Saturday 16 December 2017

Six Nations chief sees no bonus in added points

Paul Ackford

"Over a million spectators attend the games. They are at 100 per cent capacity. It attracts the biggest TV audience in world rugby, bar the World Cup. It makes more money than any other annual competition. It gets more media attention. On any level you choose to measure it against, it works."

The words of Six Nations chief executive John Feehan. He could have added: "It is the only major tournament in world rugby not to have a system of bonus points."

But Feehan has confirmed that the Six Nations has no intention of introducing additional rewards for scoring four tries, or for losing by a margin of seven points or less, deliberately positioning the Championship at variance with the Premiership, the Magners League, the European competitions and the Tri Nations.

"What we have in place works, so why would you mess with it?" Feehan said. "We have looked at a bonus-point structure and applied it retrospectively, but it wouldn't have changed any results over the last 10 years or so. One third place might have been a fourth place, but there would have been nothing of real consequence."

Yet, is Feehan right? Not according to some who believe that the Six Nations is out of step and would benefit from a revamp.

"I definitely think it should be introduced, especially when you see the log jam in the middle of the table," says Harlequins' Conor O'Shea. "Although you don't set out to get bonus points at the start of the game, it certainly focuses the mind when they are on offer. If you get a couple of tries in the first half, do you shut up shop or try to kick on for the bonus point? That intrigue is missing from the Six Nations."

Toby Booth, London Irish's boss, is another supporter. "If you look at it from top to bottom, the countries which have been more attack-minded over the years, France and Wales, even Ireland on occasion, would have been rewarded for that positive approach. It would also encourage those teams who have struggled in recent years, Scotland and Italy for example, because it provides a measure of how close you are. If you are Italy, and you get two losing bonus points one year, and four the next, that would be an indication of improvement. The reality now is that players are so used to bonus points that it is actually quite alien for them not to operate in that context."

Booth also floats the enticing possibility that national coaches might tinker with selection to hunt for bonus points, especially when degrees of financial reward are linked to finishing positions in the Six Nations.

"In the Premiership you can get to the end of a season and think, we're significantly off the pace here, we're going to have to gamble to try to get a bonus point. Those are situations which push you into choosing different types of players or playing a certain way simply because, mathematically, the bonus point on offer might make a significant difference."

Anything there to change Feehan's mind? "Put it this way. I'll take the success of the Six Nations over the success of the Tri Nations any day."

That'll be a 'no', then.


Sunday Independent

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