A standalone window for the women's championship is great, a condensed schedule is not, says Sarah Rendell
Comment: New Women’s Six Nations format must not be permanent change
When the announcement came that the Women’s Six Nations would go ahead in April, I breathed a sigh of relief, particularly as the tournament last year was blighted with postponements.
To know teams will play International matches ahead of the World Cup is a massive positive for the game. I hope countries across the world can find a way for their women’s teams to get matches under their belt too.
I’m also ecstatic to finally see the women’s competition taking place separately to the men’s. Allowing the women’s game to stand alone will demonstrate to the powers that be that women’s rugby is popular and worthy of more investment.
New Women’s Six Nations format must not be permanent change
Of course, the glaring difference in the tournament this year is its format. It will follow the Autumn Nations Cup schedule of a pool stage that leads to a final, but ultimately means two fewer matches than normal for each team.
While I understand a condensed schedule is needed for this year’s Women’s Six Nations, I don’t agree with the suggestion that this new format should stay.
If organisers want this sort of tournament, introduce a Women’s Autumn Nations Cup – you could even involve countries from outside of Europe to widen its appeal – but don’t replace a Six Nations format that has worked well for years.
If the pool structure continued beyond 2021, depending on group draws, we may not see an England v Wales match for a few years. Players and fans would be deprived of a huge rugby rivalry.
We would also see a reduction in the number of Tests played in a year. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that both players and fans alike crave international sport and to reduce the number of matches is, to me, illogical.
I know there are plans to introduce a global tournament to the international calendar. But even if this goes ahead I don’t see any justification for diminishing the Women’s Six Nations.
The women’s game is building to be in a position for a ‘Super Saturday’ where a number of teams could win the tournament. The new format would see this exciting opportunity reduced to a one-off final.
So, yes, I am over the moon the Women’s Six Nations is being held separately to the men’s. It will allow it to grow its audience and secure more financial backing.
But organisers should see the new format as a temporary fix for the times we’re in. Come 2022, they should return to the full schedule to give the women’s championship the respect it deserves.
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