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It's the Six Nations...but not as we know it. With the threat of COVID-19 still looming large over the planet, this year's Guinness Six Nations will be played across Europe behind closed doors, with no fans, no corporate hospitalisation, and no atmosphere. For the next seven weeks, international rugby takes over, featuring five of the top 10 ranked countries in the world, battling it out for European supremacy, and Italy joining England (2), France (4), Ireland (5), Scotland (7) and Wales (9), from a world ranking of 14. Three games a week, 15 in total. The tears, the jubilation; the highs and the lows, and the silence. It is the Guinness Six Nations 2021. A 21st birthday celebration of its six-team format, over 125 years' worth for the founding four – but, with the global pandemic wreaking havoc on sport across the planet since March 2020, and a British & Irish Lions Tour on the horizon, this will be a fascinating championship to see who fares best...
THE 2021 Guinness Six Nations is here as captains and coaches gathered to speak with the world’s media on Wednesday 28th January for the first-ever virtual launch of the Championship.
On the first weekend, Italy is set to square off against France at the Stadio Olimpico – but before that, the world’s rugby media met the captains and coaches of all six nations via digital video technology.
The 2020 Guinness Six Nations delivered incredible drama when it finished behind closed doors in October, with England pipping France and Ireland to the title on an enthralling Super Saturday.
And Six Nations Rugby CEO Ben Morel is excited for the months ahead, despite the unique circumstances.
“Our Championship has a rich history going back some 140 years and has always produced special moments,” said Morel.
“And while everything seems different this year, everything is still the same. Same rivalries, same passion, same level of competition.
“Our 15 games still rank amongst the most eagerly-anticipated sporting events in the world and I cannot wait for it all to start.
“Having been a fan of rugby all of my life, the start of the Guinness Six Nations always evokes a positive feeling in me, that sense of moving from winter into spring and the evenings getting that bit brighter.
“I am hugely excited for this year’s Championship. Fresh, competitive action, teams looking to dethrone England, an increasingly resurgent French side, a Welsh team with a point to prove, dangerous Irish and Scottish sides and the Italians seeking to make their mark. All of this bodes for an intriguing Championship.
“We are honoured to be able to stage these matches and thank everyone involved in making this a reality.”
The 2021 Guinness Six Nations gets underway on the weekend of February 6-7, with Italy hosting France, Scotland travelling to Twickenham to face England and Wales going head-to-head with Ireland in Cardiff.
The Calcutta Cup clash comes 150 years after the first England v Scotland match, in Edinburgh in March 1871, with this Round 1 contest marking the 139th time the auld enemies have faced each other.
And while fans won’t be able to watch this year’s matches in person, wall-to-wall coverage means supporters won’t have to miss a minute of action.
The challenges of the pandemic means that the 2021 Guinness Six Nations will look a bit different but Morel says the circumstances also present an opportunity for growth.
“The crisis, while challenging, also affords us the opportunity to shape the long-term future of our game and capture its full potential,” he added.
“Rugby is in a great position and has all the ingredients to be one of the most valuable sports in the world. We see this already in the calibre of brands and organisations that support not only this Championship but rugby around the world.”