Women's Six Nations: New format set to be one-off

By Sara OrchardBBC Sport
Natasha JOhn
Coronavirus and the difficulties in keeping the mostly amateur players safe have resulted in a new slot in the calendar and format for 2021

The new format of the Women's Six Nations is likely to only be for 2021, organisers have confirmed.

It is usually a six-team round-robin tournament.

"This year was exceptional circumstances," said Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel.

"We are very happy to have a standalone window and that may continue in the future.

"But I think the DNA of the Six Nations is a round robin where each team plays against each other with a Grand Slam at the end."

2021 Women's Six Nations pools
Pool APool B
EnglandFrance
ItalyIreland
ScotlandWales

With the tournament about to get underway on Saturday, Morel said that any Covid outbreaks within team's bubbles would be treated on a "case-by-case basis" by the Six Nations board.

"We will try our absolute best… and the first goal would be to reschedule," he said.

Promises of professionalism and 'ferocious' training sessions

Morel was speaking at the Women's Six Nations launch also attended by all six teams' captains.

Wales will travel to France on Saturday night for their opening fixture in Pool B.

Welsh skipper Siwan Lillicrap said her squad are "hopeful" the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) would "stay true to their word" on their promises last summer for the Welsh women's team to go professional at some point in the future.

The Bristol player said WRU bosses had not set any targets for the women to hit.

Scotland captain Rachel Malcolm spoke about how "mentally tough" the last year had been for her team.

Her comments come after Scotland, Italy and Ireland had their World Cup qualifiers rearranged and cancelled on several occasions.

2021 Six Nations fixtures
3 AprilEngland v Scotland
France v Wales
10 AprilItaly v England
Wales v Ireland
17 April Ireland v France
Scotland v Italy
24 AprilFinals day

Meanwhile, Ireland captain Ciara Griffin is not concerned with the lack of rugby her team has had since the start of the pandemic, describing their internal training games as "ferocious".

She credited "over 20 training camps" laid on by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to get them match ready.

Griffin said she also has no plans to move to England and get more regular rugby in the Premier 15s league, saying she is "happy" in Ireland.

England captain Sarah Hunter confirmed she is over a neural injury in her hand, having played for her club Loughborough Lightning.

New for 2021

For the first time all the games can be watched live by fans with no over-lapping kick-off times, with Morel adding: "It also doesn't overlap with the men so the whole standalone window is a fantastic opportunity."

The online launch was also a stand-alone event, separate from the men for the first time.

Fans in the UK will be able to watch all the home nations games across the BBC on the iPlayer, Red Button with England's final match broadcast on BBC2.

Fans will be also be able to play "Women's Six Nations Fantasy Rugby" for the first time.

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