The Rugby Europe governing body has stepped up its campaign for a revamp of the Six Nations by submitting a formal request to open up the tournament to other countries.
Rugby Europe has said it will submit the proposal to the 6 Nations Limited company amid a concerted campaign for teams such as Georgia and Romania to be granted an expansion slot.
The world rankings put together by the sport’s global governing body World Rugby currently place Georgia in 12th position, two places higher than current Six Nations member Italy, which has failed to pick up a point in its 2017 campaign and has a negative points difference of 122.
Georgia has won the second-tier Rugby Europe Championship for the last six years, and is widely considered to be the first option to replace Italy or become an additional seventh team should the opportunity arise.
Octavian Morariu, president of Rugby Europe, said: “It is not about punishing a specific team because of its results in the tournament. We don’t want to compromise what has been achieved until now, but opening a dialogue seems to us crucial for the benefit of all.
“On a sports point of view considering the development and future of our sport; for economic consideration as Europe cannot be limited to six countries; and finally, politically, because we are a continent whose official governing body is Rugby Europe.
“We are open to consider all alternatives, either a direct relegation, the insertion of an annual or every two-year play-off system; the integration of one or two teams or the setup of a real European competition. We are aware this process will require time to build a common project and achieve it; but we need to start a real collaboration in the interests of European rugby growth.”
Six Nations chief executive John Feehan last month said there is “no vacancy” in the national team tournament. Feehan told UK newspaper the Daily Mail that the competition is not looking to make changes to its make-up.
“It is a closed competition between the six countries, owned and controlled by the six unions concerned,” Feehan said. “There is no vacancy. Right now we are perfectly happy that we have the six strongest teams in Europe in our competition.
“Are we closed to every scenario? No, but it takes a while to see a convincing argument – 10 or 15 years. We have to take a good, considered view about what is right for our six unions. They would all have to agree that this is what they want. At this stage, talk of bringing in other teams is premature.”