Red Roses deliver most watched sporting event of the weekend

Jess Breach and Ellie Kildunne celebrate with Sydney Gregson of England after the Guinness Women's Six Nations 2024 match between France and England at Stade Chaban-Delmas on April 27, 2024 in Bordeaux, France
Jess Breach, Ellie Kildunne and co were watched by a peak audience of 1.9 million - David Rogers/Getty Images

Interest in the Red Roses is at an all-time high as their dominance of the Women’s Six Nations continues.

England secured an emphatic sixth consecutive Six Nations title and third straight Grand Slam after passing a tricky test against France in Bordeaux last Saturday.

Their 42-21 victory, which was broadcast on BBC One, was the most watched sporting event in the UK over the weekend and pulled in the largest television audience for a Red Roses match since the 2017 Women’s World Cup final in Belfast.

With its peak audience of 1.9 million, more people tuned in to watch England’s Grand Slam decider than the World Snooker Championship (1.2 million peak) and West Ham’s fixture with Liverpool (also 1.2 million).

It also pulled in a larger TV audience than the team’s 2022 World Cup final defeat by New Zealand in Auckland, which attracted a peak audience of 1.8 million on ITV despite a 13-hour time difference.

As the two highest ranked teams in the Women’s Six Nations, England and France have been kept apart until the final round of the championship in recent years given the lack of jeopardy across the competition.

England’s first championship under new head coach John Mitchell coincided with dazzling displays of attacking rugby and an 88-10 hammering of Ireland in front of nearly 50,000 at Twickenham, prompting suggestions they are pulling away from France.

That they put double the number of points on Les Bleues in front of a hostile Bordeaux crowd would suggest as much, but interest in these two European heavyweights has hardly waned.

The winner-takes-all match in Bordeaux attracted a record television audience size of 1.4 million, which represents an 80 per cent increase compared to the fixture last year that was staged at Twickenham.

Average audiences for the Red Roses across this year’s championship have also tracked significantly higher than last year, jumping by almost a third.

The positive viewing numbers are likely to make the BBC, which has one year left on its four-year contract with the Women’s Six Nations, a frontrunner to secure the rights for next year’s Women’s World Cup in England.

The co-operation is in a three-way fight with ITV and Channel 4 to become the host broadcaster for the tournament, which is tipped to be an “era-defining” moment for women’s rugby.

World Rugby has entered into promising discussions with all three broadcasters, with the governing body hoping to strike an agreement with one of them before the summer.