The RBS 6 Nations launched in fine style at the Hurlingham Club in London today with coaches and captains from the six countries in attendance ahead of the 2017 edition of rugby’s greatest Championship.
This year will be the first edition of the Championship featuring bonus points, while it is also a landmark Championship for the Women’s Six Nations with all 15 games being broadcast live for the first time.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and captain Rory Best attended the launch in London along with their counterparts from the Women’s team, Tom Tierney and Niamh Briggs.
Looking forward to his second Six Nations tournament as Ireland skipper, Best is very much focused on the opening game away to Scotland and making sure his side start well.
“The big thing for us is that we keep moving forward, keep trying to build on what we did in November with a couple of good results and a couple of good performances,” said the Ulster hooker.
“We know that’s in the past and we’ve seen what the Scottish boys have done, not only in November but also with their clubs in Europe. For us, we know it’s going to be a massive challenge to go to Murrayfield next week. It’s a very, very tough place to go and perform and to go and win. That’s really all we’re concentrating on. We’re trying to keep moving forward and keep improving.”
2017 is a huge year for the Ireland Women as they gear up to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and Belfast in August. First things first, full-back and captain Briggs is relishing another fiercely competitive Six Nations campaign.
“Obviously we’ve had some really, really good years (winning the Six Nations in 2013 and 2015). We’ve started to reap the benefits of that with a lot of new caps coming through,” admitted Briggs.
“The recent November Series showed that. Results didn’t go our way, we came up against three really good sides (England, Canada and New Zealand), three of the top sides in the world.
“But we learnt a lot from those defeats. We have to take that forward now, we have to learn from it and hopefully then we can have a really good Six Nations.”
For Pat Whelan, Chairman of the Six Nations Council, everything is in place for the 2017 edition of the Championship to be the best yet.
“It is an honour to be standing here today as the chairman of rugby’s greatest Championship, the RBS 6 Nations. 2016 provided plenty of drama with England claiming a Grand Slam for the first time since 2003,” he said.
“Grand Slams are very rare accomplishments and we can be sure that this time around all their opponents will be doing everything to ensure that there is no repeat of that success.
“This year’s Championship will for the first time see the trial of a new bonus point system. The feasibility of introducing a new bonus point system has been under consideration for quite some time but we needed to ensure that whatever system was selected would work with the already proven structure of the Championship and would materially improve what we already have.
“We believe this initiative will enhance the competition as a spectacle for teams, fans, broadcasters and everyone for whom this Championship is so dear.”
The 2017 Championship will be a landmark event for the Women’s game with the increased broadcast coverage providing a huge boost.
Whelan added: “The Women’s Six Nations Championship is growing every year. We are looking forward to some phenomenal rugby from these very talented athletes. In a new development in the Women’s game this year, for the first time ever, all 15 matches of the Women’s Championship will be produced for broadcast and fans in each country will be able to watch all of their teams’ matches home and away live on television, online and to a very high standard of production.
“I would particularly like to thank all of our sponsors, RBS, Accenture, Guinness and Tissot, for their great support over the years. I would particularly like to thank RBS, who will be concluding this year after 15 years of involvement and their tremendous support of the Six Nations Championship.”