Six Nations organisers consider splitting men’s and women’s tournaments

Overhaul will see women’s tournament move from February-March slot

England’s Amber Reed is tackled by Edel McMahon and Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony of Ireland during the Six Nations game at Castle Park  in Doncaster on February 23rd. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

England’s Amber Reed is tackled by Edel McMahon and Victoria Dabanovich O’Mahony of Ireland during the Six Nations game at Castle Park in Doncaster on February 23rd. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

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The Six Nations schedule is set for a radical overhaul, with organisers considering creating a new window for the women’s competition to avoid clashing with the men’s tournament, moving it away from the traditional February-March slot in an effort to increase exposure.

There was widespread criticism of the schedule for the tournament this year, with a number of the games shoehorned into lunchtime kick-offs, often overlapping each other. Similarly, there have been problems with women’s matches staged on the same day as the men’s – often in different cities – meaning fans are unable to attend both.

There was also considerable disbelief at the decision to stage France v England – effectively the title decider – on the opening weekend of the 2020 tournament. That match, won 19-13 by England, attracted a bumper crowd of 14,000.

This year was the second in a row that organisers failed to attract a title sponsor for the women’s championship. There is no prize money either while over €18 million is available in the men’s tournament, and there is a sense that a new window would help resolve that.

“We are studying a possible specific window different to the men’s as part of an update to the global calendar for the women’s international game,” a Six Nations spokesperson said. “This is a working option right now, no decision is made yet.”

It is understood the proposal was being considered before the pandemic but the disruption could accelerate the move. The women’s calendar has already been affected by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021. There are just six weeks between the end of the Games and the start of the World Cup in New Zealand and far more women move between Sevens and XVs than in the men’s game.

Firstly, though, the 2020 women’s Six Nations needs to be completed. England, with four wins from four, are the champions elect with Italy left to play, but six matches need to be rescheduled, including Ireland’s games at home to Italy and away to France. – Guardian

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