The 2021 Six Nations Rugby Union Championship: Part 1 the Covid lockdown.

The 2021 Six Nations Championship will be the 22nd Six Nations Championship. It's the annual rugby union competition contested by the national teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales, and the 127th edition of the competition.

Italy and France will kick off the 2021 Six Nations Championship when they meet on Saturday 6th February 2021. The Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland then follows at Twickenham. Rounding off the opening weekend's fixtures, Wales face Ireland at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Sunday 7th in the afternoon.

Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the Six Nations title.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) expects 2021 Six Nations to go ahead as planned despite concerns regarding COVID. They said, “We are committed to the fixtures, monitoring the situation with all parties and planning continues aligned with current guidelines." So really anything could happen, but for now, it’s going ahead.

As a massive fan of rugby and ex-player, I’m obviously delighted that this is still planned to go ahead. However, whilst “elite sport” has been allowed to continue through the COVID climate I do have some concerns about whether it should go ahead.

There will probably be no fans attending the games and those who want to watch them will have to do so at home on TV. We have already seen Premiership Rugby games cancelled at domestic level and European Cup competitions disrupted by cases of COVID amongst players and staff.

Fans are what make these games so interesting – they can make something unexpected happen, disrupt the opposition; they are the 16th man on the pitch and are also a key part of the rivalries.

I very much doubt they will be in attendance even if a vaccine has been rolled out, or if they are, it will be the “fans” that add most commercial value that are allowed to attend, i.e. corporate sponsors & commercial backers, not the real fans…. but that’s a whole different debate …..

So, should this go ahead?

What happens if games have to be cancelled during the competition or the decider for the title is cancelled? This could be the scenario at the last weekend when Ireland play England and France play Wales on the same weekend in March.

What happens if it has to be cancelled due to one of the teams having COVID issues? How will the RFU/Six Nations bodies decide who wins, how will points be allocated? This could render the whole competition somewhat irrelevant. We also need to remember we have teams travelling to and from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. Surely this can only increase the risks to all involved.

That said we have assurances from all parties that the Six Nations will go ahead and that all regulations will be observed. For players, there will be a massive sacrifice as they will probably have to form “bubbles” away from friends and family throughout the competition – so probably from mid-January to the end of March at least. With daily testing regimes and strict monitoring etc.

What is interesting is that at the time of writing this there is uncertainty over 2021 Women’s Six Nations, concerns over when, or even if, this year’s Women’s Six Nations will take place!!! I’m not sure I’ve seen any evidence that COVID differentiates between men & women!!

The women’s championship mirrors the men’s date-wise normally, but the fixtures have not yet been confirmed. While the dates for this year’s men’s championship were announced back in 2019, the women’s fixtures are often announced much later, although they would usually be known by now.

The continually changing picture regarding Covid-19 restrictions in the countries involved complicates matters, as we saw last year. Women’s Grand Slam winners England were the only team to play all five of their 2020 championship games as three fixtures were cancelled last autumn due to the coronavirus.

Six Nations organisers are having ongoing discussions in order to stage the championship and are expected to make an announcement soon but there is a lot of uncertainty. Travel bans are currently in place and European competitions are on hold, we will see if the Six Nations will happen.

There will also definitely be an impact on the clubs that the players play for as they will not be available at the domestic level during the competition. There is an argument that domestic level rugby should be paused during the Six Nations, but it’s never happened before, and domestic rugby is planning to continue in England during the tournament. However, France recently fielded a very inexperienced international side as the French clubs refused to release players that we might more readily associate with the French team at the international level – interestingly they won!!

Author Giles

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