The RBS Six Nations Tournament for 2004 will begin and end in Paris, it was announced today. Proceedings will commence with a Valentine's Day pairing of France and Ireland, and will conclude with a 'Super Saturday' on March 27th, when all six nations will be in action, culminating with a 9.00pm local time (8.00pm UK Time) showdown between France and England at the Stade de France.
cques Laurans, Chairman of the Six Nations Committee said: "In planning the fixture schedule for 2004, our aim has been to build on the success of this year's Tournament, which was the most widely-viewed of recent times. Television audiences were up from 75 million to 95 million, with the Grand Slam-deciding final match attracting an audience share in Britain of more than 50%."
"The 2004 Championship promises even greater interest, coming as it does hard on the heels of the Rugby World Cup. I suspect there may be a score or two to settle by the time the Six Nations comes along."
Attendances at the fifteen matches of the 2003 season averaged almost 58,000 or 96% capacity, meaning that one million people attended an RBS Six Nations game. In addition, the Tournament's new website, launched just before this year's first game, is attracting nearly three times as many users as its predecessor.
Commenting, John Feehan, 6 Nations Chief Executive said, "We are delighted with the success of our new commercial relationships, and the schedule for 2004 is intended to build on a winning formula. Royal Bank of Scotland is proving to be a first rate sponsor for the competition, extending our franchise in a manner which is wholly supportive of the traditions of the Tournament. Our key broadcasters (including the BBC, France Television, RAI and RTE) have also demonstrated clearly in 2003 that there is a new significant audience ready to tap into the RBS Six Nations.
"We have also seen some pleasing developments on the field. Italy, for instance, has shown real evidence of its continuing development and ability to compete fully in the competition, and this has been reflected by growing levels of support for their team. Also, in relation to discipline, there was not a single red card shown to a player during the Tournament and no citings, and there were only six yellow cards."
"In addition, the seven-week format for the Tournament, introduced for the first time this year, has been judged by most commentators to have been a great success. Designed to replicate the concentrated playing period of a Rugby World Cup, its effect has been to give the Six Nations an added sense of momentum and excitement."