Six Nations confirm no plan to replace Italy with South Africa

There had been reports that Italy were going to be replaced in the competition by South Africa. Photo by Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There are no plans to change the participants of Rugby's Six Nations, the organising body said in a statement on Friday, amid media reports that South Africa are set to replace Italy in the tournament.

British newspaper the Daily Mail reported this week that South Africa were keen to re-align with northern hemisphere rugby and would enter the Six Nations in 2025 at Italy's expense. However, Six Nations organisers have denied the story.

"Six Nations Rugby, comprising the six Unions and Federations and CVC, wish to confirm that they are not entertaining any discussion nor developing any plans to add or replace any participating Union," the statement read.

"All its energy is focused on the current strategic discussions regarding the July and November international windows and structure of the global season, and to ensure a positive outcome for the development of the game."

Italy's 33-0 defeat by England in Rome last weekend extended their losing streak to 34 in the Six Nations, a run that stretches back to 2015. They face Ireland in Dublin next Sunday.

Former Italy captain and head coach of Benetton Treviso Marco Bortolami warned that bringing in South Africa would have severe consequences for rugby in the country.

"It would be a disaster," Bortolami told the Daily Telegraph. "For exposure, the Six Nations has always been the highlight of the season for Italian rugby.

"If you want to kill rugby in Italy that would be the best way to do it."