Saint-Andre: No to bonus points
Philippe Saint-Andre (AFP)
Paris - France coach Philippe Saint-Andre is totally opposed to the introduction of bonus points for the Six Nations tournament, he said in an interview on Tuesday.
The 45-year-old, who is set to take France into his second Six Nations after filling the vacuum left when Marc Lievremmont stepped down after the 2011 World Cup, said he would feel cheated were his side to win the Grand Slam but another team finished top on account of accruing more bonus points.
It was revealed earlier this month in 'The Observer' newspaper that the Six Nations was considering falling into line with other tournaments and introducing bonus points.
A consultation report has been drawn up for the six countries to discuss whether to bring in the bonus points system which sees sides earn points for scoring four tries and losing by a margin of seven points or less.
On that basis France's Grand Slam in 2002 would have not been enough to see them top the table as bitter rivals England would have edged them courtesy of four offensive bonus points.
All the British Isles major club tournaments as well as the European Cup and Challenge competitions award bonus points, but the Six Nations has consistently refused to do so, declaring the history and success of the tournament meant change was not necessary.
The report says that foremost among the countries wanting a full debate on the matter are England.
However, Saint-Andre, an Anglophile having spent more than eight years coaching there, believes imposing bonus points would destroy the whole ethos of the competition.
"I like the system as it is important for World Cups and club competitions," the 69-time capped former France wing and captain said.
"However, maybe I'm old school but I wouldn't feel at ease if a team won the Grand Slam and don't win the Six Nations because another team gets more points on account of bonus points.
"I would feel cheated if that were to happen because it goes against the spirit of the competition.
"Me, I came into rugby because as a child I used to watch the (then) Five Nations and it was all about either the Grand Slam or the wooden spoon."
Saint-Andre is all for sticking with the present points system which sees sides get two for a win and one for a draw while sides on the same number of points are separated by points difference - that latter measure was only brought in after the sport turned professional.
However, his opposition contrasts with apparent pressure from the paymasters of the sport, the sponsors.
A member of English rugby's ruling body the Rugby Football Union (RFU) told the Observer earlier this month it was high time the matter was discussed and that sponsors especially were keen to have the bonus system introduced.
"We have resisted the change for the past 10 years, but there is pressure to join the mainstream, not least from commercial partners, because it would potentially increase permutations in the table at the end of the season," the RFU source said.
"But the bottom line is that it is the system that people have become used to."