Jonathan Sexton warns against squeezing Six Nations

Sexton has warned that any attempt to run the Six Nations off over five consecutive weekends would result in a higher volume of injuries and favour England due to the reigning champions’ greater strength in depth, writes Brendan O’Brien.

The prospect of tampering with the timeframe of the tournament by removing one or both of the ‘down’ weekends currently in place started with the English Premiership clubs who are looking to free up space at the business end of the domestic season.

The English Rugby Football Union has rowed in behind the idea but opposition has been declared with the Celtic nations expected to lead the dissent.

A number of Welsh players have also voiced concern and so too have England’s Joe Marler and George Ford with the former branding it “ridiculous”.

“From a player’s point of view, the way it is now is very good,” said Sexton on Wednesday at a launch to rebrand the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) as Rugby Players Ireland. “Taking one week out is probably a compromise.

“They are talking about playing it over five or six weeks, which would be tough going. Now, World Cup is the same but during the group stage of a World Cup you might have one or two games depending on the group where you can rotate one or two guys.

“In the last World Cup, we changed up the team totally for Romania so that was essentially a week off, although you could argue that there are no weeks off at a World Cup. It is different at a Six Nations, isn’t it? Every game is full on, pretty intense, so think the way it is now is pretty ideal.

“Trying to cram it down would compromise … you would see a lot more players missing out on games, basically, because a lot of those weeks are about getting ready for the next game. You want to see the best players play in those games and I think that would be reduced.”

While player welfare is clearly the main concern there is also the prospect of damaging the delicate eco-system that is the Six Nations and loading the dice in favour of England who possess by far the largest playing base of all the nations.

“Yeah, that’s one argument,” said Sexton who missed Ireland’s first two tournament games this year due to injury. “You might have players missing a few games with a small niggle whereas you mightn’t miss any with the way it is now. The other argument would be that the best squad would win.”

“That probably suits England. They seem to have three or four or five players of the same standard through different positions but it would test our depth as well and we have maybe a little more depth than we would be given credit for, maybe.”

From today, the Irish Rugby Union Players Association will be known as ‘Rugby Players Ireland’.

Chairman Rob Kearney unveiled the new name and vision founded on their belief of the important role Ireland’s players have as key stakeholders in developing rugby in this country.

First established in 2001 following discussions between Donal Spring, Peter McKenna, Liam Toland and the IRFU, the players associations has consistently evolved and is now seen as one of the world’s leading player representative organisations.

Minister of Sport, Patrick O’Donovan was also in attendance. Speaking at the event, he said:

“Rugby is part of the fabric of Irish society. Working to make Ireland the best place in the world to play rugby will ensure that this remains the case and we are hugely supportive of the ambition announced by Rugby Players Ireland today.”

KEYWORDS: sport, rugby.


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