Fixture tinkering robs Six Nations of unique edge
Am I the only one who views the recent release of next season's Six Nations schedule with a scepticism bordering on panic?
The PR blurb from David Pickering, chairman of the Six Nations Council, informs us that "the Six Nations championship remains the envy of the rugby world, a tournament played with pride and passion and drenched in history and tradition".
No argument from this quarter on that count. But if history and tradition ain't broke, then why fix it?
The answer, of course, is to meet the demands of TV. They (the broadcasting companies) who pay the piper (Six Nations) call the tune.
In 2011 the tournament will be played over five weekends but with just one round of games -- the final series -- all on one day; that once-sacred Saturday.
It will kick off on Friday February 4 in Cardiff when Wales entertain England.
Despite the added difficulty for fans in travelling to and from the ground for a night-time kick-off, having been in Paris and in Cardiff for the two Friday experimental games to date, I believe night-time rugby does bring a new and exciting dimension to the tournament.
However, it is the flip side of that coin -- the Sunday afternoon stuff -- that turns me cold. I think it's no coincidence that, in the main, Sunday games are poor in quality and lacking in atmosphere.
Six Nations weekends are about so much more than the match itself. Playing Sunday afternoons and the fans' need to get back home to work takes so much from the special culture that is Six Nations rugby.