Following the recent successes of Fiji and more so Japan Robert Rees takes a look at how an ‘Eight Nations’ could help them develop further whilst adding a bridge between that tier one and two gap.
Expansion to ‘Eight Nations’
Imagine having the regular Six Nations teams but then adding in the passion of the Japanese Brave Blossoms and the Fijian Flair.
Fiji have shown solid progression since the last World Cup and are more consistent now. It would allow them to earn TV income which would boost their tactical display through longer coaching time.
They’ve got world class talent spread throughout their squad and it’s time they were allowed to utilise it.
Japan have been superb host of the Rugby World Cup, have passion in abundance, are a rising force in rugby and look set to go to knockout rugby for the first time, weather depending.
It’s fair to say World Rugby have tried to implement a ‘Nations League’ for these and more tier two and three countries but it got rejected by the unions.
How would it work?
You would play everyone once, equalling seven games. The usual five, Six Nations games would be in the spring international window slots and the other two games would move into two autumn international weeks.
The other week would be free for an additional money-maker game against a top southern hemisphere team, and some teams are also choosing to play a test outside the window to get four autumn games.
This leaves enough revenue for the unions. Maybe you lose a big draw, possibly two, but you’d have additional TV monies – in an ideal world – with the addition of a wider audience and CVC investment.
It would go in four-year cycles, so no promotion of relegation for at least four years. This wouldn’t be an open door to enter new teams, but it would open debate to consider if there are any new, worthy candidates.
Depending on how good other nations have done and how Japan, Fiji and possibly even Italy perform!
Rejuvenated income structure
It would provide all countries involved with a stable income for years to come. There would be no loss in tests for tier one countries and the new inclusions would see themselves rise up, earn TV income and get a 20% share of gate receipts for the autumn games.
This would help the likes of Fiji develop a professional rugby structure, one that could thrive given its already wealth of on-field talent.
Fiji and Japan are both capable of hosting games, with the lowest national stadium capacity being Fiji’s ANZ National stadium.
Unfortunately, this only holds around 4,500 people. This may host logistical and income issues but if required they could always host games in another southern hemisphere country, for a small rental fee.
This would be until they get their stadium up to scratch. Another option is to get some heavy CVC investment upfront to improve the stadium immediately.
Their last tier one opposition in Suva were Italy and Scotland in the summer of 2017.
Positives of an Eight Nations
- Increases wealth, exposure and improves rugby of the tier two nations involved.
- In turn this develops their tactics and makes the Rugby World Cup a better spectacle.
- Tier one sides maintain income structure, whilst not adding to the already packed test schedule.
- Could well improve the TV deal under a new Eight Nations label.
- Falls completely under test window whilst allowing for other tests for added income.
- Money earned by Japan and Fiji helps them retain talent and build professional sides.
- Attractive rugby, in a competitive environment.
Downsides of the new competition
- Tier one nations unlikely to pay 20% gate receipts.
- Tier one sides also unlikely to agree to playing for the good of the game despite some income positives.
- Despite the improvements of Fiji and Japan there could still be a wider gap and they become the next Italy.
- Only benefits two fresh nations and hard to judge new candidates on intangible criteria.
- Odd kick off times for either northern hemisphere fans or Japan and Fiji. More likely the former.
One thing is for sure. Former Samoa international and Pacific Rugby Welfare CEO Daniel Leo wants to see Fiji pushed into the wider spectrum.
Result aside, I think everyone agrees that @fijirugby have outgrown the Pacific Nations Cup.
Must be included into Rugby Championship or even the 6 Nations
Fiji at RWC2023 after consistent Tier 1 comp = unstoppable 🇫🇯🇫🇯🇫🇯
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) October 9, 2019
“Main photo credit”