Georgia on Pichot's mind as World Rugby vice-chairman calls for expansion

World Rugby vice-chairman Gus Pichot says there is an onus on administrators to “grow the game” outside of the traditional countries.

The former Argentina scrum-half says the old model of promoting the sport solely within the top tier countries and protecting the status quo doesn’t serve the game in the long run.

Last month Pichot spoke about the possibility to amalgamating the summer and autumn Test windows and designing a calendar that protects the players from the various competing forces.

Speaking on RTE 2fm’s Game On, Pichot, who was elected to the position in 2015, said he would love to see the likes of Georgia, who face Conor O’Shea’s Italy later today, join an expanded Six Nations.

“We are trying to put the international game where it has to be and it’s a massive challenge,” he said.

“When we opened, what I call the Pandora’s Box in 1995, the professional game, there were some things that weren’t done right.

“And 20 years later it’s starting to hit the international game so it’s up to us to try and put back some sense into the international calendar.

“The most important thing is to grow the game. That’s the main challenge, how you make a better calendar where you don’t jeopardise the Six Nations or the Rugby Championship?

“Where you give a pathway to Fiji, Japan, USA, Germany, Georgia, or Spain or Brazil on another level or Uruguay or China or India.

“We want to be a global organisation, not an Anglo-Saxon old organisation, we have to step up and be more creative about the future.

“In my last year and a half left as vice-chairman I’m going to push it that way because I truly believe that the game has to grow.

Georgia take on Italy later today

“There are a lot of barriers.

“Here is the confusion about professional modern rugby: it’s a business, yes, but it’s a business [with an] end mission and values.

“If we want to stand for the mission and the vision and values then we have to do what that says, okay be sustainable but if we are at the top of that umbrella we have to make the business looks not only at a sustainable product but that it’s bigger for everyone.

“How do you change without killing what you have now in the 10 or 12 nations?

“The Six Nations has been a great tournament and very profitable but how do you make it bigger?

“I would love to [see Georgia in the Six Nations in the next 5-10 years].

“As Argentina [became] part of the Rugby Championship it changed rugby in Argentina thanks to that vision to expand.

“We need to ask the questions to see if we can make that change. This is not about ruining the history or the product, it’s about bringing the change and making the business bigger, better and more sustainable.”

On the topic of World Rugby’s clampdown on high tackles, Pichot was adamant that a few high-profile commentators talking about altering the essence of the game won’t deter them from making decisions aimed at making the game safer. 

“Safety has to come all the way down the [line],” he said.

“It’s not a question of a safety issue only for the professional game…we have to protect the game from the top to the bottom. This comes down to taking care of the players’ heads. Maybe sometimes you get it wrong but we have to be consistent that we don’t want players to be hit on the head.

“Then you can argue about a less aggressive rugby, I couldn’t care less what people say about it. I still think it’s a wonderful game that doesn’t have to be hitting people above the chest. It’s as simple as that. If people don’t like it then tough luck.

“We’re not just protecting the players that we see on TV… we are protecting my nephew [who plays] and [we say that] in World Rugby we are doing everything to protect their kids.”