Fixture clashes in the women’s championship have angered John Birch, of scrumqueens.com

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Rugby Rant: Women’s Six Nations schedule is ridiculous

When Sarah Hunter first played for England in the Women’s Six Nations in 2007, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that players and officials came close to outnumbering the crowd, writes John Birch of scrumqueens.com.

I was there. My daughter’s team had been invited along to create a ‘guard of honour’ and it is entirely possible that the girls and us parents were the only spectators not related to the players. Niceties like the scheduling of games barely mattered in 2007. Hardly anyone knew the games were taking place.

Women’s rugby today is so far removed from 2007 that it’s on a different planet. It fills grounds. There is a worldwide following and media coverage beyond young Sarah’s wildest dreams.

Since 2014 every Women’s Six Nations match has been broadcast or streamed. That has encouraged greater crowds and TV audiences. Armchair fans have followed the ebbs and flows of the tournament from start to finish with back-to-back games available live, just like the men’s event.

But not this year. The games are all still going to be streamed and broadcast – but, in most cases, at the same time.

Women’s Six Nations schedule

Clash: Ireland v Scotland kicks off at the same time as Wales v Italy this weekend (Getty Images)

Take the opening weekend. While followers of the men’s championship will have a feast of rugby with two games following each other on Saturday, and another on Sunday, the entire women’s programme will be compressed into one two-hour slot at Sunday lunchtime.

At 12.30pm on Sunday, France and England kick off the championship in Pau, but they will have barely got boots dirty before Ireland v Scotland and Wales v Italy start simultaneously at 1pm.

And that is not an isolated incident. In round two Scotland v England and Ireland v Wales will overlap, in round three the same will happen for Wales v France and England v Ireland, and so on.

It’s like having a firework display where all the fireworks go off at once. A blizzard of rugby, almost impossible to follow live, then silence.

Why is this happening? It seems because it has been decreed that no women’s games shall overlap with any games in either the men’s championship or the U20 tournament. The women’s tournament has then been shoehorned into whatever time is left.

“Women. Know your place,” this says.

This article originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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