No plans to expand Six Nations, says CEO amid South Africa interest

Jan 24 (Reuters) - Six Nations Chief Executive Ben Morel said there are no plans to expand the championship or change the participants, amid media reports of interest from South Africa's rugby union.

South Africa have been increasingly aligning themselves with the northern hemisphere, with four clubs joining the United Rugby Championship in 2021 and three entering Europe's Champions Cup last year.

"I can understand that dynamic, but the players in the club game in South Africa needed a competition to play in, which has been an issue on their side," Morel told the Telegraph.

"There has obviously been some interest, but we are not engaging in any of those conversations. We are focused on what we think is the right balance for the game, and that is finding competitive fixtures that will bring some pathway to the developing nations as well.

"We are having really productive calls and exchanges with the southern hemisphere on that and hopefully we can come to some agreement in the relatively short term and we believe that is in the interest of the game."

South Africa will continue to play in the annual Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina until at least 2025, organisers SANZAAR confirmed last year amid speculation the Springboks were looking to join the Six Nations.

Morel added there had been no discussions about changes to the Six Nations format or the introduction of promotion and relegation, saying its focus remains on revamping the July and November test windows.

"There is no conversation about expanding the Six Nations right now, the entire focus is on finding the right solution and improvements to the July and November windows and finding a more competitive narrative for those fixtures," Morel said.

"Our whole energy of the Six Nations is focused on that. So there's no conversation regarding anything else. There never has been."

This year's Six Nations championship begins on Feb. 4.

Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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