On Monday a question popped up on our You Tube channel regarding Georgia in what I am referring to as The Georgian Question.

This question came out of the blue, without prompt, which makes me think it is like the elephant in the room. It is the question everyone knows is there, but no one wants to answer. Answering this question possibly puts a few organisations in difficult positions. The question came from Fergal McnamaraHave ye any suggestions on how to incorporate Georgia into rugby’s global strategy?“. To me, this is an on point question. It is one that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed quickly.

Have ye any suggestions on how to incorporate Georgia into rugby’s global strategy?

Why do you say? Why does it matter if The Georgian Question is answered? Alternatively, why does it matter if it is never answered?

Answering this question is of the utmost importance because without an answer the mantra “global game” is just a mantra. It has little substance. Or at least, it doesn’t have as much substance as it would if the question were answered.

I was fortunate enough to spend a significant amount of time in Georgia on a bicycle journey from the UK to NZ. Visiting places by bicycle opens you up to experiences that you would not otherwise have. At the forefront of most conversations was rugby. Essentially asking The Georgian Question. In fairness, I didn’t get a lot of change out of my questions outside of Tbilisi, but I certainly got feedback there. The feedback was unanimous, they want a crack at the big boys on a regular basis.

As you can see, I'm pretty pleased to be at the home of Georgian rugby.
As you can see, I’m pretty pleased to be at the home of Georgian rugby.

World Rankings

So where do we start with The Georgian Question? The best place, in my opinion, is the World Rankings. Let’s take a look at them here…

Can you answer The Georgian Question via World Rankings?
Can you answer The Georgian Question via World Rankings?

If you look closely at the World Rankings you will notice that the spread between New Zealand and Ireland is a huge 9.82 points. But the Irish beat the All Blacks last year and although the All Blacks would go into the match if it was held today as heavy favourites, you could not write off the Irish.

Taking this analogy, if you add 9.82 points to the Georgian tally you end up with 83.23 points, somewhere in between Australia and Scotland. Extrapolating this out, it stands to reason that Georgia have every chance of beating those two teams. Or is this a pipe dream? If it is, then what do the World Rankings really mean? For me, it is not a pipe dream, it is a reality that could pan out with the correct planning.

Looking at the rankings another way, the spread from New Zealand to Argentina is a whopping 17.21 points, yet Argentina were leading the All Blacks over the weekend into the second half. So there is a spread of 17.21 points across this year’s Rugby Championship.

The spread across the Six Nations teams at this point in time is 19.14 between England and Italy. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that Georgia are actually within that spread.

And a third way of looking at the points is that the spread from Italy to 20th seed Russia is less than the spread between New Zealand and South Africa who lock horns in a top of the table this very Saturday.

Six Nations

Now that the stats have been painted it is worth looking at the Six Nations, and when I mean look at them, what I really mean is look at the teams to collect the Wooden Spoon. Since the inception of the Six Nations there have been four Wooden Spoon holders. Only England and Ireland avoided this fate. Italy leads the way with 12 titles, Scotland (who I have to say are still the Five Nations champions) have collected it four times, with France and Wales being victorious once each.

As you can see the Wooden Spoon has been shared around. Yes, it is heavily Italian, but it has been shared around. Which brings me to my solution to this question.

Georgian legend Mamuka Gorgodze would have been a star in the 6N. Of this I have no doubt.  Photo: Dave Lintott / photosport.co.nz
Georgian legend Mamuka Gorgodze would have been a star in the 6N. Of this I have no doubt.
Photo: Dave Lintott / photosport.co.nz

Solution

I see the solution as a very simple one. In fact, it might be too simple, but here goes anyway.

The team that wins the Wooden Spoon in the Six Nations faces the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship. The match is played at the home of the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship and it is a one off, winner takes all promotion-relegation match. If that match had taken place this season it would have been in Bucharest with Romania taking on the Italians.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best and I firmly believe that this is the best solution. It would add excitement for the fans, particularly in the Rugby Europe Championship countries. But most importantly it would spread the game to places it hasn’t been taken before.

It is not out of the realms that a World Champion England could be facing Georgia away in Tbilisi one day, not as winners of the Wooden Spoon, but in a legitimate Six Nations match. Now that would be a reason to head back the Caucasus and embrace the hospitality once more.

Please let us know your thoughts on this. Have I missed something fundamental? Is it not that simple? Or, is it really that simple?

From The Shed

For more Q&A action, check out the following Podcast and YouTube video.

Photos: www.photosport.nz

Author: Steven Prescott

I am a total sports fanatic; it is as simple as that. I love all sports, and when I’m not sitting at my computer living my dream with The 1014, I am planning adventures. The last time I did this I ended up convincing my wife to cycle 26,125km across three continents, and 22 countries with me as part of the Pedalling Prescotts.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Great points, certainly something needs to be done to support these teams, not just Georgia but the Pacific Islands and Japan too. With Georgia/Romania I agree completely to the idea of a play-off with Wooden Spoon, though i would say it would more likely get played at the 6 Nations sides home, to weight it in their favour, to help avoid a ‘big team’ going down. This is something that by the time of the Global Season and all the changes post 2019 something needs to help these Tier2 sides.

    I had an idea of in the Northern hemisphere every 4 years do a European Cup, feature all teams in both tiers of European competitions have 3 groups of 4 (12 teams), then if done with seedings, you would guarantee the teams at Teir2 a game against a ‘bigger side’. For Example groups could be: Seeds: 1,4,7,10 – England, Wales, Italy, Russia. 2,5,8,11 – Ireland, France, Romania, Germany. 3,6,9,12 – Scotland, Georgia, Spain, Portugal. Although the top sides may not want to lose a 6 nations every 4 years, this would give more chances for these lower sides. As a trial these could be the Second Teams such as A Teams.

    Southern Hemisphere could do a very similar tournament, with an Americas Pool. Also involved

    • Thanks a lot for this Owen Isaac. I guess the reason I would want the game to be at the home of the Rugby Europe Championship champion is put as much in favour of the team trying to come up. You could argue that they have been at a disadvantage by playing lesser teams so need the advantage. This said if it was to come to fruition and the game was played at the home of the Wooden Spooners then I would take that all day. And it absolutely needs to be looked at in other regions.

      I really like the idea of the European Cup for rugby. That is a truly excellent idea. This needs to be discussed.

      My guess is that all of this will become more relevant if a global season kicks off. Cheers

  2. I completely agree with the play off game. I’m a big fan of Italian rugby but it has gone stale. This could be the stick needed to energize the game in Italy. I would also like to see options considered around their club sides. The best option might be to see Zebre and Treviso playing their rugby in the French second division with the carrot of promotion up for grabs. If not, follow the Argentina model and have all the Italian players essentially playing as a merged club side.

    As for other European rugby teams, I think that there should be a European rugby competition held every 2 years like football. It would involve all rugby playing nations in Europe, with the traditional 5 Nations putting out A teams. The competition would be held in the Tier 2 nations like Spain and Germany and could go a long way to bridging the gap with the these nations. You would have to imagine that teams like Georgia, Italy and Romania would be right up there with a chance to win it.

    • Love this idea. The “Champions League” style competition will definitely bring more viewers into the game. Potentially a similar structure could be adopted with home and away legs. It’s a great idea that could potentially expanded upon with Pacific teams. Combining this with Andrew Forrest’s idea could result in a Tier 2 competition with high stakes.

  3. This article could just as easily be titled the Fiji Question. It is the same question that has been floating around since the 80’s. How do the second tier nations develop the game so that it can truly be classed as a world sport? We all know the answer: the top competitions MUST be opened up to allow smaller unions the chance to compete against the larger ones. The easiest way to do this is to have promotion/relegation from both the Six Nations and The Rugby Championship.

    The argument against this has always been that the smaller nations would not be able to compete at the same level and the competitions would suffer as a result. That may have been the case in the past but a look at those world ranking Steven has included blows that out of the water. Even if the promoted team IS unable to compete at the same level, which is by no means certain, the revenue that they would gain from even a single season at the top level would help the smaller unions grow the sport in their own countries and has to be good for the world game.

    • That is a good point about the “Fiji Question” Paul. I guess the big thing for me is that the Georgian players (and Romanian, Russian etc…) would almost certainly all play in the European season so getting a release from a club would be less of an issue that releasing a Pacific Islander. I might be wrong, but I think it is worth a discussion. The key here is a global season. That would change a lot of things. Cheers

  4. I agree with the fact that rugby needs to open up possibilities to the newer rugby nations. The idea of relegation/promotion is a good one, maybe every three years so we give the promoted country a chance to adjust to the competition. Yet there is little incentive for the current nations to vote for a change that could risk their future. The wooden spoon has been won 13 times by England, 23 Ireland, 23 Scotland, 10 Wales, and 9 for France.

  5. Hi Steven, its a good idea. Unfortunatly I don’t think happen because of money & TV rights. Imagine the Six Nations without Scotland or Wales. Both teams take massive support away with them, there’s also the sponsorship question, this is very valid at the moment as it’s been reported that The Six Nations is struggling to get a new sponsor to replace RBS which is pulling out. The word is that the new sponsor will only put the same amount of money up as RBS previously did (no increase!), Perhaps the best way to include Georgia & perhaps Romania would be an expanded Six Nations, again I can’t see this happening at the moment as premiership rugby already wants a reduced six nations period, their proposal to cut one of the rest weekends was defeated by the other home nations. Perhaps as you’ve already discussed in your videos something can be done when the global calendar comes into force. Rugby must find a way to include the likes of Samoa, Fiji, Georgia etc. There is also the chance to grow the game in massive potential markets such as Spain & Germany. Really enjoy your videos & look forward to each new video which comes out. Cheers
    Rob

    • Thanks a lot for this Rob. Really pleased you enjoy the videos. I used to work up in Britain in the city and found it interesting that RBS were forking out the money they were for the sponsorship. It is possible that people have come to the realisation that they aren’t getting the return they wanted. Also, there is a problem with most people calling it The Six Nations, not The RBS Six Nations. A lot like The Boris Bikes that were meant to be called The Barclays Bikes. I am watching this with a lot of interest. The Premiership has done a fine job in making it commonly known as The Aviva Premiership.
      As for Georgia and the rest of the teams, a global season and a global TV sponsor is desperately needed. We have it on good advice that this is coming, but we will wait and see. Cheers

  6. To grow the sport in the Pacific, the irb should follow the American model the American Collegiate Rugby by tapping into the major university or other institutions as such that’s is regionally operating there to target those between 18-21 years old as a stronger pathway to provincial level and later senior level. For example, The University of the South Pacific (USP) which has a dozen campus, but it’s major ones are actually in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa, could be used to lure high school graduates from those countries into campuses, for this not only increases depth but stronger support and competition due to the rivalry it could bring. They could also include other major institutions as their Police Academy or Military (More then 50% of Fiji’s youth are in it) and outside universities in the tournament that has strong ties in the Pacific or has a lot of Pacific Island students like The University of Auckland, University of Hawaii, and Brigham young university (Hawaii & Utah). This is better then having an under 20’s rugby development within each academies, as students could play and develop their skills for 3-4 years.

    Once they have this in place, their 7’s and provincial coaches could use this to select guys to prepare them for the next stage in their rugby career. From the provincial level, further condensing into the selection process to be in the team into a Super Rugby would be the final stage before playing for once own country. I think the Fiji Drua is the perfect example of this filtering system, despite playing in Australia’s domestic competition.

    • This is a very very good idea Ice Smack. Thanks for getting this through to us. I think your point about Fiji Dura is excellent.
      Cheers

  7. Your welcome.It be like American college Football, the NCAA, but it involves about six countries Here is some universities and institutions I could come up with for now :

    Fiji
    *USP suva campus
    *USP Labasa
    *USP Lautoka
    *Fiji national university
    *University of Fiji
    *Corpus Christi Teachers College
    *Fiji Police Academy
    *Royal Fiji Military Force Academy
    *Fiji School of Maritime
    *Fiji School of Medicine
    *Fiji School of Nursing

    Samoa
    *USP Samoa School of Agriculture and Food Technology

    Tonga
    *USP Tonga campus

    PNG
    *University of Papua New Guinea

    Foreign
    *BYU Hawaii or BYU Utah
    *University of Hawaii
    *University of Auckland
    *University of Waikato

    Hopefully those fat cats working within the irb could get hold of this idea and do something asap, as its long over due, cause other nations new to rugby are catching up, and might overtake us.

  8. Just as an opener. I’m Scottish. When I was wee played rugby a bit, even watched France at the six nations when Scotland was hopeless. Stopped playing Rugby, took up basketball and stopped being interested in rugby. But I still watched the six nations.

    Back in the 90s and early noughts Scotland were capable of filling out Murrayfield (Scotland’s largest stadium) even though we were trash just because of who we were playing against (the home nations + France). That’s the thing I think a lot of the international rugby fans forget, the six nations has broad popular appeal in the UK (even amongst people you’d barely even consider casual fans) because of the derby nature of it. It’s not about being the most elite competition in the world, do you not remember how outclassed the six nations used to be compared with Australia / South Africa and New Zealand? It’s about playing against our neighbours, nothing really at stake. Just for the crack. It would be genuinely sad to have a six nations without Scotland/England/Ireland/Wales. Frankly it wouldn’t be the six nations.

    You introduce promotion and relegation you kill a competition that has relevance not just to rugby fans but to the UK and Ireland’s general public. You undermine the financial viability of the Scottish, Welsh and even the Irish Rugby Unions who do not have the English/French piggy banks or the New Zealanders player pool because Scotland can’t even fill out an 18k stadium playing against Georgia never mind a 65k one (even if it’s the six nations, Italy tickets are discounted vs the other teams).

    If Scotland are relegated that means no match against England (no Calcutta Cup)
    No match against wales (no triple crown up for grabs either.
    No filling out murrayfield against the auld rivals.
    Rugby would not feature on television, nobody wants to watch Scotland vs Romania.
    Until Scotland were promoted back, rugby would be dead as a spectator sport in Scotland. This would be even more likely in Italy, the six nations fills out the stadio olimpico but as a sport water polo is more popular.

    But hey Georgia will get better.

    OR ALTERNATIVELY
    New Zealand, South Africa and Australia did not join the five/six nations. They made their own competition. Why can’t Georgia play Japan/Fiji/Romania instead?

    The five nations (+ italy) isn’t just sport it’s cultural, you don’t get to barge in just because you choose not to shop around for alternatives.

    Anyhow rant over.

    • Thanks a lot for this comment Cameron. You make good financial points, but it does not help the development of the game in Tier 2 nations. Long term this is where the real money will come from.
      You mention Romania, they are a great example of a team that wasn’t given a helping hand. In the 80s you could argue that they would have competed in the 5N. They were an excellent team, but the powers that be didn’t see any point in expanding the 5N and they fell away. This is my concern with Georgia. As for Italy, they have been given free reign with no real progress to date. Who is to say that Georgia wouldn’t do better than them?

      As an aside, what are your thoughts on a promotion/relegation setup; but for the home unions to still play each other regardless of what division they are in? So there would always be a match against England for example? This is not my idea, but an idea from another person who writes on our Youtube channel. It is an interesting point. Much like the Bledisloe Cup down this way. Who is to say that the Calcutta Cup shouldn’t be played over two legs every year. That would generate serious revenue.

      In any case, you make really good points and would love to hear your thoughts on the above suggestion. Cheers

  9. Scotland could fill a stadium against Wales/Ireland/England irregardless of the competition for sure. The TV figures would be a different matter and we do still fill out for France and Italy so that’d be millions lost at the very least. It’d be better than nothing but not better than doing nothing. For what it’s worth what is being described is not the six nations it’s just another conference in the Rugby European Championship. The Six Nations would be dead and what faces Italy? Going from playing against Wales in the Stadio Olimpico in front of 70k+ to playing against Germany in the Sparda Bank Hessen Stadion in front of 3000 to 5000 (capacity 20k though…). Does anybody demand this sort of sacrifice of New Zealand?

    And for all that it’s not like this is a particularly normal type of event either. The UEFA European championship is every four years, water polo every two years, basketball every two years, cricket every two years (and England don’t field their main team) so why have this annually, is it just because that’s what the Five Nations did?

    On the Bledisloe cup, that would probably be good for Scotland but it’d be harder for England to justify with all the premiership garbage going on. If they did that for us they’d have to do it for the other nations too and I don’t see Saracens happily giving up players for 3 more games a year. Anyway we probably can’t easily play more fixtures without having more players or burning out existing ones. We don’t have the player pool to just whip together another top tier team to exploit internationally like the all blacks can. That’s our biggest weakness right now. Not enough pro players so anything that hurts our finances, hurts our ability to fund our two teams, kills our competitiveness. Anything that puts additional work on our players, will burn out players, more injuries, kills our competitiveness.

    I’d love to see Scotland play other teams outwith Murrayfield, it’s fun to watch other countries that aren’t yet familiar with us treating Scotland like a superstar world side even when they don’t really deserve it. There’s a great 2014 USA/SCO match back when Scotland was fairly terrible but the way the commentators gushed about the side was just beautiful. It’s difficult though because the Home Nations spent a lot on their stadiums (the SRU just recently got out of debt) so there’s a strong imperative to play at home as much as possible. Maybe if Scotland could do Expo matches like the All Blacks do but the whole brand cachet may not be strong enough for that. Would Georgia pay to play?

    Italy right now is in a fairly precarious position, Scotland is great but the lack of a large player pool makes it precarious too, Wales has it’s own issues so if anything radical is going to happen here then World Rugby has to do something to make them feel more secure and viable in the long term.

    The amateur history of Rugby has given it a lot of lovely eccentricities that you don’t see in football, the Six Nations, the Lions, the barbarians. It would be a shame to lose that because of the professionalisation of the sport.

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