Outspoken World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot says he won’t give up on the previously rejected notion of a nations championship, and encourages the Six Nations bosses to reconsider their decision.
World Rugby had pushed for a revamp of the sport’s global calendar with the launch of a fresh competition involving the top 12 nations from both the southern and northern hemispheres.
It was hoped that the competition could begin by 2022, with the top two teams contesting a final. However, the proposal of a promotion-relegation concept was not seen as an attractive option by the Six Nations unions.
With the idea having being rejected in June, Pichot echoed the sentiments of former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who had multiple digs at the Six Nations bosses for not wanting to develop the global game. Pichot is adamant that introducing the nations championship would do just that.
‘To be honest, I understand the Six Nations. They have a very successful tournament, and it’s very commercially sustainable,’ said Pichot at the conclusion of the World Cup.
‘What we have to try to do is convince them we all have to be together – north and south – for the better of the game. Hopefully, something will come out of the project and I’m confident something will happen. The day I stop trying I won’t be here, so I’m very positive.
‘The Nations Championship would have been put in place as a pathway for teams to be in the top 12 in the world. The idea is to give structure.’
The 45-year-old former scrumhalf, who was instrumental in helping Argentina finish third at the 2007 World Cup in France, has continuously been a driving force for change and experimentation since his appointment.
Following their exploits at the World Cup, Pichot again insists Japan should join the Rugby Championship after the Brave Blossoms reached the quarter-final stage for the first time in their history, with upset wins over both Ireland and Scotland.
‘Even with an earthquake and a typhoon, it was still an amazing World Cup,’ continued Pichot. ‘Japan did everything well and the team performed really well.
‘I strongly believe Japan can be part of the Rugby Championship. I said it three years ago and I am saying it now, not just because Japan did well in this World Cup. Don’t forget, I come from an emerging country in Argentina. Now we’ve got Japan — who’s the next Japan?’
After their enormous success of the World Cup in Japan – the first to be staged in Asia – France will host the next edition in 2023, but the destinations for the 2027 and 2031 tournaments have yet to be announced by the sport’s governing body.
Pichot – who is on the board of American rugby – thinks the USA could be next in line after France.
‘Two years ago, everyone was panicking that Japan wasn’t going to be a success,’ said Pichot. ‘Today everyone is overjoyed at the success we’ve had. Life is about taking risks and I think Japan was a good risk.
‘The people who made that call had a big vision and World Rugby needs that vision for the future. At the moment I think South America is going through really complicated economic times. There are a lot of changes. To sustain a Rugby World Cup you have to be able to have a forecast to see whether it can happen because of investment.
‘You need a guarantee, and I think North America has that sustainability better than South America because they are mad about sport.
‘Is it the right time? I am on the board of USA Rugby, so I can tell you that it [a World Cup hosted by the USA] is on the project — but whether it’s 2027 or 2031, I can’t tell you.’