Georgia eager to fill the gap if Japan pull out of Eight Nations
Georgia last night promised to answer any SOS after plans for an autumn Eight Nations tournament were thrown into disarray by Japan’s withdrawal.
Japan, coached by Jamie Joseph, and Fiji had been invited to take part alongside the Six Nations countries in a tournament that will replace the gap in the calendar left by the 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 intends to pull out as a result of logistical complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Georgia would be prime candidates to replace the “Brave Blossoms” and have previously lobbied for entry into the Six Nations. Behind Fiji and Japan, they are widely recognised as the strongest “tier two” country, and sit above Italy in the World Rugby rankings.
There would be numerous logistical challenges involved, however Levan Maisashvili, the Georgian head coach, promised to ensure they could participate – if the offer came their way. “This is the opportunity we have always wanted,” he said. “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.”
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 Dec 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 to Europe, are committed to playing in the Rugby Championship, taking place at the same time as the Eight Nations.
Worry: Japan’s head coach Jamie Joseph – his side have not played a match since the World Cup quarter-final defeat by South Africa