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England celebrate another Six Nations triumph - GETTY IMAGES

England celebrate another Six Nations triumph – GETTY IMAGES

The RFU has called for the Women’s Six Nations to become a permanent April-May fixture in the rugby calendar, with chief executive Bill Sweeney arguing that the competition must not be “hamstrung” by the format of the men’s edition.

This year’s tournament was delayed with an altered format – with a round-robin making way for a pool stage and final – due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. After a television audience of 600,000 watched England’s women secure their third title in a row with a narrow victory over France in Saturday’s final, Sweeney believes the tournament might benefit from the greater exposure of avoiding a clash with the men’s championship.

“Keep that April-May format, the weather is better, and it gets you away from the men’s game,” he told the BBC.

“It leaves a window, where you can really focus on the women and also look at more interesting formats for the competition structure so we can build more excitement as well.

“We need to be a little bit more innovative in our thinking around how we structure this tournament going forward. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same Six Nations as the men.”

Sweeney added, too, that the RFU’s aim was to keep the broadcasting of the tournament on free-to-air platforms, even if the viewing figures could have been higher. The BBC broadcasted all matches on iPlayer, with the final on BBC Two, but faced criticism earlier in the tournament for electing to televise a re-run of Flog It! on BBC Two instead of England’s match against Italy.

“We want to have conversations with the BBC also about continued broadcast and making sure that it’s on free-to-air,” he said.

“We think in this case, when you’re building something like the women’s game, the free-to-air component is quite important for us.”

Until the four-point margin which separated the Red Roses and France in last Saturday’s final, England’s average winning margin in this year’s tournament was 53 points. With the next Rugby World Cup in New Zealand planned for 2022, after its postponement from 2021, Sweeney said finding more challenging opposition for the team is a priority. The chief executive was also open to the possibility of Scotland and Wales – who finished bottom of their respective pools in this year’s championship – entering a team into the Allianz Premier 15s in the future.

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