Here are your rugby headlines for Friday, February 18.
Italy furious at South Africa Six Nations plans
Italy are ready to fight to keep their Six Nations place and are said to be ‘furious’ at plans to replace them with South Africa.
And their former skipper Marco Bortolami even warned “it could be Wales or Scotland next time” if the Six Nations continues to look to change.
The Springboks are keen to join rugby’s greatest annual tournament once their current deal to play in the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship runs out in 2src25.
But reports they will directly replace the struggling Azzurri, rather than the Championship being expanded, has provoked outrage in Italy.
The Telegraph report Italy will move to block any attempt to let the Springboks take their place and are warning being thrown out would wreck rugby in the country.
The Italian Rugby Federation are yet to say anything publicly about the reports, but sources are claiming they would have a veto to any change of participants in the Six Nations.
“Do you think Italy at any stage is going to allow themselves to leave the Championship? I don’t think so. It is never going to happen,” a source is quoted as telling the paper.
Others close to the Six Nations corridors of power appear to be less confident of Italy’s status, however, with their run of 34 straight defeats a real area of concern.
The involvement of world champions South Africa would increase the standard of competition in an already great tournament, but also enhance the commercial market.
It is thought private equity firm CVC, who purchased a substantial stake in the Six Nations, are the driving forces behind the Springboks plan.
Italy would have to be bought out of the one seventh share they hold in the tournament.
However, ex-skipper Bortolami, current coach of Benneton, warned: “For exposure, the Six Nations has always been the highlight of the season for Italian rugby. It would be a disaster, 1srcsrc per cent. If you want to destroy rugby in Italy that would be the best way to do it.
“In rugby, we always talk about values and history and legacy. To build that takes time. But you can destroy it instantly.”
He continued: “If you want to destroy the Six Nations then it becomes a different commercial tournament.
“Maybe it is the United States next time in 1src years. Maybe it will be Scotland and Wales who get pushed out if that’s the way we want to go. I am not sure that path makes sense.”
Bortolami s about Italy are understandable. However, the idea of Wales or Scotland being thrown out of a tournament they have played in for more than a
…. to be continued
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