Eddie O'Sullivan believes that South Africa joining the Six Nations, possibly at the expense of Italy, is "inevitable".
It was reported last week that South Africa are due to join the northern hemisphere tournament by 2025. The Six Nations organisers subsequently denied the reports.
"I think it's inevitable that it's going to happen," former Ireland head coach O'Sullivan said on RTÉ's Against The Head.
"I've been saying this for 10 years. It's much easier for South Africa to play in Europe. It's going to change the tournament. It'll be worth a lot more money. There will be a political realignment of rugby in the world.
"Let's talk about Italy: The Italian experiment is over for a long time. There was a lot of talking during the week, 'What about Italy? What about Italy?'
"Italy are in the tournament 22 years. They've had plenty of time to make a stamp on it, and they haven't been able to.
"They have a 12 per cent win ratio (in the Six Nations), which means they are the whipping boy of the tournament. Ireland go in next week knowing it's not enough to beat Italy; we've got to score a bonus point and rack up 30 or 40 points or we'll pay a price at the end of the tournament. It skews the tournament.
"You can be romantic about it, 'weekends in Rome, and keep the Italians involved' but the truth of the matter is it's a business venture. It's fuelling the running of the game on the ground here. If South Africa jumped it up another level, it's going to happen."
Bernard Jackman and Eddie O'Sullivan discuss the future of the structure of the Six Nations. #AgainstTheHead pic.twitter.com/29Pg6qf4fk
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) February 21, 2022
Former Ireland international Bernard Jackman thinks that South Africa joining the tournament would mean it becoming the Seven Nations, sparing Italy the chop.
"What happens to the southern hemisphere without South Africa?" Jackman added.
"That Rugby Championship is a dead duck. Australia are on the way down.
"For South Africa, it being in the news last week strengthens their hand if they are going to renegotiate and stay in the Rugby Championship. New Zealand would be tearing their hair out because a championship with Japan, Argentina, and Australia isn't really a championship."