On Wednesday, it was announced that a Six Nations bonus point system will be trialed in the 2017 competition. Following months of speculation regarding changes, as discussed by LWOS Rugby here, all parties have agreed to a test run in the upcoming tournament.
Six Nations Bonus Point System – The Argument Against
There are many compelling reasons for integrating bonus points, namely the encouragement of attacking rugby. James Barker puts forward these arguments here, however this writer argues that there is no need for change.
The Six Nations is unique in the drama created on the final day. Looking back at the 2014 and 2015 championships, this excitement is evident.
In 2014, going into the final day England, France and Ireland both had the opportunity to claim the coveted crown. England and Ireland were both unbeaten, with France having lost one game. Given that Ireland visited the Stade de France, the trophy could have been won by any of the three teams. Ireland’s impressive points difference meant victory would surely be enough to give them victory, unless England were to pull off a huge victory against the Italians.
The Irish held on for a 22-24 victory against the French, ending the home teams hopes of emerging victorious. Kicking off an hour later, England were then required to beat Italy by a margin of 52 points to steal the title. What followed was the Red Rose putting in a scintillating performance to win 52-11, scoring seven tries. Whilst this wasn’t enough to dethrone the Irish, the day’s drama showed everything that is great about the tournament.
A year later we were in a similar position. With one game left to play each, England, Ireland and Wales all had the opportunity to win. Playing France, Scotland and Italy respectively, a victory for all would leave the title being decided by points difference once again.
At the start of the day, England led the table with a +37 points difference. Ireland were a close second on +33 with the Welsh languishing in third on +12. This led to one of the greatest sporting days in modern history.
Wales started the drama off, defeating Italy 61-20 in their own back yard, increasing their points difference to +53. Kicking off second, the Irish required a 21-point victory margin to get one hand on the trophy, proceeding to win 40-10 in Edinburgh. All eyes then refocussed to Twickenham, where England were left needing a 27-point win to steal the title from the men in green. After a brilliant display of attacking rugby from both sides, England came out on top 55-35. The game was the definition of edge of your seat, with not a single fingernail left unchewed either in the stadium, or in any of the homes or pubs full of fans. Ireland won the tournament with a 6-point margin.
With Bonus Points introduced, the likelihood of this final day drama is hugely decreased. The sort of excitement is what attracts fans to sport, so how can this change be good for the game?
Not A Level Playing Field
One of the main arguments put forward in favour of a bonus points system is that every other major competition incorporates them. However, what makes these tournaments different is that teams play each other twice, home and away.
In the Six Nations, where venues are alternated each year, this proves to be a problem. The conditions across the countries varies far too much for it to be an even playing ground. Given that teams could be playing in boggy, wet conditions in Edinburgh and sunny, clear conditions in Rome on the same day, how can this be fair? In Italian weather, teams can play a more expansive, attacking game allowing more opportunity for tries and therefore bonus points. On the other hand, under heavy showers in Scotland, teams are likely to need to play a tight, compact game to secure the victory.
The differing weather conditions creates a situation where teams are more likely to win depending on where they play. This could skew results and could lead to the best team not claiming the title. Organisers have made provision for this – offering three bonus points to any team capable of winning a Grand Slam. Despite this, is there any need for change? The Six Nations had an exciting, winning formula – changing it could seriously harm its credibility.
Only time will tell whether those in charge have got it right.