Seven Nations safety warning: alarm bells ring for the well-being of players, as the introduction in South Africa means that some teams would play six times in six weeks
- The Six Nations are facing a battle to win support from clubs and players for expansion
- Sportsmail revealed that conversations are now underway to invite the Springboks
- According to one proposal, the tournament would take place within a block of seven weeks
- As a result, each team would only have one week off during the competition
The Six Nations are facing a battle to win support from clubs and players for an extensive tournament with South Africa.
Sportsmail revealed on Saturday that talks are in progress about inviting the Springboks to participate in a restart competition from 2024 – and we can now reveal more details of proposals that would dramatically change international rugby.
In many of the Six Nations there is a strong sense that every new tournament must take place within the existing window, which can soften the clubs, but could raise great concern about the well-being of players.
There is a fear of the well-being of players following proposals to bring South Africa to the Six Nations
According to a sketch plan for a proposed Seven Nations seen by Sportsmail, the tournament would take place within a seven-week block, with each team only getting one week off.
Teams with byes in the first and last weeks should play six games in consecutive weekends, and those with byes on match days two and six would have five games in a row.
The other three countries would get a more meaningful break in the middle of the tournament.
According to one proposal, the revised tournament would take place within a block of seven weeks
Such a skewed scheme has led to questions about the integrity of the competition, as well as questions about the welfare of players.
The Irish captain Johnny Sexton was very outspoken in his criticism of plans for a new Nations League last year in his role as president of the International Rugby Players Association, arguing that playing Tests in five consecutive weeks would be “potentially harmful” .
The alternative to the Northern Hemisphere unions running the Six Nations is to seek an extension of the seven-week window, although that would pose a complex political challenge.
In addition to obtaining approval from the Premiership, Pro14 and French clubs, the Six Nations would also require World Rugby to change the regulations that oblige clubs to release players for international duties at certain times.
Johnny Sexton from Ireland was vocal in his criticism of plans for a new Nations League last year
World Rugby will also come under pressure to resist the expansion of the Six Nations of the New Zealand and Australian trade unions, which would be reluctant to lose South Africa from the Rugby Championship.
However, Japan and Fiji would be potential beneficiaries, as South Africa’s departure would increase their chances of participating in a reformed competition in the southern hemisphere.
Premiership clubs will resist any attempt to expand the international window, which is already coming under pressure, as demonstrated by the shortening of next year’s British Lions tour from 10 to eight weeks.
South Africa’s growing interest in the Six Nations was reflected in the presence of World Cup-winning coach Rassie Erasmus at Murrayfield on Saturday.