Sir Clive Woodward wants changes to the Six Nations
He wants the competition cut from seven weeks to five weeks
Woodward would also like to see other countries in the competition through a promotion-relegation format
Six Nations Championship chiefs must take a long hard look at a competition branded ‘a closed shop serving only those on the inside’ says Sir Clive Woodward.
That’s the blunt message from England’s 2003 World Cup winning coach on the back of Six Nations chief executive John Feehan ruling out the prospect of promotion and relegation in the short to medium term.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Woodward has called for a major revamp of the competition pointing to the fact the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-finals being contested by four southern hemisphere nations as proof the Six Nations Championship is not fit for purpose in developing European rugby.
Among the changes his would like to see include countries like Georgia to join the competition through a promotion-relegation format and cutting the championship down from seven to five weeks.
“Beyond its huge financial importance to the six unions, does the tournament actually serve their best interests in terms of improving playing standards and performance? And are the tournament organisers taking any responsibility for developing the European game?
“A few facts. Only one northern hemisphere team has ever won the World Cup and of the 16 finalists to date only five have come from Europe — restricted to just two nations in France and England.
“At the last World Cup, Europe produced zero semi-finalists.
Only one European team (England) has ever been ranked No.1 in the world. The big question we should be asking is why?
“Thirty years since the first World Cup — and 20 years into professionalism — these figures are not acceptable. The Six Nations needs to look at the bigger picture and offer a platform from which European teams can collectively take on the world.
“It needs an upgrade and must become a straight, five-week tournament from next year onwards. In the not-too-distant future, there should be an annual play-off between the bottom-placed team and the annual winner of the European Nations Cup. Other than the inclusion of Italy, the tournament feels no different to when I made my debut 37 years ago.
For every classic match that we fondly recall — and I accept we are still blessed with some belting games — there is a lot of very average rugby to endure. Many look back on England’s Grand Slam last year with delight but as Eddie Jones rightly reminded us this week, the standard of rugby across the board was well below par.
“That can’t be healthy. We have to up the ante, move the tournament on to a different level. The Six Nations is not just about a great day out — the rugby must consistently be world-class.
“The Six Nations should replicate the final stages of the World Cup, so that when European nations get to the closing stages of that tournament, they are not caught unawares.
“A tournament played on five consecutive weekends would simply be better for the Six Nations. I would also love to see the return of the A team match on a Friday night, which was brilliant in developing squad strength and introducing new players to the fold.
“Finally let’s have a relegation play-off each season. The Six Nations needs to be ultra competitive and just imagine if there are two teams scrapping to avoid relegation. A meaningless match becomes vital and vibrant.
“Relegation would not be automatic. The side finishing sixth would have a chance of retaining their status in a play-off against the European Nations champion. If they get relegated after that, they deserve to make the drop.
“Nobody should be immune from failure. Among other things it is a massive spur towards success.
If Georgia have a bad season, they get relegated into European Nations 2 but it doesn’t work the other way because the Six Nations is a private club, run by the lucky six to serve their interests and finance their unions. The Six Nations monopoly kills the hopes and aspirations of other European nations.
“Why are a self-perpetuating elite in Europe being allowed to control the game? It shouldn’t be their call. World Rugby must be the driving force on this. Having seen the rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics, the Six Nations feels like going back in time.
“In the modern world, the Six Nations must be accessible to any European nation that can work its way up through the European Nations league, not a closed shop serving only those on the inside.”