Warren Gatland has remarked that France and Ireland have opened the Six Nations against the two weakest teams, Italy and Scotland, with alarming frequency.
For the record: France 11 times in 15 seasons, and Ireland nine, compared to England (six) and Wales (just four).
The Wales coach noted that getting a good start is crucial, and questioned whether TV broadcasters were influencing the schedule. He added:” I don’t know if there should be a rota…some teams have obviously had easier starts on a regular basis than others.”
We all know that TV money makes the world go round, but isn’t it time for the rugby suits to stand up and be counted when it comes to representing the best interests of the sport.
There is a balance to be truck between a good commercial deal with broadcasters that helps to cement the foundations of the professional game, and kowtowing to their every demand for fear that they will take their money elsewhere. At the moment that balance is out of kilter, mainly because rugby’s committee men cannot bring themselves to say no to the television brokers.
For instance, the BBC should have been told that the last round of the Six Nations has to be played simultaneously because with a staggered schedule. The integrity of the tournament is devalued if the teams that play last know exactly what they have to do to win
England had that advantage this year, just as Ireland did in Paris last year, but however good the outcome for supporters and TV ratings, it is wrong.