Teams taking part in the women's Six Nations will play two less games this year.
The new format will have with two pools and a final with the competition taking place over four weekends in April.
The changes are in part a recognition of the challenges facing the organisers to get games on due to the pandemic, but also to help find space in the calendar for World Cup qualifiers to take place, with Ireland, Scotland and Italy all still in the process of qualifying.
World Rugby has yet to announce the dates of those games but they are exploring options and it's possible that some 6 Nations games might be able to double up as qualifiers.
Starting on the weekend of 3rd/4th April and finishing on 24th April, the format is made up of two pools of three teams with each team playing one home and one away fixture. Once the pool round matches are complete, teams will face off against the opposing ranked team from the other pool in the play-offs matches, i.e. 1st place Pool A v 1st place Pool B.
There is no confirmation in the press announcement that the change will be a one off, however the CEO of the Six Nations suggested the changes were due to ongoing challenges, and were not indicative of longer term changes.
Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby commented, “Our priority has always been to deliver two outstanding tournaments but equally ensuring both competitions can be played safely, taking every consideration for player welfare. A significant challenge we faced in rescheduling the Women’s tournament was the limited available window due to World Cup Qualifiers, domestic leagues, rest periods and World Cup preparations for qualified teams. Following consultation with our unions and federations as well as other key stakeholders, it was agreed that April would be the best window in which to stage the championship."
2021 Women’s Six Nations
Pool A : England - Italy - Scotland
Pool B : France - Ireland - Wales
England v Scotland
France v Wales
Italy v England
Wales v Ireland
Scotland v Italy
Ireland v France
Winner A v Winner B
Second place A v Second place B
Third place A v Third place B