South Africa’s bid to join the Six Nations has encountered a setback after the tournament’s chief executive, Ben Morel, said he would be “very cautious” about expanding the championship.
Morel, however, said fresh talks were ongoing regarding a new global competition which could be played in the existing July and November Test windows from 2024.
“Our current focus is the July and November windows and how we can improve them,” said Morel. “We believe it could be a great platform for all countries to create global growth for the game.
“It’s not a question of what I’d like. South Africa is committed to the Rugby Championship. The Six Nations have added and reduced its teams very few times in its 140 years, so it’s something we’d be very cautious about doing.”
Previous attempts to launch a Nations Championship have failed to materialise but there remains a widespread desire for a more coherent global calendar outside World Cups which also offers scope for developing rugby nations to climb the ladder.
“We’re pretty happy with what we have but we’re sure it could be improved,” said Morel. “Some sort of a final is always exciting and I think that’s what the fans would want to see.”
With the private equity company CVC now increasingly involved in rugby and Amazon Prime also keen to broadcast autumn matches, there is increasing pressure on rugby’s authorities to agree a mutually beneficial solution. “We want to make sure that whatever the solution is it’s going to be the right one that aligns the calendar globally,” Morel said.
“The Six Nations are spending a lot of time with the Sanzaar unions [South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina], World Rugby and the players’ association to discuss all these things. Conversations are live but things are still fluid. We are working hand in hand to find a solution, not only for the top nations in the world but also for the emerging nations which is pretty important.
“Everybody has a role to play in developing that concept. We need to make sure all the unions can benefit in terms of hosting matches, and that also needs to be compatible with player welfare. They are complex discussions but where there’s a will there’s a way.”