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Italy boss says he would welcome promotion-relegation for Six Nations

Kieran Crowley hopes the Italians can quell the relegation chat in the coming years.

Sergio Parisse celebrates Italy's last Six Nations win in 2015.
Sergio Parisse celebrates Italy's last Six Nations win in 2015.

ITALY HEAD COACH Kieran Crowley says he would welcome a promotion/relegation system for the Six Nations.

The Italians are currently on a 32-game losing streak in the championship dating back to the 2015 competition when they beat Scotland.

Some pundits, including former Wales captain Sam Warburton, have called for an annual promotion/relegation fixture to be brought in, allowing the winners of the Rugby Europe Championship to compete for a place in the Six Nations.

Georgia have won Grand Slams in the last four Rugby Europe Championships and would love a shot at the Six Nations.

The reality is that the Italian Rugby Federation owns a 1/7th share of the Six Nations and would never risk its position in the championship by voting for a promotion/relegation system. It seems extremely unlikely that the other unions would push for it either, given that a poor campaign could see them fighting to retain their spot.

Italy head coach Crowley, who took over before the November Tests last year, says he would welcome a promotion/relegation game to end the discussion, although he doesn’t believe it will happen.

“The decisions around Italy being in the Six Nations, that’s board talk and the boards need to decide those sorts of things,” said Italy head coach Crowley at today’s Six Nations launch.

“If I was given a personal opinion on it, I’d welcome a promotion/relegation system. Then you’re going to get away from all of this. Who’s to say that anyone else would be better than Italy in the Six Nations?

“I don’t think it will ever get to that because other teams might have a bad year, Scotland or Wales or a France, England, Ireland. They might have one bad year and suddenly they’re down. 

“I don’t think it will ever get to that. There’s always talk about whether Italy should be there, but it’s not something we focus on. Hopefully over the next couple of Six Nations campaigns, we can quell that talk by our performances.”

kieran-crowley-during-the-warmup Crowley is heading into his first Six Nations campaign with Italy. Source: Giuseppe Fama/INPHO

Crowley suggested that a stint in the Rugby Europe Championship might actually be a good thing for the Italians in order to get on a winning streak in the Test game.

‘That’s only a personal view [about promotion/relegation, I might be way out of line with that but rugby is evolving,” said Crowley. “Everything is evolving. Would it add some extra spice to the competition? 

“What would it do to Italian rugby? It might help Italian rugby, you might get a few wins and grow the confidence and get promoted again. Then you know how to win because you can’t win if you don’t know how to win.

“Italy has probably got into the situation in the Six Nations is that we don’t know how to win. If you look at games in the past couple of years, they have been very close and then it blows out in the last few minutes. Maybe it’s because they’re trying to not lose, rather than win.”

This year, Italy open their Six Nations campaign away to France before hosting England in Rome.

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Round three sees them face Ireland in Dublin, then their closing two fixtures are Scotland in Rome and Wales in Cardiff.

Crowley hopes the Italians can finally notch a Six Nations win.

“Everyone is looking strong, you look at the results from November and the best rugby is being played in the Northern Hemisphere from a result perspective,” said Crowley. “They all beat Southern Hemisphere teams.

“It could be the most competitive and open Six Nations in history. We’ve had four weeks together in November and our expectations are that we will put performances on the paddock that we can build on going forward.

“We will perform as well as we can in every game and hopefully win some of the smaller battles in games. If we can win those smaller battles, hopefully they combine into a bigger win somewhere.

“If we did that, it would be an outstanding result for us.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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