Behind all the smoke and mirrors, there may be changes ahead

Whether Agustin Pichot and Bill Beaumont prove to be as iconoclastic as some have suggested is hard to predict. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Whether Agustin Pichot and Bill Beaumont prove to be as iconoclastic as some have suggested is hard to predict. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

5
Have your say

It may have something to do with the time of year – the regular season has ended leaving just the play-offs to write about – but the press is in febrile mood with a string of left-field stories that will cause huge changes to the game if there is any substance in amongst the usual white noise.

The feeding frenzy has been helped by the appointment of two new men at the top of World Rugby, chairman Bill Beaumont and his vice-chairman, Argentina’s Agustin Pichot who, at just 41, is the coming man.

Both administrators have, by accident or design, fed the rugby press pack with strong comments in the week after they were voted into place although neither takes up their post officially until the start of June.

We run the rule over the recent headlines and ask just how much credibility they carry.

1. MOVE THE SIX NATIONS LATER IN THE CALENDAR

Why would you?

To shorten the club season and improve player welfare.

Who made the claim:

Bill Beaumont, sort of, and he was followed up by WRU boss Martyn Phillips.

What exactly did Beaumont say:

“I think you have got to be prepared to look at [moving the Six Nations]. That could well be a solution. Everyone has to take a look at it.”

Credibility?

According to those who know him well, former England captain Beaumont is not the sort of character to rip things up and start from scratch so his unguarded comment may have been nothing more than a response to a question and why would you not review all aspects of a competition, including the timing, in an effort to improve?

It seems unlikely to happen in the short term, not least because Six Nations boss John Feehan has pretty much stated that his baby will give up its February/March block in the calendar when Beelzebub himself invests in a pair of ice skates and Beaumont acknowledged as much in the same interview.

There is a growing acceptance that player welfare must top the agenda but the Six Nations will only move when and if World Rugby comes up with an acceptable solution to a global calendar. While the Scots in particular may very well fancy the prospect of summer rugby, that global agreement remains some way off.

2. INTRODUCE PROMOTION AND RELEGATION TO SIX NATIONS

Why would you?

To help the likes of Georgia and Romania who proved their worth in last year’s World Cup.

Who made the claim?

Respected journalist Peter Jackson in the Rugby Paper, which is not distributed in Scotland.

What did he actually say?

“Six Nations heads for talks on relegation” was the attention-grabbing headline with the claim inside the accompanying article that the impetus came from Scotland and Wales.

Credibility?

Not very high in the immediate future and while it may happen in the future it will only do so if the organisers are convinced it can’t sink the Six Nations under the water line.

The rest of the rugby world acknowledges the need to offer a helping hand to the tier two countries in Europe who are not so far behind the likes of Italy or Scotland (in a bad year) but, as above, you mess with the golden goose at your peril and Tbilisi is 2,335 miles from Edinburgh, almost twice as far away as Rome.

One senior SRU insider slapped the story down, insisting that there was absolutely no appetite to explore the relegation/promotion route for reasons that are all too obvious.

Instead the SRU bigwig suggested the possibility of a Nations Cup curtain-raiser before a Six Nations match and/or the possibility of more regular matches against Georgia/Romania in the November window.

3. THE THREE-YEAR RESIDENCY RULE MUST BE SCRAPPED

Why would you?

Because it makes a farce of the international game.

Who said it?

Vice chair of World Rugby Gus Pichot.

What did he actually say?

“Someone will kill me but we need to change it [three year residency]. I think it is wrong. It should be for life, like in football. I would understand a five-year period [to qualify] and I think that will be on the agenda in the next six months.”

Credibility?

Oodles of the stuff and what a relief to finally hear an administrator say what the vast majority of rugby fans are already thinking. A change to the three-year residency rule will happen as sure as God made little green apples – the only question is when and what, exactly, replaces it.

The current situation is totally unsustainable, not to mention immoral. Clermont and Brive boast academies in Fiji, cherry-picking the best young talent. Australian Super Rugby franchises are allowed one “project” player and they aren’t targeting Indians or Ethiopians. Scotland and Ireland “boast” South African breakaways and “transformation” means there will be plenty more looking for employment. It’s a bad joke as international teams erode any connection with the country they are supposed to represent.

Pichot’s own country, Argentina, is one of the few exceptions to this multi-national farce and they are all the better for it. Expect change but, knowing World Rugby’s timidity, three years will become five which will only mean that Fijian/Samoan/Tongan teens are targeted even earlier than already happens.

Back to the top of the page