Happily the threat to the Women's Six Nations appears to be abating and the earth-shattering proposals to split the tournament into two tiers look set to be rejected.
It would have been a regressive step, laced with self-interest by the tournament’s weaker nations, that would have had big consequences for all of the participants and huge symbolic significance for the sport in general.
I understand that the Scots and the Welsh were the main drivers of a move that would have seen Ireland, France and England play each other on a home and away basis and Italy, Wales and Scotland relegated into a second tier competition of just two matches a year.
You have to feel for the Scots who had a torrid time in this season’s event. They lost all five games, were shut out in four of them and failed to score a single try.
Seventy-plus point hammerings at the hands of England and France would have hurt physically and mentally and in the short term at least they can be forgiven for wondering what the point of it is. Wales also seemed to be wavering, even though they won twice and ran England very close in their final fixture, though their objections were less about routine humiliation and more to do with the expense of competing.
But this is where the argument for a two-tier event breaks down, particularly when you learn that we are not talking about many millions of pounds here. The cost of running a Women’s Six Nations team is between £30,000-50,0000. Not insignificant, but given what’s at stake surely a mere drop in the ocean.
The noises emanating from Cardiff are that the Welsh women believe they can raise that sum and, if that is the case, then yesterday’s committee meeting, at which the topic was debated, should have been a lot smoother than if the reverse was true.
That would leave the Scots isolated because there is no doubt that the Italians are thoroughly against the idea of being lumped into a second-rate championship having made genuine progress in the last few years.
That was illustrated by their wins over France and in Dundee and the fact they restricted Grand Slam winners Ireland to a 6-3 victory. It would be wrong to take them down too just because Scotland are struggling.
However, even though the threat has receded the pressures on the women’s 15-a-side game remain present and the sport is endangered by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, an enemy within.
And that’s the growing attraction of Sevens. If you are a union tired of getting stuffed and paying for the privilege, the temptation would be to focus on a brand of rugby that is less attritional and less resource intensive.
Into which basket the Scots appear to want to put their eggs. Encouraged by the elevation of the sport to the Olympic family for 2016 – and presumably by the fact it will probably cost less to run a Sevens squad than it does a full one, there is a desire north of the border to change emphasis.
And this is where the real danger lurks and where women’s rugby must be viewed as a single, top-to-bottom entity. Anything that diverts attention, money, effort and time from the 15s game would be a debilitating body-blow.
Like General Custer splitting his forces, the two entities would be far weaker even with a Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens this summer and the lure of a trip to Rio three years down the line.
Women’s rugby’s champions have battled for years to gain credibility and exposure – and I admit to being something of a Come Lately in this respect, to the point where the game is viewed in a similar way to the men’s.
It might only be symbolism but it’s important symbolism because without those events like the media days when both Six Nations competitions are launched side by side and when England Women follow the men at Twickenham, the whole structure is undermined.
Starting that process again and trying to align Women’s Sevens with the men’s circuit would mean redoing all the hard work and for less reward because the IRB Sevens circuit is too niche as it is. And if the pinnacle of the pyramid is reduced, then so too is its base.
Sevens is not the way forward for the women’s game at community level. “You’d basically lose all of your forwards,” warns Steph Warner, club captain of Moseley Women.
“We attract a lot of ladies who want to play to get fit and lose weight. We’ve got a couple of Sevens tournaments this summer and already the forwards are feeling they won’t be included because they are not fast enough. Props and hookers like me would find it hard.”
And therein lies the real story, splitting the women’s Six Nations, indeed doing anything more than dabbling with the seven-a-side game would set the whole edifice back years.
Of the 15,000 women players in this country, only 17 of them are anything like full-time Sevens players and even they will revert to 15s after the World Cup.
Going any further down the Sevens line would split precious resources and, more importantly, disenfranchise a whole group of girls and women from taking up a sport.
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