This year the Women’s 6 Nations has fallen as another sporting victim to the coronavirus pandemic. With the number of cases continuing to escalate and France halting all travel even for elite sport, the tournament is being postponed, with April and May being pencilled in as alternative dates.
The various playing levels within women’s rugby has not helped the decision. England is the only side in the 6 Nations who are fully professional, France are semi-professional and the other four nations are mostly amateur with a sprinkling of exiled pros. This means maintaining bubbles within the teams is difficult as players still have their day to day jobs to do.
Women’s rugby in the Allianz Premier 15s league has already seen changes made to the game to ensure teams can play. The current law variations aimed at reducing the levels of close physical contact are as follows:
– Free kicks awarded to the opposition for a forward pass
– Removal of the option for a scrum at a free kick or penalty
– A maul may only have one stop then the ball must be used
– No players who are not in the start of a lineout can join a maul
– Can only drive a lineout in the 22m
– Game time is reduced to 35 minutes each way
Has this pandemic highlighted the gap between nations?
English and French club teams have played some games. How can the other teams be expected to compete when some players have not played since the last 6 Nations? To me this shows that the women’s game needs more investment to bring all competitors up to a more level playing field.
Beyond the spring, the question also follows as to whether the national teams are going to be ready for the World Cup which is due to take place this year in New Zealand?
I fear not.
There is talk of Scotland, Ireland and Italy’s Six Nations games doubling up as World Cup qualification games. The problem that World Rugby has in these countries and beyond is co-ordinating with rugby unions on how to get mostly amateur teams across international borders to play qualifiers.
They are yet to announce how they plan on doing this – the backup plan is to use world rankings to award places. Scotland are currently ranked at 11th below Italy and Ireland (7th and 8th respectively) if games can’t be played.