RFU favours shortened Six Nations

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:47
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SIX NATIONS NEWS: Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie insisted the governing body remained in favour of plans to reduce the duration of the Six Nations from seven to six weeks, despite opposition from leading players.

Harlequins prop Joe Marler, who helped England retain their Six Nations title, has said it is "ridiculous" to remove one of the tournament's two fallow weeks given the need for players to recover from the gruelling demands of modern Test matches.

But taking a week out of the tournament, as part of the new global season due to start after the 2019 World Cup, might make the Championship more commercially attractive and benefit countries such as England and France that have a large playing base. 

"No, it is not set in stone and it is still under discussion within the Six Nations. It is an interesting balance between economics in one respect, player welfare in another, and how does that then balance it out? You need to have a look at the total picture.

"The seven-to-six situation is something that we were supportive of and believe it is a decent thing to do. And while we don't think it is that impactful in terms of player welfare, I can understand the concerns from the other nations," Ritchie told a Twickenham news conference on Friday.

Of more immediate concern to Ritchie is next month's pool draw for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. At the last World Cup two years ago, tournament hosts England found themselves in a pool that also featured the Welsh and Australia.

It was immediately dubbed the 'group of death', with only the top two teams from each of the four pools going through to the quarter-finals.

And it certainly proved that way for England who, after losing to Wales and the Wallabies at Twickenham on successive weekends, became the first host nation not to qualify for the knockout stages of a World Cup.

"I am also thinking about the delights of the World Cup draw and let's hope we get a slightly better draw than the one we had the last time. At least our seeding position is in the right place," he added.

England's 2015 failure saw Stuart Lancaster sacked, with experienced Australian Eddie Jones brought in by Ritchie to replace him as England coach. Former Australia and Japan boss Jones has since led England to back-to-back Six Nations titles, with last month's loss to Ireland in Dublin the only blot on his Red Rose record. 

Agence France-Presse

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