Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan believes "we are not going anywhere" with regard to Italy's continued participation in the Guinness Six Nations, while adding that for the moment we could be better off with a five-nation tournament.

O'Sullivan's criticism came in the wake of another heavy defeat for the Italians at the weekend, when losing to Ireland in Rome.

Since joining the expanded Six Nations tournament in 2000, Italy have won just 12 of the 108 games they have played so far, with their last win coming in 2015.

As things stand, they are guaranteed a place in the competition for another four years. With no real sign of major improvement in the short term, there have been calls for a promotion/relegation series of games with Romania and Georgia or indeed letting a South Africa or Argentina be included to make the Six Nations even more competitive.

"They are the whipping boys of the tournament and the fact remains that every team sees Italy as an opportunity to rack up points," said Eddie O'Sullivan. when speaking on RTÉ's Against The Head.

"Italy are your banker if you need points on the last day. That's not good for the tournament. When the tournament started everyone was saying we should give them time, but it's 21 years and it's probably getting worse now, not better.

"I see Franco Smith (Italy coach) coming out and saying his team will beat anyone in the world in five years. I don't know where that came from, there is no evidence, it's just the same year in, year out. It's not a good look for a tournament to have an annual whipping boy; it's not a good idea in terms of developing the tournament.

"Forget all the poppycock about history; it's about money"

"If you don't put in a big performance against Italy, you are going to face huge criticism and if you lose to Italy as a coach you will probably lose your job. 

Also speaking on the programme was Bernard Jackman, who added that Italy have to prove that they "deserve a place" in the Six Nations, and that Georgia might be more equipped to take their opportunity, while Fiona Coghlan asked the question: "Is it best for the tournament or is it best for rugby" to have Italy involved?

Indeed, on the latter point and the topic of finances, O'Sullivan went on to say: "Putting Romania and Georgia in instead of Italy? Let's call a spade a spade, you are looking for a South Africa or an Argentina to make it a different tournament, to push it on. We're not going anywhere with Italy, Romania or Georgia. Italy have been developing for 20 years and it just hasn't happened. 

"The tournament is very important for the finances in this part of the world. You can't afford to have a development team there and see where they go. You could make the argument that we are better of with five nations, but you'd lose some games, but the games you are losing are really just run outs. A win every four or five years does not fix it. 

"They'll be pushing for bigger guns, for South Africa or Argentina to come into the Six Nations. Forget all the poppycock about history; it's about money."