Organisers of the women’s Six Nations are giving serious consideration to making it a standalone event for the foreseeable future as well as reintroducing a round-robin format.
The proposals were outlined by Ben Morel, the chief executive of Six Nations Rugby, at the launch of this year’s tournament, which has a reduced format after being postponed because of the pandemic. The rescheduling of the competition has meant it also being played separately to the men’s version for the first time and that is something Morel is open to remaining the case.
“We are obviously going to see how successful this will be but I have no doubt that this is a great idea," hy het gesê. “I will need strong convincing that this is not a good idea. The true question really is what is the right window?”
In the long term, the women’s Six Nations could be held either straight after the men’s version, in its fallow weeks or later in the spring, and could go back to being a round robin tournament from 2022. This year’s format is similar to the men’s Autumn Nations Cup in that the six competing nations are split into two pools, with England, Italy and Scotland in Pool A and France, Ireland and Wales in Pool B.
“We are open to views and we are going to be looking to make a decision ahead of the 2022 championship and going forward,” said Morel. “We want to make sure that works from a rugby perspective in terms of preparation. But also for broadcast and future sponsors, so that’s where we are.
“I believe a round robin, where each team plays each team, and the possibility of a grand slam is something we want to keep as part of the DNA of the Six Nations.”
Morel also admitted that, with hindsight, the full fixture list could have been played this year. “The reason why we had to look at the condensed window was the constraints we were facing at the time of rescheduling. We had to look at club competition but most importantly the world rugby calendar with the World Cup qualifiers," hy het gesê.
“They were due to happen before and after our tournament. It ends up some of the qualifiers and the World Cup have unfortunately been postponed. So therefore we could have done things differently. But at the time those changes occurred it was much more beneficial to keep it with the decision we had.”
England begin their Six Nations campaign against Scotland on Saturday and are strong favourites to retain the title they won in November. The pressure is on, therefore, but the captain, Sarah Hunter, insists the team are ready for that, largely because the biggest pressure on England comes from within their own camp.
“Not just from a results point of view but from a performance perspective as well. We want to play well, we want to be putting into practice what we train and how we train and that’s really a key focus for us," sy het gese. “The girls have been training immensely hard and really working on the way we’re playing. I know that’s a real focus for us in terms of going into the Six Nations. So while everyone goes: ‘Right, it’s going to be an England-France final,’ we can’t pay attention to that.”
Hunter added that England will focus on their performances to put them in the best position for finals day on 24 April. “That’s our goal and that’s the standard we set of one another,” said the 35-year-old. “We don’t really look too much to what externally is happening, especially when you’re in a bubble. You kind of forget the outside world and what’s going on there and what people are saying.”