MILAN — Next season's Six Nations could be expanded to a home-and-away format under proposals being considered by the competing nations.
This year's competition has yet to be completed after it was halted by the coronavirus pandemic but the countries that play in the northern-hemisphere tournament are considering expanding the next edition if the traditional November tests against southern-hemisphere sides can't be played.
"One of the solutions could be to have a home and away Six Nations, but that's one of the solutions it's not 'the solution' because the main solution is that of maintaining the autumn tests for all the countries from the Six Nations," Italian rugby federation president Alfredo Gavazzi said on Wednesday.
"An alternative could be that but we still haven't decided anything. It's an alternative which is on the plate and we need to evaluate it."
England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy make up the Six Nations. There are four matches postponed from this year's tournament that are likely to be played in October before the possible start of a bumper edition for next season.
"We have a meeting every Thursday night between all the six nations and we talk about those things. We are verifying the possibility of having another competition in alternative to the November tests," Gavazzi added.
"It's a new situation which is evolving day by day and certainly we can't give a schedule but we are talking about alternatives to the November tests, we are talking about the global situation, we are looking at the possibility of having other competitions."
Gavazzi was speaking at a press conference, held via video link, at the presentation of Franco Smith as Italy's new coach.
Smith had held the position on an interim basis since November but the former South Africa international has now signed a permanent contract until 2024.
"We want to build an Italian DNA," Smith said. "That means working on a stronger unpredictability of play, on a really high work ethic, both on and off the field. And we want to be much more physical on the field.
"This DNA has to be the aim of the whole movement, starting from the under sixes. The younger teams have to work to be like the senior Italy team."
Italy lost the three matches it managed to play in this year's Six Nations, extending its record losing streak in the competition to 25 matches.
The Azzurri lost 42-0 to Wales, 35-22 to France and 17-0 against Scotland.
"We realized during the Six Nations that we need to increase our physical capacity," Smith added. "The guys are ready on a mental level but the most important thing to focus on is the physical development.
"Today we have the chance to create a plan and start again to try and close this gap to the other teams and have athletes of international level. And that's where we need to start, obviously in close collaboration with the franchises."
Smith has experience in Italian rugby having both played for and later coached Benetton Treviso.
He will be assisted by a team including Marius Goosen, Giampiero De Carli, Alessandro Troncon, Quintin Kruger and Giovanni Sanguin.
The 47-year-old Smith is currently in South Africa but is hoping to return to Italy next week.
"I'm frustrated to still be stuck here in South Africa," Smith said. "We need time to get this ship going in the right direction, you can't change everything in the three weeks we had in the Six Nations.
"But the ship is well structured, there are good players. We will try to make even more grow, we will have a group of 50-55 players who we will monitor in order to grow a group that play with consistency at international level … if we work hard, as we will try to do, we can really take a huge step forward."