'No vacancy' for Georgia in Six Nations

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 21:18
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NEWS: Georgia's hopes of playing in the Six Nations any time soon have been dashed after the tournament's Chief Executive insisted there was no vacancy.

The ongoing poor form of Italy, beaten 33-7 by Wales and thrashed 63-10 by Ireland in their opening two matches of this season's tournament, has re-opened the debate about promotion and relegation from the Six Nations.

Georgia, who impressed at the 2015 World Cup, have overtaken Italy in the world rankings.

They've also won the second-tier Europe Championship for the past six years, and Georgia had at least hoped for a play-off match as a means of getting into the Six Nations.

But even this has been denied them for the foreseeable future, with Six Nations Chief Executive John Feehan telling Wednesday's Daily Mail: "It is a closed competition, owned and controlled by the six unions concerned.

"There is no vacancy. Right now we are perfectly happy that we have the six strongest teams in Europe in our competition."

The last major change to the tournament was when Italy joined the then Five Nations in 2000.

Since then the Azzurri have finished bottom of the standings in 11 of 17 editions.

But Feehan said Italy's critics had to take a longer view, adding: "You wait for the weakest animal to fall and you are on top of them.

"Are we closed to every scenario? No, but it takes a while to see a convincing argument -- 10 or 15 years.

"We have to take a good, considered view about what is right for our six unions...At this stage, talk of bringing in other teams is premature."

Georgia's cause has attracted support from the likes of former England coach Clive Woodward but that counts for little in the corridors of rugby power.

Meanwhile World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said the global governing body could not force the Six Nations to take Georgia in.

"We are helping Georgia as much as we can and they are hosting the World Under-20 Championship this year," former England captain Beaumont told the Mail.

"We want to grow the game, so it can be enjoyed by more countries than the historical unions who have always played it. But to tell the Six Nations or SANZAAR [who run the equivalent Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship featuring South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina] who should be part of their competitions is nigh-on impossible."

Agence France-Presse

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