UK journo Stephen Jones labels Rugby Championship 'second division'

All Blacks, Test rugby, Rugby Championship
The All Blacks escaped most of Stephen Jones' wrath. Photo credit: Getty

The 'Scrooge McDuck' of UK rugby journalists has fired another shot south, proclaiming the Rugby Championship 'the second division of the global game'.

A week after suggesting the all-conquering Crusaders would make up the numbers in Europe's premier club rugby competition, Stephen Jones says the southern hemisphere's major test championship fails when compared to the Six Nations.

Jones presents "facts and not circumstantial evidence" to back the validity of his claims.

The Sunday Times columnist used world rankings as his first port of call and it's hard to argue with his evidence.

While New Zealand sit comfortably atop as the world's best, Australia and South Africa languish behind Ireland, Wales and England, while Argentina are ranked 10th, four spots above Italy.

"Ah well, those southern softies will catch up one day," Jones quipped.

Kieran Read and the All Blacks have dominated the Rugby Championship since 2015.
Kieran Read and the All Blacks have dominated the Rugby Championship since 2015. Photo credit: Getty
Stephen Jones.
Stephen Jones. Photo credit: Sunday Times.

But Jones wasn't foolish enough to pan the All Blacks, leaving some room this week for compliments.

"Naturally, we must exclude New Zealand from all criticism, as ever, as they are cruising along," Jones wrote.

"The statistics are magnificent, if you are Kiwi, but not so good if you are trying to market the competition as a fierce event," noting that the All Blacks had lost just two of their last 33 Rugby Championship tests.

Jones also pointed to declining attendance numbers, suggesting the tournament is in need of “proper contests”.

"In six seasons, the average attendance has dipped from just under 46,000 to just over 30,000, and if that carries on they will be playing in a phone box inside a decade," Jones noted.

"Argentina have won only three of their 33 games, a dreadful return after the momentum they brought with them on being admitted to the tournament."

Jones then looked ahead to Japan 2019, admitting New Zealand were clear favourites but Australia and South Africa had a real opportunity over the next two months to prove their credentials.

"New Zealand will surely come out ahead but the world needs evidence that the demolishing of the black machine is on the horizon."