Categories crunchfx

Six Nations considers Saturday-only revamp to boost rugby’s appeal – The Irish Times

All future men’s Six Nations fixtures could be held on Saturdays as rugby union officials look to boost the championship’s appeal. It is understood serious consideration is being given to scrapping Friday and Sunday games and instead expanding the use of the popular finals weekend Super Saturday concept.

Staggering kick-offs and playing the entire three-match round on the same day has proven to be a major television ratings success, with the seven most-watched matches of the 2024 Six Nations all Saturday kick-offs. By contrast, the three men’s Six Nations matches with the lowest TV viewership in the UK this year – Wales v France, Ireland v Italy and Italy v France – were all played on Sundays.

The move will be welcomed by many away fans, who will be spared the logistical hassle of Friday night matches, but many Irish fans have travelled to Marseille for Ireland’s first Six Nations win against France at this year’s tournament.

The 2025 championship is also expected to start on Friday, with France hosting Wales on January 31. However, some unions are thought to be in favour of only playing Saturday matches.

The proposal is among several ongoing planning discussions as administrators in both hemispheres examine how best to expand rugby’s global audience and maximise revenues. Also high on their priority lists is the launch of a new biennial Nations Cup tournament planned for 2026, with a lucrative €950m bid over eight years to stage a so-called Super Bowl of Rugby finals weekend in Qatar.

No final agreement has been reached but despite the potential financial bonanza, some major unions are understood to have reservations. In addition to Qatar’s human rights record, the relatively small number of travelling fans could affect ticket sales and the atmosphere inside stadiums. Sources suggest that talks are now entering a decisive phase.

Meanwhile, British & Irish Lions officials are continuing discussions over the match schedule for next year’s tour of Australia. As well as finding alternative opponents to replace the now defunct Melbourne Rebels, there are also growing concerns over the proposed fixture against a combined Anzac invitational XV in Adelaide on July 12.

New Zealand’s best players will be involved in a home Test series against France, while the leaders Wallabies prepare for the first Test in Brisbane next weekend. With the Australian tour itinerary stretched to just nine matches and commercial and broadcast deals already signed, providing the Lions with a competitive opponent is a clear necessity. – Guardian