Pressure for the tournament to be expanded has been growing for years, but what is the likelihood new countries will actually join the Six Nations?
Last year’s Rugby World Cup only amplified calls for the Six Nations to expand its membership, after the likes of Portugal and Georgia produced strong performances in the competition.
When coupled with Italy’s infamous 36-game losing streak in the championship, which ran from 2015 until last March’s stunning 22-21 victory over Wales, these demands gain a significant amount of credibility. Despite such arguments, how realistic would it be for any potential additions to happen?
Will other teams join Six Nations: South Africa
Reigning world champions South Africa were reportedly in talks to join the international tournament for its 2025 edition around two years ago, with Six Nations organisers subsequently rubbishing such claims. Speculation has nevertheless since continued and was fuelled further by Springboks player RG Snyman’s recent comments.
On last week’s Rugby Pod, Snyman discussed the opportunities entering the Six Nations would provide for his international side, as well as the issues currently blocking the move.
The Munster lock said: “It would be an interesting challenge for us to face, you know, playing the northern hemisphere teams more often and in the Six Nations.
“It would give us opportunity to win a different competition as well, but I guess then how will it work with the Rugby Championship, because you don’t really want to take away us playing the All Blacks?
“I don’t think anyone really wants that, because it’s such an iconic game. I think if you ask any other All Black or Springbok guys, they’ll both say we don’t really want to lose that.
“I don’t know if there is a way around it, but yeah.”
But any hopes of an imminent switch from the Rugby Championship, formerly known as the Tri Nations Series, were subdued by an article in South African media outlet Rapport which said negotiations had stalled between SA Rugby and CVC Capital Partners – who agreed a £365m deal with the Six Nations in 2021.
Due to this logjam, discussions regarding SA Rugby’s potential participation in Europe’s elite competition are not expected until at least 2030, according to Rapport’s sources.
Rugby Europe Championship: Portugal and Georgia
Before their recent 10-6 loss in the Rugby Europe Championship, World Cup heroes Portugal were being touted by many as a possible addition to the currently ring-fenced Six Nations. Os Lobos attained their first-ever point and win in France via an 18-18 draw with fellow underdogs Georgia and a historic 24-23 victory over Fiji, respectively.
Georgia have long been on the Six Nations wishlist of some fans, with the Lelos last year achieving a sixth successive Rugby Europe title and defeating Wales in Cardiff during the Autumn Nations Series the year before that. Former England hooker Richard Cockerill was appointed as the side’s new boss last month, and they started this year’s edition of the eight-nation tournament strongly with a 28-17 victory against Germany.
Given Italy’s consistently poor form in the Six Nations, some have even called for relegation to be introduced with the aim of forcing the Azzurri to improve and earn their participation on merit.
The likelihood of this happening soon, however, is slim. Since 2000 – when Italy joined the Six Nations – the Rugby Europe Championship has not seen any form of promotion to the continent’s top tier tournament.
For now, spectators are resigned to the fact teams will remain in the positions they currently hold. If anything does happen, it will require a significant shift in opinion from those at the top of the game. With that in mind, anyone hoping for a shake-up is advised to not hold their breath.
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