Six Nations organisers issue update on tournament
NEWS: Six Nations officials have confirmed the 2021 men’s Six Nations tournament – with England as defending champions – will go ahead as planned next month, but its competitions for women and Under-20s have been shelved until later in the year.
There has been speculation that the men’s tournament could be moved to a later date in the hope that fans could potentially be allowed into stadiums if pandemic current restrictions are eased.
However, authorities have decided to press ahead with the staging of Six Nations matches behind closed doors, starting as planned with the February 6 games featuring Italy vs France and a Kyle Sinckler-less England vs Scotland followed a day later by Wales vs Ireland. Sinckler was banned on Wednesday following his F-bomb to the referee in last Saturday’s Bristol vs Exeter Premiership match.
No mention was made in the Six Nations statement about concerns at government level in France about its team’s trips to Dublin and London later in the competition. It follows concerns that earlier this week led to the suspension of the Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup.
“Six Nations Rugby confirms plans to stage the men’s Six Nations championship remain as scheduled. Following the successful completion of the 2020 Six Nations and Nations Cup, Six Nations Rugby is in constant dialogue with each of its governmental authorities and is further reinforcing its Covid-19 protocols,” read a statement that went on to explain the reasoning behind the delayed women’s and U20s events.
“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.
“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. While 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 [Six Nations Rugby Ltd] 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 properly aligned preparations for unions that have already qualified.”
Six Nations CEO Ben Morel added: “We are fiercely committed to the promotion and development of rugby at all levels, particularly the women’s game where we see such an exciting opportunity for growth. 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.”
By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass