Ireland Women wing Beibhinn Parsons. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
future view

Condensed format for the 2021 Women's Six Nations must be a one-off

The championship is now set to be played over four weekends in April.

IT CAME A few days later than promised but there was excitement yesterday at confirmation of the rescheduled dates for the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.

The championship is now set for April of this year and though Covid-19 remains a constant threat – particularly given that the vast majority of these players remain amateurs – the six national teams are delighted to have something clear to work towards.

A new, condensed format means this year’s Six Nations can be played out over the course of four consecutive weekends – rather than the usual seven-week span – with the teams split into two pools of three.

Each team will play two pool games and have one rest weekend, before a closing play-off weekend in which teams face the equally-ranked side from the other pool. 

For Ireland, this all means watching on for the first weekend before pool games against Wales and France, then a play-off game to decide their final position.


Six Nations Rugby still has to confirm final fixture dates and kick-off times, as well as the all-important venues, but the Autumn Nations Cup-style format has gone down well in most quarters.

The fact that the women’s competition is in a standalone window away from the men’s championship has added to the anticipation. Many in the game have argued that such a move would give the women’s competition greater visibility and while it has finally been forced on organisers, they will be watching that element with keen interest.

As for the new format, Six Nations Rugby say there has been no decision as to whether it’s here to stay. Each year’s championship is followed by a review and it sounds like organisers will discuss how this condensed approach works before deciding whether to retain it or bin it for 2022.

The widespread feeling within the game is that this must only be a one-off. The magic of the Six Nations is in getting to play every other team and in the lengthier ‘campaign’ feel of it. 

The thrill of the championship is in watching teams develop as they build momentum towards possible glory or battle to steady the ship and redeem losses early on.

ireland-players-during-the-game Ireland Women also still have to qualify for the 2021 World Cup. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Three games instead of the usual five is an acceptable measure amidst the extremely challenging reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, but a longer-term shortening of the championship would be a regressive step.

This period of uncertainty has allowed Six Nations Rugby to consider the women’s championship and there may be some scope for longer-term change but what the game really needs is more Test matches rather than fewer.

Of course, Ireland also still have World Cup qualification to secure this year before that competition takes place in New Zealand in September and October.

Their European qualification competition remains postponed but is due to pit them against Scotland, Italy, and most likely Spain.

There was some speculation yesterday that certain fixtures in this rescheduled Six Nations could double up as World Cup qualifying games. Organisers say that while that isn’t currently the case, it hasn’t been ruled out.

It would add another layer of intrigue to events in April. Either way, the hope now is that women’s rugby in this neck of the woods will be up and running again in two months’ time without any more hiccups.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel