Bonus points have been introduced in the Six Nations. In a surprise announcement today, the Six Nations Council said that bonus points will be introduced on a trial basis for the 2017 Six Nations, the women's Six Nations, and the U20 championship.
The new points system will be reviewed after this year's championship.
Here's how the bonus points system will work. It is essentially the same as the Heineken Cup points system, with the exception of point 4.
(i) The Union that wins the Match shall be awarded four Match Points or (if it scores four tries or more in the process) five Match Points.
(ii) The Union that loses the Match shall be awarded no Match Points or (if it scores four tries or more in the process or loses by a margin of seven points or fewer) one Match Point or (if it scores four tries or more in the process and loses by a margin of seven points or fewer) two Match Points.
(iii) Unions that draw a Match shall each be awarded two Match Points and any of them that scores four tries or more in the process shall be awarded a further one Match Point.
(iv) A Union that wins all five of its Matches (a "Grand Slam") shall be awarded a further three Match Points.
The last point is included to ensure that the Grand Slam winners are actually crowned Six Nations, something which would not have been automatic but for point (iv).
This may be what Six Nations chairman Pat Whelan was driving at when he talked about "the unique properties and format of our championships."
We have been looking at the feasibility of a bonus point system for a while and examining what kind of bonus point system would work best, given the unique properties and format of our Championships.
We needed to ensure that whatever bonus point system we selected would work with the already proven structure of the Championships and would serve to materially improve what is already there.
The new system doesn't entirely suit Ireland in their usually beneficial 'odd year' home and away arrangements. Ireland face both England and France in Dublin and the other three teams away from home.
Ireland won both the 2014 and 2015 Six Nations championships on points difference. Under the new system, they would still have won both those titles. Here's the 2015 bonus points breakdown.
If this bonus points system was retrospectively applied, Eddie O'Sullivan's Ireland team would have won the title in 2007. Here's how it would have shaken out. Meanwhile, Stuart Lancaster's England would have triumphed at the expense of Wales in 2013. Naturally, all these retrospective applications of a bonus points system are beside the point.