As we’re all aware rugby in Australia has faced its fair share of challenges over the last decade, but we have an opportunity to expand the game by including Japan and Fiji in the Rugby Championship, copying the format of the Six Nations.
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Argentina, and Fiji would play each other once, with the nation at the top of the table winning the tournament.
This format means the All Blacks won’t automatically win the tournament.
In order to win the current Rugby Championship, you basically have to beat the Kiwis in New Zealand, which is incredibly hard to do. In fact, since 2012, the only time the All Blacks have lost was in years when the tournament was shorted – 2015 and 2019.
In a format where everyone plays each other once you are only required to beat the All Blacks once and so if they lose an away match, the team that beats them is in prime position to win overall. This will lead to more interest in the competition, as South Africa and Australia are far more likely to win the trophy than in the current format.
At the other end of the table, Japan have improved immensely over the last decade and Fiji are also formidable. Although Fiji, Japan and Argentina are unlikely to win the tournament, the matches they play against each other will be competitive.
This will make the tournament more competitive and doesn’t featured too many Tests, so fans are likely to stay engaged for the duration. The Six Nations considered expanding to a full home-and-away schedule a few years ago but decided against it, in part because they felt it would reduce competitiveness.
Growth, beautiful growth
This would help to grow the game in Japan and Fiji, securing them revenue and exposure to elite rugby each and every year.
Growing the game in Japan, in particular, should be a priority. The country has an enormous population and after the success of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, SANZAAR would be fools not to feed that nation’s ravenous appetite for rugby.
Japan operates in essentially the same time zone as New Zealand, Fiji and Australia, so the opportunity to grow the game also means an opportunity to grow the TV market considerably, and for all unions to cash in on some sweet, sweet yen.
This would yield an immediate financial benefit to Rugby Australia in the short term, however over the next 15 or so years, investing in Japanese rugby has the potential to secure tremendous wealth. Administrators would be barking mad not to explore this option.
Domestically, this competition would give the Wallabies a chance to play the game across more of Australia. Home games against Fiji, Japan and Argentina could be played in areas which aren’t traditional rugby regions.
For instance, the Wallabies could play Fiji on a Saturday afternoon in Penrith or host games against Argentina or Japan at Redcliffe, Newcastle, Wollongong or Townsville.
The additional Tests would give the Wallabies an opportunity to play in working-class or regional areas and make the game of rugby union accessible to all Australians.
The most glaring downside is that this proposal means fewer games against NZ and the Springboks, which could mean less elite games and a possible financial hit.
One solution would be to reintroduce the tri-nations as a separate tournament to the Rugby Championship.
If this were the case, following the Rugby Championship, Australia, NZ and South Africa would play an additional round against each other, with the table including the matches from both the Rugby Championship as well.
Playing both tournaments would guarantee a minimum of eight Tests per year and four home Tests from these two competitions, which is an increase on the six Tests and three home games played currently.
More Tests equates to more money and greater cohesion for the Wallabies, which can only be a good thing.
This format strikes a balance between expanding the game, securing revenue, and maintaining our exposure to elite-level rugby. What do you think?