Six Nations in talks to play all games on Saturdays

Six Nations champions Ireland/Six Nations talks to play all games on Saturday each weekend
Ireland are the Six Nations champions - AP/Peter Morrison

The Six Nations Championship schedule could be radically overhauled and replaced with five Super Saturdays, with all six teams playing on the same day for every round for the first time.

It is understood that a review of the schedule in which matches are played on Fridays and Sundays, as well as Saturdays, is taking place. Discussions centre on how to improve the experience of supporters as well as generating a greater spectacle for broadcasters.

The concept of Super Saturday was first branded in 2015 when, for the first time, four sides came into the final day with a chance of winning the title. Ireland were eventually crowned champions after England narrowly failed to defeat France by the required margin of more than 26 points in the final game at Twickenham.

Six Nations matches on Friday nights were introduced in 2009, when France beat Wales 26-20. It initially proved  controversial, and supporters complained about travel difficulties, although it has proved hugely successful for broadcast audiences.

Games played on Sunday, in contrast, have not been a hit with either fans or broadcasters. It is understood that the three matches with the lowest TV audiences – Wales v France, Ireland v Italy and Italy v France – all took place on a Sunday.

The Rugby Football Union has been under constant pressure to play on Friday nights but, aside from the 2015 World Cup, has not been able to secure logistical approval from local authorities to stage a Six Nations game.

Playing matches at Twickenham on a Sunday has also proved problematic because of supporters travelling from the North of England, while the atmosphere at all venues is often stultified.

The schedule for next season has already been agreed but, with a new broadcasting deal to be struck next year, the move to five rounds of Super Saturday, with staggered kick-offs so that it is possible to watch all three matches, could enhance the audience figures, creating a more compelling narrative.

Tom Harrison, the Six Nations chief executive, spoke in March about the challenge of growing the visibility of the championship.

“I think in any sporting environment, particularly a journey of development, visibility is really important,” Harrison said. “The free-to-air space is all about balancing revenue – when you’re looking at sport as a whole. It’s about revenue reach and relevance and balancing those things. In each case, there is a requirement to treat – very, very carefully – decisions around how you move that balance.

“In cricket, we moved it back towards free-to-air, we took free-to-air back into space. Rugby’s got a huge free-to-air component to it, particularly the men’s Six Nations, and the Women’s Six Nations as well. We understand the role that that plays in taking the game to new fans. To make it available is really important going forward. We’re going to have to look at that as a key question mark for us.”