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'Hopefully we will come back and say 2022 was that catalyst year'

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

Future generations will look back on 2022 as a catalyst year for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and women’s rugby, according to Six Nations Rugby CEO Ben Morel. A return of the stand-alone slot in the calendar and unprecedented broadcast coverage have resulted in this year’s championship becoming bigger and better than ever before. Visibility has also been boosted by TikTok becoming the first title partner in the history of the Women’s Six Nations, engaging a younger audience and inspiring the next generation. 

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With Grand Slam-chasing England and France now set to decide the destination of this year’s title on Super Saturday – another first for the women’s game – Morel believes the future is very bright for the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and women’s rugby as a whole. “I do think the window to the game that the TikTok Women’s Six Nations represents this year, combined with the World Cup, makes it a really crucial year and a key moment for women’s rugby,” he said.

“There is so much to build upon in the future. There is definitely a full alignment in terms of pushing and investing in the women’s game while there has to be a recognition that it is the start of the journey and we need to go at the right pace and in a sustainable way.

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“That is really what we are trying to balance and we are definitely fully aligned with our six nations to pursue that effort and make the championship bigger and bigger. We want to keep pushing the game at the grassroots level and make sure more and more players are in a position to play for their respective international teams.

“It’s about creating that virtuous circle and hopefully we will come back and say that 2022 was that catalyst year where it all began and that is the ultimate goal. But it all depends on what we do next. The commitment, belief, the patience and the resilience are certainly there and it’s definitely a multi-year effort that is needed.”

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Ground-breaking broadcast support across each of the six nations has meant the 2022 Six Nations has been available to fans in full for the very first time. Complemented by the entertainment platform, TikTok, this year’s championship has been the most accessible in its history while also attracting a series of record-breaking crowds. Morel added: “It’s been an exciting championship because for the first time we have been able to offer a comprehensive broadcast offering in each of our countries, following the entire 15 matches.

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“Not just individual matches on different broadcasters following some teams but not all. There is a unity to this championship now and to be in a specific window gave it the exposure it deserves. It’s going to be such an inspiration for our younger audience and younger girls to pick up the oval ball and want to represent their country one day. I’m really excited for what the future holds.

“Being supported by a partner like TikTok as our title sponsor also helps us further expose the women’s rugby game. It has been a wonderful start to that partnership and there is so much to come in the future with them. The broadcasters are playing a phenomenal role too, whether it is BBC, France TV, RTE, Virgin, Sky Italia, they are doing a tremendous job. We’re in 137 countries as well so the whole world is watching. I’m very pleased and very proud of the accomplishment this year while also humble that we have got a long way to go, which makes it very exciting.”

The introduction of the first U18 Women’s rugby festival has also helped strengthen the foundations of the women’s game and provided a platform for the stars of the future. “The U18 women’s festival is fundamental because it’s all about building the pathway – this year was a first for the women and it was a fantastic job from our unions to pull it off,” Morel said.

“There is definitely work being developed as we speak on this to create that further pathway. We want there to be the long-term pathway, starting at the grassroots level, which hopefully the TikTok Women’s Six Nations brings the right inspiration for, all the way through to the U18s, U20s and the senior women’s game.”

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But while engagement in the championship is surpassing expectations and showing the growing excitement for the women’s game, Morel stressed that it is now crucial to build on the momentum created. “We understand we’re just at the start of the journey, far from the actual destination we want to get to so in some ways, it puts a light on all the other areas of improvement – and that’s okay,” he added.

“We are very comfortable with that because ultimately, I think the exposure will make us better quicker. Not only does it provide wonderful exposure, it also accelerates the growth of the women’s game, so I’m very pleased with where we are.”

  • The TikTok Women’s Six Nations is more accessible than ever before. To find out how you can watch the climax of the Women’s Championship on Super Saturday visit: womens.sixnationsrugby.com/tv

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