Rugby

Bonus points ‘promote positive rugby’ – Six Nations boss says format set to stay

Ireland could win this year’s tournament even if England win more matches.

The Guinness Six Nations trophy, on display in Dublin last month
The Guinness Six Nations trophy The Guinness Six Nations trophy, on display in Dublin last month (David Davies/PA)

Six Nations chief executive Tom Harrison insists bonus points are unlikely to be abandoned if it transpires that Ireland win this year’s tournament despite claiming fewer victories than England.

England’s triumph over Andy Farrell’s men on Saturday has brought intrigue to the final day of the Guinness Six Nations, with both sides capable of lifting the crown, while France and Scotland also have mathematical chances of winning.

Ireland are in the driving seat and could retain their title even if they lose or draw against Scotland and England topple France, because they have already accumulated four bonus points.

It would be the first time since bonus points were introduced in 2017 that the team finishing top had collected fewer victories than the side in second, but Harrison has indicated the format is here to stay.

When asked about whether a rethink would be needed if the Six Nations was won in that way, Harrison replied: “Yes, if we think bonus points are a problem.

“But remember why bonus points are there – bonus points are there to promote positive rugby. It’s about fan engagement, right?

“It’s also that the players know. It’s not as though we’re saying ‘You’ve played so well we’re going to award you an extra point afterwards’. No, I don’t think it will change.

“I’m delighted that there is some jeopardy going into the final weekend. It’s great. That’s one of the features of the Six Nations – you genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Harrison was speaking at the launch of the Women’s Six Nations in London – a competition England are aiming to win for the sixth successive year, with France their closest rivals.

With their rivals investing more money into their national programmes in an attempt to catch up, Harrison is confident the playing field will level out.

“It would be great to have more competitive matches and I think that, through the investments that have happened just in the last 12 months, we will start to see some of that,” he said.

“Of course, England and France have obviously also upped their game in terms of their performance, and we have had another year of understanding how to become even better.

“Partners are very interested in seeing those improvements and seeing how teams are becoming more competitive.

“And let’s be honest, this isn’t the domination that you might see in Scottish football, for example. We’ve got a couple of years where the gap has widened and I expect that gap to narrow.

“Our role is to provide increased levels of funding for the women’s game because we don’t really get involved in the high-performance space.

“What we can do, though, is ensure those funding streams are healthy, open and exploited to the full extent.”