SIX NATIONS RUGBY LIMITED – the tournament organisers – have confirmed that they still plan to run the senior Men’s Championship as initially planned, kicking-off on 6th February, but have decided to push the Women’s and Under-20s competitions back to later in the year.
It is, of course, entirely possible that the Men’s tournament could still fall foul of Covid-restrictions, but, as it stands, the French government appears to have been reassured that playing cross-border games against British and Irish teams during February and March will not present an unacceptable risk.
Details of when the two postponed competitions will take place will be announced at the end of January following consultation with the unions involved, broadcast partners and other stakeholders.
“We are fiercely committed to the promotion and development of rugby at all levels, particularly the women’s game where we see such exciting opportunity for growth,” said Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby Limited. “This is not a decision that we rushed into and we are confident that in looking at a new later window, we will be in a far stronger position to deliver two fantastic tournaments, delivering exciting rugby for fans, and ensuring the safest possible environment in which to stage them for our players.”
A statement from Six Nations Rugby Limited added:
The dynamic nature of the external environment and the ongoing challenges it presents, particularly for sports and teams of amateur status, meant a collective agreement to push both Championships to new later windows was prudent to ensure, where possible, that both competitions can be played safely and without interruption in 2021.
Whilst closely monitoring the situation, Six Nations Rugby also confirms plans to stage the men’s Guinness Six Nations Championship remain as scheduled. Following the successful completion of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup, Six Nations Rugby is in constant dialogue with each of its governmental authorities and is further reinforcing its Covid-19 protocols. The Championship kicks off with Round 1 fixtures on the 6th February with Italy v France, followed by England v Scotland, and Wales Ireland on February 7th.
The Women’s Six Nations is more challenging to deliver safely and successfully given the need for many players to return to their jobs, some of which are key and frontline workers.
Whilst the external environment is certainly challenging, we have wanted to take a fresh look at the window and format for the Women’s Championship – this presents us an opportunity to do just that.
A working group has been formed, made up of all unions and SNRL, to review and assess dates and formats of both competitions.
We are prepared to be agile and flexible on the formats of both championships in order to find the appropriate slots in the respective calendars and deliver an exciting proposition for players and fans.
We will be factoring World Cup qualifiers as part of the mix and the need for proper aligned preparations for unions that have already qualified.