‘Play all Six Nations Tests in one country’ – Rob Baxter

·3-min read

Playing this year’s Six Nations in one country has “got to be better than cancelling it”, according to Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter.

There is plenty of uncertainty about the competition although Ireland and Wales are set to meet in the tournament opener in Dublin on February 5 before Scotland and England go head-to-head at Murrayfield later that day.

Wales’ Tests set to be played without spectators

Current regulations imposed by the Welsh Government, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – particularly its Omicron variant – means all Wales’ scheduled home Tests against Scotland, France and Italy must be played behind close doors.

The Scots are in a similar position for games at Murrayfield, while it has been reported that Wales could consider moving their Principality Stadium fixtures against Scotland, France and Italy to England.

Capacity crowds are currently allowed in England, provided spectators can prove full vaccination status or provide a negative lateral flow test.

Crowd restrictions of 5,000 currently apply in Ireland and France, while Italy has a Covid pass system in place after tightening restrictions last month.

Against such a backdrop, playing the whole competition – it takes place across five weekends between early February and mid-March – in one country with permitted crowds has also been mooted in some quarters.

Financial implications of behind-closed-doors home games for the Welsh Rugby Union would be significant.

They faced an identical situation for last season’s tournament, with the shutters being down for Cardiff clashes with Ireland and England.

Full crowds were, however, allowed at the Principality Stadium for Wales’ four Autumn Nations Series Tests this term, before fresh restrictions took effect from Boxing Day.

“The whole beauty of the Six Nations has been that change of environment, that change of weather conditions, going to play in Scotland, Wales, Ireland – those are the great challenges,” Exeter boss Baxter said.

“That’s what makes the Six Nations such a great competition to win.

“You’ve seen French teams in that one week they can beat anyone in the world in Paris, and then the next week it doesn’t go quite so well in Cardiff. That’s the beauty of the tournament, that’s what from a rugby perspective I am sure we would all want to see happen.

“That said, we can’t all sit here and pretend the world is in an ideal place at the moment.

“For the national bodies, their responsibility goes beyond the professional sport, it goes right down to grassroots rugby, so if playing the tournament provides a level of income that cancelling it or no crowds doesn’t create, then we’ve got to look at the next best scenario.

“If the next best scenario is playing it in one country, where you can have sell-out crowds, you can raise some revenue and you can keep that income stream going for all the bodies, then it’s got to be better than cancelling it.

“I think with every sporting body, it’s revenue that is the biggest thing that has been damaged, so anything that can keep revenue online has got to be preferable to just binning things for a season.

“We’ve all had to try and find a way to keep going, to try and keep revenue coming in. It’s the same with any business, you’ve got to explore those options.”

Wales eyeing England switch for Six Nations home games

Meanwhile, the Welsh Rugby Union are reportedly looking to play their home Six Nations matches in England, according to reports in the British media.

With restrictions imposed by Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford banning crowds from sports stadiums, the WRU are looking at alternatives.

There are currently no restrictions at stadiums in England, despite the rising cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The article ‘Play all Six Nations Tests in one country’ – Rob Baxter appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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