French boot for bonus point

France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre has voiced his opposition to bonus points in the Six Nations, saying it is against the spirit of the competition.

Saint-Andre was reacting to reports that rugby’s oldest international championship could introduce a bonus-point system to bring it in line with the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship and the World Cup group stages. Bonus points are also awarded in the Heineken Cup, RaboDirect Pro12, French Top14 and English Premiership, with the standard formula being one point for scoring four tries or more or for losing by seven points or less.

Speaking at the launch of the 2013 RBS 6 Nations in London yesterday, the former Sale and Toulon boss was vehemently opposed to a system which he said could see a team complete a Grand Slam and yet still finish second in the Six Nations table.

“To be honest, I think the bonus points are fantastic for the English league, the French league, for the World Cup, but for the Six Nations maybe I’m old school,” Saint-Andre said. “I played rugby because I watched the Five Nations on the TV when I was a kid and for me, you play for the Grand Slam.

“I think we will lose the spirit of the Six Nations if one team wins five games and doesn’t win the Six Nations. With the bonus points you can have four wins with bonus points and a loss with a defensive point and win the Six Nations.

“This is against the spirit of the competition. The Six Nations is one of the best competitions in the world, of the other sports as well, football, basketball, handball. It’s once each year, England against France, against Scotland, everything. It’s a very special competition. So for this, I am not very keen.”

Asked if he voiced his opposition to those within the Six Nations hierarchy who will convene to discuss the proposal, Saint-Andre said: “No, but I told my (French Federation) president and the people of the French Federation who will be on the commission.

“To be honest, if I am coach and I won four games and lost one and won the Six Nations when another team won five games, I will feel not well. Because I think this is the spirit of the rugby and of the Six Nations.

“It’s not a competition of two years, it has 100 years of history. That’s just my view, maybe people say I’m too old school. Bonus points are good, fantastic for rugby, for the public but the international game? No. All the Tests in November were quality rugby. Do you need more? I’m not sure.”

Nor is Ireland head coach Declan Kidney sure but he welcomed a debate about the introduction of bonus points. Also speaking yesterday at the RBS 6 Nations launch, Kidney was more equivocal than his French counterpart but said the format of the championship meant bonus points in their current form might not be feasible.

“I think it’s something worth looking at but I’m not exactly sure the four tries and the losing by seven would actually count in a game where one year you’re at home three times and the next year you’re at home twice,” Kidney said. “There might be another system that would encourage that type of play because I see the merits in that.

“The Heineken Cup obviously where you have six pools, 24 teams, every match counts. But because this is a smaller competition of six teams, you’d have to have a serious look.

“It’s fair in the Heineken Cup and the league matches because you play home and away and you have that many more matches, and the back door. There is no back door in this one. I think it is well worth looking at but I’m not sure whether this system would be fair and equitable.”

Kidney admitted he had not come up with an alternative system but had heard plenty of solutions.

“I was getting different theories from different things, like if you scored two tries that should be worth a point. I think there’s a whole array of things to look at. I think the idea of bringing in the bonus point is to encourage positive play, and maybe I am getting older but sometimes a 6-3 match isn’t a bad match, either. But if you had a few extra tries, it makes for more excitement, but if you need a few more TMOs (television match officials)... it’s worth looking at but it still needs to be fair.”

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