Source: ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

England’s 2024 Six Nations Programme

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Ireland begin the big rebuild

The RFU have produced a piece of magic by granting Ireland the choicest of venues for their 6N encounter.

They will become the second nation to experience a stadalone women’s international at HQ. The challenge now for the authorities is to match the 58,000 attendance that brought the 2023 tournament to such a memorable close.

This is a well-aimed shot in the arm for the Irish, who have been in the toils for the last few years.


It will also be a sentimental journey for Scott Bemand, the new man in charge. When he announced his decison to retire, we have to assume he didn’t intend throwing his hat into the ring to take over as the Red Roses’ boss. All we do know is that the RFU confounded all common sense and decency by appointing a Kiwi, John Mitchell. Even if he proceeds to lead England to yet another Grand Slam, it will mean very little. For Bemand restoring the Irish players’ self-belief will already have been put to the test three times.

The schedule isn’t particulaly kind to them: in round one they travel to France. There at least they know they will face a full house, whatever the result. After that they can get their feet on the ground with two home matches against Italy then Wales.

In the background lurks the thought of their version of the WXV. Thanks to the fall-out from recent seasons, they are condemned to Level Three, but there they have the chance to show their true superiority over less experienced opponents. Their key game will be against Spain.

Their three fixtures look like this:

October 13 v Kazakhstan, Dubai October 21 v Colombia, Dubai October 28 v Spain, October 28, Dubai

Back to England

The other home fixture (it’s England’s turn to be restricted to just two) is less appealing. Ashton Gate Bristol is a football ground that Bristol Bears women find appropriate to use for some of their home games.

Once again that venue favours the south-west for no obvious reason. Why that corner of the nation should find favour so frequently is hard to understand. Fans living huge distances from Bristol and Exeter must wonder why they are so regularly deprived of matches closer to home.

The RFU is under severe pressure from the public about their use of Twickenham for all the men’s matches. Of course, that’s been a long-standing tradition, but current ticket prices mean that families have to fork out a king’s ransom to attend. And the men’s team can’t even assure them of a fast-moving open game, the way the Red Roses can.

The issues facing the RFU for the women’s games are quite different. the tradition here has venues spread around the country. As attendances have shot up in the past couple of years, so the number of stadiums capable of housing all the likely spectators has decreased. But they aren’t confined to the south-west peninsula.

The Red Roses’ programme:

Sunday, 24 March
15:00 GMT: Italy v England, venue TBC

Saturday, 30 March
16:45 GMT: England v Wales, Ashton Gate, Bristol

Saturday, 13 April
14:15 BST: Scotland v England, venue TBC

Saturday, 20 April
14:15 BST: England v Ireland, Twickenham Stadium, London

Saturday, 27 April
16:45 BST: France v England, venue TBC

Once more the France match is delayed to the final round; few can dispute the rightness of that decision. It gives the Red Roses another chance to claim a record still unattained in the 6N: to gain full points when playing three away matches. In a way I would much prefer it never to be achieved. That would retsore our belief in the toughness of the competition, an ingredient sadly lacking these days, despite the ever rising standards of play.

A last request: for next year could the Six Nations board require all the competing unions to decide on precise venues and starting times by an agreed date? That way we could avoid the TBCs that occur thrice in the table above.

The men’s game has achieved that for many years. Why not the women’s?