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Six Nations CEO would be 'very cautious' about adding South Africa to tournament

In other news, the 2022 Women’s Six Nations will once again run in a standalone window.

Tadhg Furlong in action against South Africa in Dublin in 2017.
Tadhg Furlong in action against South Africa in Dublin in 2017.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SIX NATIONS ORGANISERS would be “very cautious” about the idea of World Champions South Africa joining the competition, according to tournament CEO Ben Morel.

There has been increased speculation in recent years that the Springboks will look to cut ties with the Rugby Championship and join the Six Nations.

South Africa rugby has further aligned itself with the northern hemisphere calendar over the past 12 months, with four South African franchises join the newly-created United Rugby Championship this season.

However Morel says Six Nations bosses will prioritise improving the current July and November international windows ahead of making any drastic changes to their showpiece event.

“The four South African teams into the United Rugby Championship, it will be interesting to see how that goes,” said Morel, speaking at this morning’s media launch for the autumn internationals.

“Our current focus is to figure out the July and November windows, and see what improvements we can have, and make sure that while still keeping the international flavour of north versus south, making sure that we can bring some further improvements to the fixtures in those windows. So that’s the current focus.”

Morel was then asked if was like to see South Africa join the Six Nations.

I don’t think it’s a question of what I would like or not. It’s not currently a question.

“My understanding of it is that South Africa is committed to the Rugby Championship and at the same time, our focus right now is on the July and November windows and we believe that this could be a great platform to create global growth for the game, not just for our six unions and the Rugby Championship unions, but also for the rest of the countries involved in rugby.

So the current focus is that. The Six Nations have added and reduced the number of teams in it in very few moments in its 140 years, so it’s something we would be very cautious of before doing.”

Morel added that ongoing discussions surrounding the future makeup of the July and November windows could include the introduction of a new-look international tournament. 

“The key point is that November and July really stand for these north-south international encounters. That needs to be kept, it’s what people want to see in terms of matches and that’s what we are working on.

“Some kind of final is always exciting and what the fans would want to see, but at the same time, we need to make sure that all the unions benefit in terms of hosting matches at home and in a sufficient way to promote the game in their own country while being compatible with player welfare. So complex discussions, but where there is a will there is a way.”

While exact plans are yet to be unveiled, it seems clear that there are major changes to the global rugby calendar coming down the line.

World Rugby are making plans to introduce a new Nations Championship into the global calendar once the current World Cup cycle ends, but Morel says this would not take away from the Six Nations as a tournament.

“It’s 2024 onwards, I would say, that we are looking at right now (for a Nations Championship),” Morel continued.

“We really see this as the perfect complement. The Six Nations is sort of top of the pyramid as an annual rugby event and our job is to make it bigger and bigger over time.

At the same time, the July and November windows have traditionally been that international encounter with the rest of the world. So, we believe that this is actually a perfect complement to each other and should be able to contribute to growing the game on a global basis. There is no debate at that level.”

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And in good news for the women’s game, Morel confirmed that the 2022 Women’s Six Nations will once again run in a separate window to the men’s tournament.

“The specific window and showcasing of the women’s game and putting it in the limelight is something that we definitely want to continue,” he said.

“The Six Nations next year will be in a separate window, but coming back to its original format with five matches per union. So, that will be happening right after the men’s. We will be announcing the precise fixtures shortly.

“At the same time, we believe this is a massive projector on the sport. We believe that it will be outstanding for its development.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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