Source: TikTok Womens 6 Nations

A new TikTok Six Nations championship is waiting on the doorstep

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The TikTok Six Nations launch took place in London. Captains made the usual optimistic statements and adopted poses in new kits for the many cameras.

Crowds and media coverage will be greater than ever, but can the march of history be altered?

In other words, can any of Ireland, Italy, Scotland or Wales defeat England or France (or even both)? The last time that happened was when Italy beat France, but that was a World Cup warm-up last year, not the authentic 6N.

What most of us would like to see is more tight games and less predictability. It’s a criticism of the women’s 6N that is hard to counter.

Here are some of the jigsaw pieces that would increase a nation’s chances: Contracts, Age-Group activity, Increased Playing Numbers.


Everyone is still at a learning stage when it comes to the contracts all six nations now have in place.

We can take England as the guinea-pigs, but their progress is not a clear indicator for the others. First, the terms of individual contracts vary enormously. How generous are they; what are the commitments a player has to make? Can she give up her former employment entirely?

The good news is that the more professional life-styles players now lead will bring greater fitness and a higher skill-range.

Age-Group Activity

Everyone understands the importance of a sound base for a national programme to flourish; here too many unions have been lax. Both a regular Under 20 and Under 18 competition are needed. The latter was introduced last year, but in the nature of things it means players congregating at one location to fit in as many games as possible.

The crying need is for an Under 20s Six Nations. If the men can have one, why not the women?

The Celtic Challenge has already proved its worth, several youngsters being promoted to the 6N squad after impressing there.

Increased Playing Numbers

Four of the six nations, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales, could all do with a big expansion in playing numbers. That is where the other two hold a clear advantage.

Taking that a stage further: the earlier girls can be attracted into the game the better. There are all sorts of initiatives afoot to further that aim, and good luck to the enthusiasts who bear the brunt of the work.

One factor impedes this effort: the size of population. That is why I continue to see Italy as the nation most likely to move into the big time. Their population is roughly the same as for England and France; the other three can muster barely a tenth the size.

Hunt out the brief bios of players brought into national squads, and they are likely to have taken up the game much earlier in life than their forebears. There will always be a few who rise to the top having started late, but they are a disappearing breed. Of the current Red Roses squad I can think only of Claudia Macdonald as an example, but even she was still a teenager when she picked up a ball and ran.

Simon Middleton has confirmed how newcomers to his squads have looked much more knowing than their equivalents of only five years ago.

Anglo-French Domination

Inevitably the main focus of the campaign is on the Round Five clash at Twickenham. A world record crowd is already assured (for a stand-alone game, the only proper stat), and England’s luck can’t go on for ever.

It’s a huge shame that these two nations stand so far ahead of their competitors year after year. Between them they have won 24 of 27 tournaments. That isn’t the case in the men’s version.

I’ve recently focused on the situation in France ( The troubles the Elite 1 league is suffering hardly affect the national squad, but the choice of players most certainly does. Gaëlle Mignot and David Ortiz set their stamp on the French squad by naming Audrey Forlani captain. She was not even part of the team that travelled to the RWC last October.

The rest of the squad was widely anticipated, new faces coming in to replace distinguished figures who have retired (Céline Ferer, Laure Sansus, Marjorie Mayans, Safi N’Diaye).

As for absentees, England have an unhealthy lead over France at present. The outstanding loss for les Bleues is Madoussou Fall, whom experts rate as the one great find of the last year or two.

But England will be missing Emily Scarratt, Abbie Ward, Vickii Cornborough, Hannah Botterman, Vicky Fleetwood, Laura Keates and Zoe Harrison. The two missing loose-head props make a second headache for the selectors after No 10s disappeared from view one after the other. Three new props have been introduced, Hannah Sims, Kelsey Clifford and Liz Crake. Two more are still in the learning stages of a technical position, Detysha Harper and Maud Muir.

It’s rare to find so much doubt surrounding the make-up of a Red Roses squad.

If les Bleues can come anywhere near to the standards their menfolk showed at Twickenham recently, then England could be blown out of the water a second time running at HQ. And the youngsters coming through represent an age-group that is all too used to beating their English counterparts both home and away.