How to make 'global season' work
VIEW FROM DOWN UNDER: Dirk Baigent, an Austria-based reader, has penned an intriguing and thought-provoking column on five solutions how to make the proposed Nations Championship and global calendar work.
Given the success of Japan and the success of the World Cup in Japan last year and not that Augustine Pichot is challenging Bill Beaumont as Chairman of World Rugby, the idea of Nations Championship has been getting more airtime again.
As a diehard rugby fan based in Austria I’m all for expanding the global game.
When I first heard about the Nations Championship I loved the idea straight away. I spoke to a few friends that watch the occasional game and all of them said that it would be a great idea, because all those annual competitions are confusing.
Rugby needs one annual product to spearhead the sport.
Given that Japan’s 28-21 win over Scotland in the Yokohama attracted some 62-million viewers and the World Cup Final – when South Africa beat England 32-12 in Yokohama – had about 10-million viewers in Germany alone – shows the time is right for rugby to expand.
The Nations Championship idea has been getting a lot of criticism, with many unanswered questions.
Below is my attempt to provide five solutions to those conundrums.
No.1 – Schedule
So currently a Tier One team plays about 12 Tests a year. So how could we schedule the Nations Championship in order to see every team play each other once?
From a Six Nations view:
In February and March a Six Nations team will have played half of the league (five matches). In July they will play three more teams and in November they will play the remaining three teams.
From a Southern Hemisphere point of view:
A team will play three Six Nations teams in July, the Rugby Championship should be expanded to six teams with everyone playing each other once (five matches). In November they will play the remaining three teams.
That puts every team on 11 Tests per year.
No.2 – Travel
How do you solve the problem with Travel? The biggest geographical challenge will be in July, as a team could end up playing in Japan, Argentina and New Zealand within three weeks.
That would be unacceptable for the players in terms of jet-lag and recovery. So the best solution would be that three Six Nations teams play away to three teams that are geographically in close proximity – like New Zealand, Australia and Fiji.
The remaining teams travel to Europe and play away games there. As compensation for the extra away games, those teams get one more home game in the Rugby championship and financial support.
No.3 – Promotion and relegation
Promotion and relegation is one of the main reasons for the Nations Championship and it’s definitely a very sensitive topic.
However, there should only be a promotion-relegation series every two year. Let’s be honest, the concerns from the Six Nations countries are unfounded.
Yes, if one of the top five teams would get relegated, it could be the end of rugby in that country. If England, France, Scotland, Wales or Ireland actually lost all their games in a two-year cycle – including twice to Japan and Fiji – and then also lost to Georgia in a promotion-relegation series that would be the end of that union – regardless of Nations Championship or not.
Let’s be honest, there is only one team to which this could happen – Italy.
Italy could still feature in the Six Nations.
In the current schedule there are 11 Tests and one potential Final for every team right now. That means, except for the finalists, every Team could have one extra game when they face Georgia – should Italy go down.
Italy will still play five matches in the Six Nations – then face teams like Samoa, the United States, Romania, Portugal and Russia.
Winning is a habit and two years of dominance against the Tier Two countries would do the Italians a world of good I wouldn’t be surprised if they would have better results in the Six Nations after that.
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No.4 – Player welfare and Tier Two nations
Eleven matches per team would definitely be manageable for Players. Keeping the teams geographically close in July would also benefit recovery and player welfare.
The Rugby Championship could also include longer breaks between matches in order to manage the travel.
But what about the Tier Two Nations that are not in the top division? Would they be shut out for two year”?
Eleven matches per team that are not in the Final, would leave them with one game to spare. Those 10 teams could play Tests against the top teams in the second division and create more regular fixtures for Tier Two teams against top teams.
No.5 – Lions year
So what about the years when the British and Irish Lions tour/ The Home Unions – England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland – will still play Tests at that time, but with a depleted second team.
I doubt those second-string teams will be pushovers. However, it would be unfair on the Nations Championship.
The Nations Championship would be divided in two conferences – the European conference and the rest of the world conference.
The best possibility would be that each teams play three matches less in that year. Each team plays one team from the top, the middle and the bottom of the other conference.
Of course it’s hard to fit all teams around the world into one Championship.
But it’s definitely possible if the leading nations realise that if the cake gets bigger everyone gets a bigger slice of the cake.
Just my view
Dirk Baigent, reader from Down Under