The U20 Six Nations will be shown on the BBC from 2022 to 2025 after Six Nations Rugby confirmed that it has entered into exclusive discussions with the BBC and ITV for the three Six Nations Championships, Men’s Guinness Six Nations, Women’s Six Nations, and Men’s U20s.
The news comes just two days after the fixtures were confirmed for the 2021 U20 Six Nations Championships next month, which will be broadcast across a variety of platforms.
In a statement Six Nations Rugby said: “In addition (to the coverage of the Men’s and Women’s senior championships) the stars of tomorrow will get to showcase their skills with consistent coverage of the Men’s Under-20’s Championship also being shown on the BBC.
It signals a new era for the U20 tournament, which has previously been shown across a number of platforms, from Sky Sports for England games, to S4C, BBC Alba, the red button, and streams on the Six Nations’ social media channels, and occasionally no coverage at all.
The hope, of course, is that ‘consistent coverage’ means every game will be covered – ideally on the main BBC channels. The level of the U20 competition has been getting consistently higher, with so many of the young stars involved getting regular game time now across the Gallagher Premiership, Guinness Pro 14, and the Top 14 in France.
The announcement was made alongside news that, subject to contact, the Men’s Guinness Six Nations Championship will be split between the BBC and ITV, with ITV showing all England, Ireland, Italy, and France home games, and the BBC all Scotland and Wales home games. Meanwhile the BBC will broadcast the Women’s Six Nations exclusively.
Commenting on the partnership, Ben Morel, Chief Executive Officer of Six Nations Rugby said: “This is exciting news for fans and for our Championships. Both BBC and ITV have been excellent partners in recent years playing an important role in sharing the incredible moments that the Six Nations always produces, and celebrating the special place our Championships hold in the hearts of fans. I’m particularly excited by the opportunity to grow the Women’s game with an invested broadcast partner in the BBC who is as committed as we are. We’re looking forward to working with them both as we continue to raise the bar and bring Rugby’s Greatest Championships to ever-growing numbers across the UK.”
Barbara Slater, Director of BBC Sport continued: “For the millions of Six Nations fans across the UK, the Championships remaining free-to-air is wonderful news. We look forward to delivering live action from both the Men’s and Women’s as well as the Men’s Under-20’s Championships to the widest possible audience over the next four seasons. BBC Sport has led the way in increasing the profile of Women’s sports, so we are thrilled to now include the Women’s Six Nations as a permanent fixture on our broadcast calendar.”
Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “ITV is delighted to have reached this agreement, which extends free-to-air coverage of such an important tournament and will ensure it remains centre stage each spring. With the addition of France home games to those of England, Ireland and Italy, we look forward to bringing ITV viewers a wealth of superb rugby from the Six Nations in the coming years.”
The news is all subject to contract and could change, but at this stage it looks like a highly promising move for U20 rugby. If consistent coverage does indeed mean that every game will be broadcast, fans will be treated to some of the most exciting young players in the world making their first big steps in the game.