When a country finishes top of the the Six Nations table they lift the famous silver trophy, but what happens to the side that finishes last?
Should the Six Nations introduce relegation?
The men’s tournament started life as the Home Nations in 1883 as England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland battled it out before France joined the party in 1910. Italy’s arrival some 90 years later made it a nice round number.
The Holy Grail of the Six Nations, and its predecessors, is to win all of your games and claim a ‘Grand Slam’. On the other side of the coin, finish bottom and the nation suffers the ignominy of receiving the ‘wooden spoon’.
But currently there is no threat of relegation as the competition is ring-fenced to its current six participants.
This came under an unprecedented amount of pressure as Italy went on a 36-game losing streak between the 2015 and 2022 editions of the tournament. In the 2021 Six Nations, the Azzurri conceded a competition record 34 tries across five games and ended up with a minus 184 points difference.
During this time period, Georgia maintained their incredible record in the second tier competition, the Rugby Europe International Championships, the successor to the European Nations Cup.
The Lelos have won 11 out of the last 12 tournaments leading to increasing calls for their inclusion in the Six Nations.
Italy went some way to quietening the clamour for their axe when they ended a seven-year losing sequence as Edoardo Padovani’s try, converted by Paolo Garbisi, defeated Wales in the last round of the 2022 tournament.
Georgia will not give up without a fight, after beat Italy in a friendly during the summer of 2022, they went one better by shocking Wales in Cardiff during the Autumn Nations Series that followed.
Afterwards, captain Merab Sharikadze spoke passionately about Georgia getting its chance in the Six Nations. He said “It would be unfair if World Rugby tried to pretend this didn’t happen.
“It says a lot doesn’t it that we have beaten two top tier sides this year. I hope they [World Rugby] are watching us. I’m not arrogant, but I hope they don’t try to ignore what is happening. How can you when something is so obvious.”
Should there be Six Nations relegation?
YES, says the former Ireland hooker and now RTÉ analyst
I believe the bottom team in the Six Nations should face a play-off against the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship. I’m open to the Six Nations team playing only one leg, at home, but there should be the carrot for every country in Europe to play on the top stage.
I know from having coached at the Dragons the effect of having a losing record year on year. It can destroy the morale and self-confidence of players and the team environment.
The Top 14 have relegation and in the past clubs like Harlequins, Northampton, Bayonne and Lyon have bounced back from the drop, arguably stronger.
A season spent winning can galvanise a team and make them more competitive when they bounce back. It shouldn’t be the end of their journey, as some people suggest.
Also, teams lower down have an opportunity to develop and grow – that would be good for rugby across Europe rather than just the traditional countries.
Before 2000, Italy earned the right to enter the Six Nations but I feel that 21 years is a sufficient period to adapt and develop. Ringfencing hasn’t made the competition stronger so I would advocate a promotion/relegation play-off.
Should the Six Nations introduce relegation? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to rugbyworldletters@futurenet
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