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EXCLUSIVE | IRFU's Philip Browne - Six Nations relegation 'destabilising'

IRFU CEO Philip Browne says introducing relegation to the Six Nations could be seriously detrimen...


EXCLUSIVE | IRFU's Philip Browne - Six Nations relegation 'destabilising'

IRFU CEO Philip Browne says introducing relegation to the Six Nations could be seriously detrimental to the future of the game.

The Irish Rugby head joined Ger Gilroy and Keith Wood on the latest episode of 'State of the Union', where we take an in-depth look at the future of the game.

"Italian rugby has struggled for a number of reasons - for one I don't think they're particularly organised. Since Conor O'Shea and his appointment, they have started to turn things around.

"The whole issue of relegation in the Six Nations is... the jeopardy is [it's] professional sport. The money we generate from the Six Nations actually funds professional sport and professional rugby and it also funds the amateur game.

"To get relegated, if we ended up going into a second-tier competition, playing Georgia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Germany - the reality is we would probably have to shed two professional teams immediately because of the impact it would have on our finances.

"In those sorts of circumstances, what you're actually doing instead of stabilising or improving the game - you're actually destabilising the game and possibly disimproving the game.

"It becomes existential. The reality is for us to lose a team, or for Italy to lose two teams through relegation, it would be almost impossible to put it back together again.

"What we have to try and do is preserve what we have, as opposed to trying to look over the fence and say the far-off fields are greener. The fact of the matter is Georgia are always touted as the possible team to come in instead of Italy.

"Italy have beaten Georgia on a number of occasions, the record is there and I don't think you'd be getting a massive improvement by bringing in Georgia.

Italy head coach Conor O'Shea before the International Friendly at St James' Park, Newcastle.

"That doesn't mean you can't try and improve Georgia and the other European nations. [But] at this point in time, that's probably down the agenda, survival is the name of the game at the moment."

Browne was also asked about suggestions that South Africa are being considered as an addition to the Six Nations, given they are in the same time zone as much of continental Europe.

However, the IRFU chief says that hasn't been a discussion he's been involved in just yet.

"Certainly it hasn't been a discussion as far as I'm concerned. There's lots of chat about this and that. At the moment they play in Super Rugby, they play in the Rugby Championship, and as far as I know there are contracts in place for the continuation of that.

"At the moment, two years could be a long time in rugby or in sport, given where we are at the moment. So who knows what might happen in the future?"

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Ger Gilroy IRFU Italy Keith Wood Off The Ball Philip Browne Rugby Six Nations South Africa State Of The Union