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It’s been a quiet start to the Women’s Six Nations hasn’t it?!

It’s been a quiet start to the Women’s Six Nations hasn’t it?! We’re half-way through and there’s certainly been some interesting talking points from the first two rounds.

Round one got off to an explosive start with England beating France in front 14,000 people in 29°c, while round two was all about Storm Ciara. We all know about the chaos that caused!

As has been well documented, England ended up playing Scotland behind closed doors on a Monday, but the impact of that rescheduled fixture was that the game was on the front pages of some newspapers. Good hey? So does that pose the question; should the women’s tournament be played on a different day outside of the men’s games?

My answer is yes BUT the women’s game still needs to take place during the Six Nations window to ensure the games capitalise from the publicity/buzz the men’s tournament generates, especially when the women’s tournament still does not have a main sponsor. I don’t think the tournament should be stand alone.

If it had a big title sponsor, more commercial activation would be driven around it, but until then, maybe Six Nations should look at hosting the games in the fallow weekends and just extend that Six Nations tournament window. At least then, there is less of a chance of the men’s results and media publicity (to an extent) drowning out the women’s tournament. I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe the women’s game deserves much more exposure, and the scheduling of the games need to be changed instead of being crowbarred into the men’s format.

But that was not the only talking point to come out of the weekend. After Ireland’s win over Wales, Wales were forced to have cold showers after the game due to an issue with the water heater at Donnybrook. That led to a public outcry, and rightly so. The women’s game deserves better. Cold showers for the opposition would have no way happened in the men’s game. Additionally, England having played in the snow on Monday, and were visibly freezing on the pitch, were then treated to a mammoth coach trip home. Not great rest and recovery for those athletes.

The women should not have to accept these inequalities. I know things are improving - I remember playing some of our international Six Nations matches in places I wouldn’t even expect a low-level club team to play at. But back then it was accepted, and we didn’t really have a voice/ platform, but now we do. I believe the women’s games should be played in quality stadiums and if the games were to be played on a different day to the men’s games, it could open up the opportunity to play at better venues and get more media coverage.

My last point is how do we improve the competition balance of the women’s game? England is invariably the team to beat and France are not far behind, but is the gap between France and England increasing? Even though the France England clash was an enthralling one, it’s a shame it had to take place at the start of the tournament. It was always going to be the decider and now England have won it, they are, let’s be honest, certain to win the title thus reducing what anticipation there could have been for the next six weeks.

Even though I am ‘England’ through and through, for the good of the game, I hope I am wrong. England are so far ahead in terms of professionalism, money and skills it’s hard to see anything changing. It’s not England’s fault, they should continue to keep pushing the boundaries, but it is important that other teams close that gap, and World Rugby as well as all the national governing bodies should be doing everything in their powers to make this happen.

Which brings me on nicely to what to expect in round three. I expect France to win against Wales, and Italy to beat Scotland but the big game for me is between England and Ireland. Both teams are unbeaten in the tournament so far. England, we know are streaks ahead of anyone, but Ireland appear to be a completely different team to that of last year, when they could just about win one game in the tournament.

Ireland are playing at a tempo that teams are struggling to cope with, but will that be enough to test England? Ireland often make a fast start and they have strong ball carriers in Lindsay Peat and Cliodhna Moloney, who can pack a punch. My player to watch is tighthead prop Linda Djougang. With only seven caps and one try to her name, she is definitely one to keep an eye on. She plays like a backrow. She is everywhere and is still able to deliver at the set pieces. Knowing England, they will target her and aim to play her out of the game. Ireland will need to play smart, push hard in defence and force England to have to play behind the gainline. I do expect England to win, but I am hoping it will be a narrow victory that has us gripped to our seats. Watch all the action with me on Sky Sports from 12.15pm on Sunday.

Posted: 20.02.2020

It’s been a quiet start to the Women’s Six Nations hasn’t it?!
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