The programme published by the 6N committee is much as we might have expected it, combining fine features with one or two others.
Very sensibly it sticks to last year’s late window of March-April. It keeps the notion of a ‘Finals Day’, though this time it’s simply a renaming of Round Five. For all the delights of a knock-out competition, the Six Nations is not the place for it.
Media coverage will be greater than ever before. The schedule ensures that games kick off at different times, allowing viewers to avoid the need to choose.
There is a fortnight’s breathing space between rounds 3 and 4.
There’ll be added piquancy for the Wales-Scotland game, as they are likely to meet again in Pool A at the World Cup. It just needs the Scots to defeat two nations ranked a long way below them in the final qualifiers.
Ditto England and France (Pool C), and if France should win (at home!), that must surely lift them to second place in rankings above New Zealand, uncharted territory for the Black Ferns.
It’s excellent to find different venues on call. Ireland will use the RDS Stadium, Dublin, Musgrave Park, Cork and the Kingspan, Belfast. Scotland will host England at the DAM Health Stadium, Edinburgh, which they used for their recent game against Japan.
Games are scheduled to take place on a variety of Fridays (Wales v France), Saturdays and Sundays. Using Sunday means that the many amateurs involved have to make special arrangements to avoid clocking on at work a few hours after playing a test abroad.
For the second time running the France-England crunch is placed on the last day. While this is an obvious bow to the biggest drama of the tournament, it risks undermining the importance of the others. At least the Ireland-Scotland match is allowed to ring down the curtain.
And still no sponsor?
A Pious Hope
We can only hope that all six nations will be able to put lockdown restrictions behind them by the end of March. That would allow even bigger gates to attend fifteen high-class matches, a chance for more attendance records to be broken.