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Nations press for expansion

Are we heading for an Eight Nations Championship?

Could the Six Nations become the Eight Nations Championship? Two of the best-performing nations in Europe – Romania and Georgia – are pushing for inclusion in the continent’s premier rugby tournament.

Their case has been enhanced by their  performances at the World Cup, and there is even talk in rugby circles that Germany might want to be included in view of good television audiences for the series of matches.

The biggest claims are from Georgia, who beat Tonga, and Romania who defeated Canada. Georgia is rugby-mad, with 50,000-strong crowds turning up for international matches.

One argument favouring expansion into a fully-fledged European Championship akin to football’s Euro tournament is that it would help spread the game in accordance with the ambitions of World Rugby, the governing body.

Rugby Union is becoming bigger in nations once considered minor participants. Japan’s victory over South Africa and Argentina’s progress to the semi-finals, after beating Ireland, is showing that there is a genuine challenge emerging to the dominant countries.

Rugby authorities see this as a good thing for the game’s health as they attempt to globalise the sport.

“Teams like Georgia and Romania proved themselves able to compete at the World Cup and need regular fixtures against top European teams,” said Octavian Morariu, who is President of Rugby Europe.

“It’s not just about promotion and relegation to the Six Nations, it’s about opening the competition to more countries. The competition could become a seven or eight nations.”

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