Georgia would move heaven and earth to take Japan's Eight Nations place should SOS call come

ASFN Admin

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May 8, 2002
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Georgia have promised to answer any SOS after plans for an autumn Eight Nations tournament were thrown into disarray by Japan’s withdrawal from the competition. Japan, along with Fiji, had been invited to take part alongside the Six Nations countries in an eight-team tournament that will replace the gap in the calendar left by the traditional November tours from southern-hemisphere teams. The Six Nations board will meet this morning to discuss alternative options after reports in Asia confirmed the Japan Rugby Football Union intend to pull out as a result of logistical complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Georgia would be prime candidate to replace the Brave Blossoms in an eight-country format and have previously lobbied for entry into the Six Nations. Behind Fiji and Japan, they are widely recognised as the strongest ‘tier two county’. They have won the Rugby Europe Championship in eight of the last nine seasons and they currently sit above Italy in the World Rugby rankings. There would be numerous logistical challenges involved, however Georgian head coach Levan Maisashvili promised they would move heaven and earth to ensure they can participate – if the offer comes their way. “This is the opportunity we have always wanted,” Maisashvili told The Telegraph. “It would not be easy but we would solve any issues. An opportunity to like that to play in such a great tournament i am sure our government would solve any problems. If they ask us if we want to participate I would do everything to make it happen from the budget side to making sure players are available. Until we are asked about and we would need official invitation and letter then we can start negotiations with the government straight away.” The Eight Nations was pencilled in to take place over four successive weekends from Nov 13 as part of World Rugby’s temporarily-extended international window. Under the original plans, England, Ireland, Wales and Fiji were in one group and France, Scotland, Italy and Japan in the other. The winners of both pools would face each in a final on December 5. Organisers are committed to keeping the eight-team format. Tonga and Samoa would represent other options as opposition but Georgia have the strongest case, particularly as they are based in Europe. Argentina, whose players have decamped en masse to Europe, are currently committed to playing in the Rugby Championship, which will take place at the same time as the Eight Nations. Japan’s concerns centre around their risks of Covid-19 infection and issues affecting the preparations for the tournament. Because the entry of foreign passport holders into the country has been heavily restricted, members of Japan’s coaching staff – which includes New Zealanders Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown – have been kept out of the country. Joseph’s team, who were due to face England in a two-Test series in July, have not played a match since the World Cup quarter-final defeat by South Africa. However, Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive, told the BBC that he retains hope that Japan may still be involved. “I know that Japan have had some concerns about travel and restrictions,” Sweeney, said. “That’s part of the challenge we are all facing globally. We would still love it if they were able to come. We have got fallback options should that not be the case. At the moment it is full speed ahead for an eight-team tournament. Ideally we will keep it at eight. They want to play, but if they can’t do it for safety reasons or regulatory reasons then we have some fallbacks.” The Six Nations have yet to formally confirm the fixtures or venues with Wales unable to use the Principality Stadium which has been converted to a field hospital. “The Six Nations and its six unions are working hard to finalise plans for a proposed competition replacing, for 2020, the Autumn Internationals that have been impacted by the pandemic,” a spokesperson said. “This work includes many operational elements such as match schedules and venues, required health and safety protocols following guidance from the Unions respective governments, as well as finalising commercial arrangements with broadcast partners in each territory. We will issue an update in due course.”

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