Japan and Fiji have been invited to join an expanded Six Nations international rugby tournament being proposed to take place this November and December.
The tournament would replace the traditional autumn international Test matches between teams from the northern and southern hemispheres.
UK newspaper The Telegraph reported that the plan arose from ongoing discussions between rugby unions and clubs around the world about the 2020 calendar and a bigger restructure of the global calendar. A World Rugby council meeting scheduled yesterday (Tuesday) has been moved to mid-July to allow talks to continue.
The Telegraph said the Six Nations proposal was “the most likely” outcome of a restructure of this year’s calendar. Expected difficulties around travel restrictions, concerns over the risk of Covid-19 spread, and the delayed start of the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship are reported to be feeding into the decision.
It is not clear if the remaining matches in this year’s Six Nations, which was cut short due to the pandemic, will take place.
If the Six Nations plan goes ahead, Japan and Fiji would join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a competition organised into two groups of four teams, with a final between the group winners on December 5. News website Walesonline reported that group matches have been pencilled for November 14, 21 and 28.
New Zealand’s All Blacks are currently scheduled to play England in London on November 7, Wales in Cardiff on the following weekend, and then Scotland in Edinburgh. Australia is to play Ireland in Dublin on the weekend of November 7-8, France in Paris on November 14-15, and England in London on November 28. South Africa is to play Italy on November 7-8, Ireland in Dublin on November 14-15, and France in Paris on November 21-22. Argentina, Fiji, Japan and Tonga also currently have tests scheduled against the European nations. These matches look unlikely to go ahead if the proposed Six Nations does.
Discussions are continuing between the southern hemisphere nations about how to run this year’s Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup competitions. An increased Bledisloe Cup – the annual series between Australia and New Zealand – is one option being considered.
Discussions around a wider rejig of the global rugby calendar include a suggestion to move the July international Test match window to October, to allow the creation of a new international series. Stuff.co.nz reports that English and French clubs are opposing this.