Six Nations relegation 'not on agenda' says chief executive Ben Morel

FLORENCE, ITALY - NOVEMBER 10: Beka Gorgadze of Georgia is tacked by Andrea Lovotti of Italy during the rugby international test match between Italy and Georgia at Artemio Franchi on November 10, 2018 in Florence, Italy.
Georgia are now two places ahead of Italy in the world rankings and pushing for inclusion in the competition

Relegation will not be introduced to the Six Nations, according to tournament chief Ben Morel, who also says there is no prospect of another country joining the competition.

Italy have not won a match in the series since 2015 and are two places below Georgia, who are pushing for inclusion, in the world rankings.

"Relegation is absolutely not on the agenda," Morel told BBC Sport.

"We are very happy that Italy is part of our championship."

Italy, who were added to the old Five Nations tournament in 2000, are 15th in the world rankings, while Georgia are 13th.

The Azzurri, who have lost their past 17 Six Nations games, start their 2019 campaign against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

"I would just say that in order to even start discussing relegation you need to be able to be relegated to some sustainable league or property and we are far from that," said Morel.

He also warned against the idea of adding another team to the Six Nations.

"There is a lot of temptation for sports generally to drive value by driving volume - rugby can't," he said.

"Player welfare is paramount; calendar and management of calendars is paramount.

"Adding more matches is not, for me, the immediate solution. The solution is to actually work on the value."

New international competition?

Likewise, Morel, who was part of what World Rugby described as "positive and productive" meetings on a shake-up of the international calendar last month, urged caution on innovations in the calendar more generally.

The talks between a number of union and competition chief executives took place in Los Angeles and explored further how to "invigorate" the Test game, including a new international competition.

"It is clear that any future adaptations to be considered will need to be a substantial improvement on the current set-up, which is successful as the latest autumn internationals series can attest," said Morel.

"It would also need to fully consider player welfare aspects and not dilute key existing and leading competitions such as Six Nations."

Raising profile of women's game

Morel said one of his "big topics" will be to "propel the women's game to the next level".

The Women's Six Nations takes place between 1 February and 17 March, with England and France expected to dominate.

"There is great opportunity behind the women's game," Morel said. "The Women's Six Nations has a lot of growth ahead of it.

"The time is now and I think there is a lot opportunity. The Six Nations should be the window for the quality of the entertainment that the women's game can provide.

"It can always be improved. We just need to propel it to the next level. The opportunity is just staring at us right now."

Top Stories