78.

    Why does European rugby, like in football, have a knockout competition every four years?, it would allow the tradition of Six nations rugby to continue and the "minnows" to improve. It would also mean more rugby and more knockout competitions and so then they can become more used to it and finally address the balance in World cup winners between the north and south hemisphere.
    It would also mean that the likes of Scotland, Wales and Italy have a chance of winning the competition. If they held it in smaller rugby nations such as Portugal and Spain it would add to the growth of the game and they have the infrastructure to hold it with stadiums such as the Nou Camp.

  • Comment number 79.

    I feel that half the attraction and atmosphere around the 6 Nations is because it is one of the last stages where the Home Nations are competing against each other on a competitive level year after year. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid its demise would matter less to the English than to the rest of us. I think if one or two of the Celtic Nations, either due to lack of funding or popular interest, were to no longer be seriously competitive then that would be the beginning of the end for the 6 Nations in its current format.

    The tournament cannot expand in size because the Clubs would not be prepared to release players for preparation for more International fixtures than they currently do in what is already an overcrowded fixture list. Players are already reaching premature burn out due to too much rugby.

    If Scotland did get relegated to a league so that they were not playing the Home Nations and France regularly, I'm afraid I think interest in the game would very quickly wain and Scotland's ability to remain competitive against the top International Teams would no longer be sustainable. So personally I desperately hope for a number of reasons (not least because its so exciting and fun) that it remains for a long time in its current form. For all that many people criticise it, I think that it would be greatly missed if it disappeared.

  • Comment number 80.

    Erm i cant help thinking that some are getting carried away with the idea of letting other European nations into the six nations.
    You all seem to be basing the reason to let them in on the fact that Romania nearly beat a very poor Scotland side.
    The fact of the matter is, most sides in the six nations would normally give Romania a good tonking.
    Whilst i agree these teams need more help to progress, the six nations is what it is and should never be changed in my view.
    Maybe another solution would be, to let the likes of Georgia, Romania, Russia, Spain and Portugal take part in the Heineken cup.
    This way its going to expose them playing together as a team, to a high standard of rugby regularly and hopefully progress.
    And if nothing else it will mean the amount of English and French teams in the Heineken cup would be less. But hopefully they could end up with their own tournament on a parallel with the six nations,

  • Comment number 81.

    I remember on some of my old rugby playstation games they created a tournament called the 10 Nations (6 Nations, Tri Nations and Argentina) and was based out as a league playing 1 game each. How I wish this wasn't made up! We've seen what the minnows can do; Romania, Japan, Namibia etc so I believe making two of these leagues would be hugely beneficial for not only the minnow nations, but also the better teams, and the bottom three from the top league demoted (for example Italy, Argentina, Scotland) and 1st and 2nd place (for example Samoa and Japan) to be automatically promoted, with the 3rd spot up for grabs through a semi-final, final playoff system, similar to the footballing league. This would give quality game time and huge match experience to the likes of Canada, Namibia etc who play maybe a few times a year bar World Cups. I believe this would not only be exciting for audiences, but would better the game of rugby. At present, I cannot see any flaws.

    The league would be like this

    A

    1. New Zealand
    2. Australia
    3. South Africa
    4. France
    5. Ireland
    6. Wales
    7. England
    8. Scotland
    9. Argentina
    10. Italy

    B

    1. Samoa
    2. Canada
    3. Fiji
    4. Tonga
    5. USA
    6. Japan
    7. Romania
    8. Georgia
    9. Namibia
    10. Russia

  • Comment number 82.

    There is an amazing lack of knowledge on here about rugby in Europe, reflecting that in Scotland rugby is a ghetto sport x 2. Firstly because it is largely a sport of a small middle class locally, played in the context of an Anglo-saxon sport globally. the infrastructure of the sport in Europe is far more democratic than the game reflects at 6 nations level. I remember John being quite vehement in his opposition to Italy entering the 6 nations, who would question it now?
    However, French and English clubs would not give up another couple of weekends to allow the entry of Georgia and Romania.
    I have read people say, that maybe these top Euro-sides who are not in the 6 Nations should have their own tournament. they do it has been running for years it's called the European Nations Cup. Division 1a has Georgia, Romania, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Ukraine. the bottom side will be relegated to Division 1b, featuring Belgium, Moldova, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, and Netherlands. So on down the leagues to another 23 nations, who over 2 seasons play each other subject to promotion and relegation.
    Now here's the rub do we stay in the cosy glee club that let's us put on our kilts and goe to the same 5 cities every second year, or do we want the sport to grow?

  • Comment number 83.

    69 hooker

    I didn't say we had a devine right to six nations. We have to work at it. what i said was rugby is a minority sport here as it is everywhere apart from NZ, SA, and the south sea islands. The SRU are improving and investing in the game. Murrayfield was built with 2m of public money and no handouts from Govt, lottery or quangos. J

    England has 2100 clubs and more refs than we have players. In playing numbers England have 2.5m male players, Scotland has 36000 less than 2%. try putting out an international team to compete with these resources. We do well and are working hard to do better.

    The pro teams are a luxury we cannot afford, much as we would like to we have to be realistic.

    Touring Scotland and having a few drinks in the bar after the match, is not an insight into our rugby culture. Just as when i read that the RFU can't appoint a new CEO, Performance Director or even publish a report on the state of their game for fear of exposing the old farts, I know nothing of the truth.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hang on guys... whats all the Scotland bashing - Scotland would be in the second tier/relegated etc!

    Aren't we 7th on the IRB ranking, and regularly sit between 7th and 9th over the past several years. Yes we didn't play well against Romania, but we won when we switched on after getting a fright!

    We have beaten the Pumas over the last few seasons, did we not beat the Aussies and SA a short time back. Should have done better at the 6 nations last year, granted, but we are not that bad a team.

    Italy beat France earlier this year - does that make France a bad team? The year that Ireland got a scare by Georgia was the year they won the triple crown!

    The 6 nations is a historical competition, started from the 4 home nations. We have history with the other home nations with us all having the ability to beat each other on the day. The second tier teams will have days when the run a bigger team close, but these are far between.

  • Comment number 85.

    Instead of expanding the Six nations why not every four years (i.e. two away from a WC) miss it out and have a European tournament?

    4 groups of 4, top two qualify from each. Quarters, semis, finals.

    3 pool games, 3 knockout means the max any team is playing is 6 so not much of an expansion over the current 5 for the 6N.

  • Comment number 86.

    Why does everybody lumber the schools with growing the game? What are the clubs themselves doing about it? From what I hear from the posters here the answer is "diddly squat". The schools exist to educate children, not provide the next batch of gym monkeys.

  • Comment number 87.

    Romania became strong in the 80s, Cananda started making a case for inclusion in the 1990s, but Canada is a long way away for the Blazers to travel and the shopping in Bucharest didn't really appeal to their wives.

    Funny how Italy was fast tracked into the 6 nations. Trips to Rome in the springtime, perfect for the missus.

    My advice to aspiring rugby nations, get some quality shops.

  • Comment number 88.

    BTW I'm not saying Italy shouldn't be in there, I love having them, just don't underestimate the power that 57 old WAGs can have.

  • Comment number 89.

    I am surprised by the shock of people in regards to the standard of Romania's game. People seem to forget that until the uprising in Romania they were beaing talked about possibly joining the the Five nations, as they were then of a standard similar to Italy now.

    I understand many of the arguments for and against the expansion six nations in what ever form that might take. My concern would be yet another influx of cheap players into the home nations club sides, leaving even less chances for home grown talent to develop.

  • Comment number 90.

    I love how when I say that we should have a promotion and relegation system I get attacked by all Scots, who are saying it should be kept the way it is and cite reasons such as tradition and to prevent the decline of Scottish rugby.

    The whole point of this blog was about how to expand and grow the game. Yet a lot of people on here are being very narrow-minded and only looking at the short term. I agree the RFU haven't done enough to help smaller nations and if I was in charge things would be different. But we are where we are, and shortly we will have to make space at the top table for emerging nations.

    Even if the relegation/promotion system was to happen it wouldn't be until around 2015, which gives time for both Scotland and Italy to improve enough that they shouldn't be threatened by it. I've said it before and will say it again - If you are good enough to be there, you will stay there. If you're not, you will be relegated - SIMPLES!

  • Comment number 91.

    The trouble with expanding the 6Nations is time. If we expand the 6Nations we will have two tier rugby. Look a cricket for an example. Because of the IPL taking 6 weeks or more out of the year we have constant cricket. However after a while the injuries start to appear. Not clubs but players started to decide to ration their cricket. Players have started to say no to the IPL.
    It would be the same in Rugby. If we extend the 6Nations players will start to say too much. Five test matches is enough year on year for the 6Nations.
    Expanding the 6Nations is a shout made from armchair political correct idiots who have never played the game at test level.
    We should have three 6Nations across the world. Now Argentina is joining the Tri Nations you could add two more teams from the south sea islands. Then four teams plus Russia and Japan for the other 6Nations.
    Then when the world cup comes around many more rugby teams will be used to playing in a tournament. The 6Nations should be used as a footprint to take around the world. We must not give in to Mr & Mrs political correct and allow them to ruin the second best rugby tournament in the world the 6nations. The first of course being the world cup itself.

  • Comment number 92.

    Simples is it Hooker... always is simples when you are speaking from a position of strength. If Scotland and Italy were getting trounced each and every match year on year then you may have a point. But they don't and you don't have a point.

  • Comment number 93.

    Poprridge,

    Well if they are competative within the 6N they should easily win a 1 off match against the top team in the ENC and stay up. So I don't see why everyone is being so precious about it.

  • Comment number 94.

    Hooker @ #90 Any decline in the game is bad for the game, no matter who it is. If, as some have suggested, the bottom 2 teams get relegated from the 6N then that is a decline in the game. To replace them with something less, which is what will happen in such circumstances, is also a decline in the game. The end result will be that the number of really top nations reduces from 9 to 5 - Tri-nations + England and France, with perhaps Wales as 'also rans'. Hardly an advancement in the game.

  • Comment number 95.

    @ #94 Philip - Read All Posts Carefully and Respond to what I wrote, not what you think I wrote.

    1st of all I am on about the team bottom of the 6N plays a 1 off against the team top of the ECN to decide who plays in the 6N. Not just relegating 2 teams and promoting 2 teams.

    Everyone seems to be assuming that Georgia and Romania are lesser teams and that if they played in the 6N it would devalue the tournament. Rubbish!!

    If they are good enough to beat the team bottom of the 6N then why shouldn't they be competative against the other 6N teams? If on the other hand they lose to the team bottom of the 6N then they won't be playing and it means that they still need to develop.

  • Comment number 96.

    Hooker @ #90 again "Scotland and Italy to improve enough that they shouldn't be threatened by it" implies stagnation from the other 4 nations in the competition and if that were to happen then England and France would be scared by it.

    BTW what have the RFU got to do with helping other nations?

  • Comment number 97.

    Hooker @ #94 You didn't read my post correctly or you would have seen "as some have suggested" Wakey, wakey.

    If as you suggest that there is a play-off then you are asking 2 countries to play off against each other outside of the international window and so not have their best players available (except at a price in England - more money to the RFU, kerching!). Sorry, but that is just plain daft when the international schedule is decided years in advance.

  • Comment number 98.

    Philip,

    The FRU have helped in developing the game in smaller nations, whilst the home unions have turned a blind eye. I would like to see a committed programe where all the home unions agree to play 1 tour match against the Pacific Nations when they tour NZ and Australia as well as playing a smaller team in the AI's and donating all profits to the smaller nation. This will help the game grow much better than anything else.

    As for the stagnation comment, that is silly. I just want the 6N to be a tournament where on the 1st and last weekend nobody knows who will beat who and that any of the 6 teams could genuinely win the championship. That is advancement, not stagnation.

    I for one was jumping for joy when Italy beat France. Just like I want all the smaller nations to show up and scare (maybe even beat) the established order at the world cup. It shows that our game is growing and expanding, then we can say we are a truly global game for all.

  • Comment number 99.

    Hooker think you should take a closer look at home. Yes England have plenty of players and plenty of money with a big population to fill the gate... but your governing body is in disarray. The clubs just keep signing more and more talent from overseas... which is threatening the National team.
    England although the richest rugbying nation with by far the biggest pool of players, but currently do not have any world class players. None!

  • Comment number 100.

    Philip,

    Why did you direct your post at me then rather than the people who were calling for 2 teams to be relegated/promoted?

    And as for the play-off game, it can take place in the summer/autumn. If the IRB want to make the game global it needs to act in a way that shows it is committed to it, not just paying lip-service to keep people quiet.

    Unfortunately I think a lot of the people at the RFU, WRU, SRU, IRFU and IRB are so conservative that they make Maggie Thatcher look like a lefty liberal. The reality is that they will never sign up to expand the game because like many people opposing this change, they are scared that they will lose their power and money.

    Just remember - Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!

 

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