Ge­or­gia ea­ger to fill the gap if Japan pull out of Eight Na­tions

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Ex­clu­sive By Daniel Schofield

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

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