Women's Six Nations: All teams can fill stadiums, says Philippa Tuttiett

Poppy Cleall
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Every Women's Six Nations team has the potential to fill stadiums if there is more investment in the game, says former Wales captain Philippa Tuttiett.

England are the only professional team in the competition, and nearly 11,000 fans watched them beat Wales at Twickenham Stoop this month.

France, who are semi-professional, have long attracted big TV audiences and large crowds, including more than 14,000 at Stade du Hameau when they faced England in February.

But the structure of the Women's Six Nations remains under the spotlight as Wales, Scotland and Ireland continue to fall behind.

There have been calls for the women's tournament to no longer mirror the men's fixtures and for the consideration of a different format to reflect the ability and investment unions are putting into their women's programmes.

"Every nation has the potential to fill stadiums, but it's never going to happen unless someone takes the chance and invests," Tuttiett told the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly podcast.

"As uncomfortable as it is seeing the girls putting their hearts into the game and not coming away with anything, I think that needs to happen for people to ask questions and for the unions to look up and see how good women's rugby could be.

Both the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) told BBC Sport they plan to revise their elite women's programmes later this year but were unable to give further details.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) does not have any plans to develop its programme beyond its women in rugby action plan launched in 2018. That outlines a number of targets for 2018-2023, including winning one Women's Six Nations.

Ireland's women finished fifth in 2019 and have no plans to go professional or semi-professional.

Lynne Cantwell, their most-capped player, told the Rugby Union Weekly podcast: "Their targets are not achievable.

"I think every country has to have their own blueprint of how they plan to win a Six Nations," she said. "Their structure is not something that's going to be competitive against England and France for the next few years."

Women's rugby commentator Nick Heath explained: "New Zealand and France seem to be the only sides capable of giving England a game at the moment and that's a shame."

BBC Sport contacted Six Nations organisers, but they declined to comment.

Before the tournament they said the women's tournament was being reviewed in line with a new television rights deal for the men's, women's and Under-20s competitions.

You can listen to the final episode of the Women's Rugby Union Weekly of the Six Nations on BBC Sounds here.

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