Warren Gatland: Wales coach would back Six Nations relegation play-off

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Six Nations: Italy 'deserve' Six Nations place - Gatland
Six Nations: Wales v Italy
Date: Saturday, 19 March Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff Kick-off: 14:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC One Wales & S4C, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland would back a promotion and relegation play-off in the Six Nations.

If it happened under current standings, Wales' opponents on Saturday Italy would play Georgia for the right to stay in Europe's top tier.

Gatland says suggesting Italy should be replaced was "a little unfair".

But he told WRU TV: "I do see some merit potentially long-term that there is promotion-relegation."

The tournament became the Six Nations in 2000 when Italy joined. They have beaten Wales, Scotland, France and Ireland, but never beaten England or finished above fifth in the table.

Wales finished bottom of the table in 2003.

Gatland would not want to see straight promotion and relegation.

"I think the team coming up, because there's only six teams, has got to be better than the team going down," he added.

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"So I see some merit in that in the future, but I think that's a few years away from being that.

"It's hard at the moment. I mean Italy - they don't have a huge number of players, but if you look back in recent years they've been able to beat France, they've beaten Wales in the past, a couple of good victories over Scotland.

"And so for them they're probably a little bit frustrated they haven't been able to put two or three wins together in a Six Nations campaign.

"I just think we've got to make sure we support Italy and they keep work hard at developing the numbers in the game.

"It can take a generation or two to keep on working hard on that sort of development.

"But I think it's a little unfair for people to start thinking about that they should be replaced in the Six Nations."

Wales have made four changes after defeat by England last weekend and while winless Italy will make at least four changes because of injury.

The Azzurri will be playing their final Six Nations game under coach Jacques Brunel, with Harlequins boss and former Ireland full-back Conor O'Shea expected to take over.

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