Eight Nations: Concern over 'lopsided' groups
SPOTLIGHT: The selection of the pools for the new “Eight Nations” tournament set to take place this November in the Northern Hemisphere are being called into question.
The new tournament will see Japan and Fiji join the Six Nations teams in a two-group format and will replace the original Test schedule which featured the likes of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa coming to Europe.
The suspended Six Nations season is due to be completed on the final week of October, with Wales set to play Scotland, Ireland to play France, and England taking on Italy. Ireland will also play an outstanding fixture against Italy the week beforehand.
Following the completion of those Six Nations fixtures, Test sides are now set to be quickly back in action in a brand new eight-team tournament.
Group One will reportedly consist of England, Ireland, Fiji and Wales, while Japan will join Scotland, Italy and France in Group Two.
Staged over four consecutive weekends, the tournament will culminate on the final weekend on the 5th of December, when each team faces their equivalent in the opposing pool.
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Fiji’s new head coach Vern Cotter said: “I just wonder how we got into the pool with England, Wales and Ireland when Japan, Italy and Scotland are all lower in the world rankings.”
Former Scotland international lock Jim Hamilton told RugbyPass he agreed with his former coach’s concerns: “I can understand Vern’s sentiments when looking at the structure of the pools based on, world rankings.
“Fiji will find it tough to find a win although past performances against Wales have generally been close. Japan, on the other hand, will fancy their chances to win all three games, if they rock up with the mentality they had at the World Cup.
“I think it’s great to see both Fiji and Japan involved in this new tournament. Japan have won the hearts of every rugby fan after hosting the World Cup and Fiji have some of the best individual players on the planet. From a fan’s perspective, I am really excited.”
Speaking in The Rugby Paper this weekend, former England and British and Irish Lions centre Jeremy Guscott called the groups ‘lopsided’.
“The only aspect of the autumn that might need amending is the lopsided pool structure with one report suggesting England, Ireland, Wales and Fiji in one pool, and France, Scotland, Italy and Japan in the other,” he said
“With the World Rugby rankings placing England at three, Ireland at four and Wales at six, it would be more balanced if either Ireland or Wales swapped with Scotland, who are at eight.
“There could be plenty of spice following a World Cup in which Wales squeezed past France in the quarterfinals, and the Scots and Irish with a score to settle against the Japanese.”
Last week Six Nations organisers confirmed to RugbyPass that Fiji won’t be joining the tournament on an annual basis after a misleading statement from the Fijian Rugby Union.
A spokesperson for the Six Nations told RugbyPass: “Fiji will not be joining the Six Nations Championship but they may be one of the teams participating in an autumn [November] competition.”
By Ian Cameron, @RugbyPass