Six Nations Challenges 2017
The six nations tournament is stuck. The same nations - usually Scotland and Italy - fight it out for the bottom of the table whilst any of the other four nations - Wales, Ireland, England and France - fight it out for pole position. It is likely to be Ireland or England's championship as both Wales and France are rebuilding. Scotland have lacked consistency. Now they must learn to win away from home if they are to progress.
This season somehow the fixture of all fixtures could be the last one as it is between Ireland and England in Dublin. Image, St Patrick's Day on 17th March when half a million do just that and march through the city. It will be followed by a day to resolve all our hangovers and then on Sunday 19th it's the game of the season. Or not.
As I have written before, if the game is a game open to all it is time to open up the Six Nations to twelve nations. Let's have relegation and promotion from two leagues of six. We are not quite there just yet. But this season sees the start of the a second tier Six Nations involving: Georgia, Russia, Romania, Spain, Germany and Spain. Bravo. Finally, if tentatively, the game is on the move.
Three things currently bedevil the game:
Far too many players are playing for countries they were not born in. We have Samoan brothers playing for different countries. The All Blacks and the Wallabies have done this for thirty years or more but now it is flavour of the month in the northern hemisphere too. Pity. A three year playing qualification is absurd. It seems to me that either you should be born in the country you play for or have its passport. World Rugby will pass on this one but they have to move to at least five years for the good of the game. It is doubly ironic that Bill Beaumont, Chairman of World Rugby, has a son who is being stopped from playing for England in the back row by two Southern Hemisphere players who qualify just because of residency.
The game is too brutal. It is more about bish, bash, bosh than speed, skill and vision. If a team wins a line out they are likely to retain possession for eight to ten minutes unless they play aerial tennis. Where's the fun in that? Let us have all players standing 10 metres back from set play. Give the three quarters a chance to score from first phase ball.
Brain trauma or concussion, as it is wrongly called, will have a devastating impact on the future of the game at school if the laws are not changed. Already, in response to this, World Rugby introduced a hurried amendment to the tackle law on 1st January which was badly needed. So head tackles are out. But it is the recommendations regarding being knocked out which are not fit for purpose. Put simply anyone, knocked out should go off and stay off until he or she has had a brain scan. Of course, the scan is not much use unless you have a base line to measure it. So, let us have compulsory scanning in time for Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
As for this year's Six Nations, it is probably time for England's bubble to burst, but despite a slew of injuries they still look the best though Ireland are nor far behind. In the second tier Georgia or close rivals Russia should edge it. In the Women's Six Nations France and England look the strongest. It is so encouraging to see women's sport finally being given the coverage it ought have been given two decades ago.