‘Six Nations needs Boks, not Italy’

Former Ireland coach Eddie O’Sullivan says Italy have diluted the quality of the Six Nations tournament and that serious thought should be given to adding a heavyweight team such as the Springboks.

The Azzurri have lost almost 90% of 108 Six Nations matches since being added to the northern-hemisphere championship in 2000. This has given rise to talk of introducing a promotion/relegation system that would give other European teams the opportunity to replace Italy.

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South Africa is set to venture north by entering its four franchises – the Sharks, Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and Lions – into an expanded PRO16 competition. These four franchises will first take part in a Rainbow Cup competition later this year, along with the top teams from the PRO14.

‘Italy are the whipping boys of the tournament and the fact remains that every team sees them as an opportunity to rack up points,’  O’Sullivan told RTÉ‘s ‘Against The Head’.

‘We’re not going anywhere with Italy, Romania or Georgia. Italy have been developing for 20 years and it just hasn’t happened.

‘Let’s call a spade a spade, you are looking for a South Africa or an Argentina to make it a different tournament, to push it on. You can’t afford to have a development team there … a win every four or five years does not fix it. You could make the argument that we are better off with five nations.’

Former Cheetahs coach Franco Smith has been at the helm of Italy since November 2019. In the aftermath of a 48-10 reverse against Ireland in Rome, which marked Italy’s 30th consecutive defeat, Smith predicted that the Azzurri would ‘be competitive with everyone in seven to eight years’.

‘I don’t know where that came from, there is no evidence [of improvement from Italy] it’s just the same year in, year out,’ O’Sullivan responded. ‘It’s not a good look for a tournament to have an annual whipping boy. It’s not a good idea in terms of developing the tournament.’

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Photo: Gavin Barker/BBP

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Dylan Jack