Comment - Six Nations already has winning formula, so why muck about with bonus points?
he Six Nations Championship does not need a bonus point system. What is the compelling reason for change? That everyone other tournament in the world has that sort of set-up? Fine. So what? Those competitions have their own way of doing things and given that we cover those events without quibble and have no truck with the fact that bonus points are awarded for tries scored or close losing scores, then it is not intrinsically the format that grates.
It is simply that there is something distinctive about the Six Nations, something that sets it apart, be it tradition, or tribalism or even its condensed nature that contributes to its enduring appeal. I can’t recall a championship over the last decade or so when I have been convinced that it might have been improved by having a bonus point system in play. Certain individual games might have had a bit of whizz and bang added to them in the closing stages, or a bit of nail-biting energy as one team closed on the scoreboard, but, hey, it was not a make-or-break deal that’s for sure.
Even the Six Nations committee seems less than certain of the change it has implemented with chief executive, John Feehan, opening his remarks by stating: "The drama and excitement of the last weekend ... is unique and is, more often than not, driven by a number of teams on equal Championship points all competing for first place on the table."
Precisely. There is already a dynamic there, a first-past-the-post set-up that was in thrilling evidence only 18 months ago when everything was up for grabs on the final day with England and France going hammer and tongs at Twickenham but even with a 55-35 victory for Stuart Lancaster’s side it was not enough to overhaul an Irish side who won the title by virtue of a six-point gap in points difference. Ireland finished with +63, Eng +57, Wales +53. Exciting, uncertain, edgy and decisive.
The administrators have addressed the one really thorny issue of a side winning all five games only to be overtaken by a team losing one match but eclipsing the Grand Slam side by virtue of more bonus points. For this trial system, a Grand Slam side will gain three bonus points to ensure the title.
But what of the dislocation of home and away games? What of the factor of weather? Wet and wild in Edinburgh, sunny and true surface in Rome?
The Six Nations is such a short sprint to the line that such variables can have a disproportionate distorting effect with one team, perhaps, racking up try bonus points in one venue and being handicapped in that pursuit in another. Little things with big consequences.
And just how much will the mindset of coaches and players truly change? I have yet to come across anyone that says they chase bonus points from the first whistle. Of course teams set out to score tries because that will give them their best chance of victory.
The system is in for a trial period. But it will stay. The bonus point system is not ruinous. But nor is it necessary. The Six Nations has marched to its own beat. And done pretty well, thank you very much, doing just that.