Is Six Nations Relegation Talk Just A Knee-Jerk Reaction?

Wales v Italy - RBS Six Nations

While England stole the limelight having edged out France 31-21 to claim the grand slam in Paris, Wales ensured they would finish as Six Nations runners up with a 67-14 demolition of Italy at the Principality stadium.

However with Wales’s title ambitions ended at Twickenham a week earlier, and Italy assured of bottom spot regardless of the result, much of the pre-match focus was centred on whether or not the Azzurri deserve an automatic place in the championships.

Italy did their own cause no favours, conceding nine tries for the second week running, to end with a point’s difference of -145 for the tournament, as they picked up their 11th wooden spoon in the 17 years they have competed.

Their hopes were not aided either by the fact Georgia – a side ranked two places above them in the world rankings – thrashed Romania 38-9 on the same day to win the European Nations Cup.

While Italy have shown moments of progress throughout the years they have been included in the Six Nations, that progress appears to have come to a grinding halt this year, raising calls for a relegation and promotion system to be introduced, with a one-off play-off match seemingly the most popular idea.

However many Italian fans would be quick to suggest that this is all just a knee-jerk reaction, after all, it was only 12 months ago that Scotland were in the very same position.

The thought of Scotland being forced out of the Northern Hemisphere’s most prestigious tournament is simply inconceivable, as it is for France and Wales, both of whom have finished bottom of the pile within the last 17 years.

To have a Six Nations without a Triple Crown or Calcutta Cup would just not feel like the Six Nations.

Scotland’s improvement over the last six months, which saw them come within a controversial refereeing decision of a World Cup semi-final in October, has not only cut Italy adrift at the bottom of the table, but also made the idea of relegation much easier to comprehend, given they would not (this year) be in any danger at all.

Those who are in favour of the changes would argue it is the manner of the Italian’s defeats that sets them apart from previous years, however it is easy to forget they came within two points of France in the opening round, and have since suffered a substantial number of injuries.

Consistent poor performances over coming years could force the organiser’s hands, particularly if the likes of Georgia and Romania continue to improve, but with a new coaching team set to take over in the summer, perhaps we should all just take a step back and allow Italy the chance to fight back once again.



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