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Six Nations considers Saturday-only revamp to boost rugby’s pulling power
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Six Nations considers Saturday-only revamp to boost rugby’s pulling power

All future men’s Six Nations fixtures could be staged on Saturdays as rugby union officials seek to enhance the championship’s pulling power. It is understood serious consideration is being given to scrapping Friday and Sunday games and instead expanding the popular final weekend Super Saturday concept.

Staggering the kick-offs and playing an entire three-game round on the same day has proved a significant television ratings success, while the seven most-watched games of the 2024 Six Nations were all Saturday kick-offs. Conversely, the three men’s Six Nations matches with the lowest TV audiences in the UK this year – Wales v France, Ireland v Italy and Italy v France – were all played on Sundays.

The move would find favour with many travelling supporters, who would be spared the logistical ordeal, say, of Friday night fixtures in Cardiff. The 2025 Championship is also due to kick off on a Friday, with France hosting Wales on 31 January, but several unions are believed to be in favour of reverting to Saturday-only matches.

The proposal is among several ongoing scheduling debates as administrators in both hemispheres examine how best to expand rugby’s global audience and maximise revenues. Also high on their list of priorities is the scheduled launch of the new biennial Nations Cup tournament in 2026, with a lucrative proposal of £800 million over eight years having been tabled to stage a so-called Super Bowl of Rugby finals weekend in Qatar.

No final agreement has yet been reached but, despite the potential financial bonanza, some major unions are understood to have reservations. In addition to Qatar’s human rights record, a relative lack of travelling supporters could have an impact on ticket sales and the atmosphere inside the stadiums. Sources suggest discussions are now entering a decisive phase.

British & Irish Lions officials, meanwhile, remain in negotiations over the match schedule for next year’s tour to Australia. As well as finding alternative opponents to replace the now-defunct Melbourne Rebels, there are also increasing issues with the proposed fixture against a combined ANZAC invitational XV in Adelaide on 12 July.

New Zealand’s top players will be involved in a home Test series against France while the leading Wallabies will be preparing for the first Test in Brisbane the following weekend. With the Australian tour itinerary extending to just nine games and commercial and broadcasting deals long since signed, providing the Lions with competitive opposition is a clear necessity.

Source: theguardian.com