The 2023 Women’s Six Nations saw record-shattering attendance figures in its second year of playing separately to the men’s competition.
This year’s edition saw every team aside from Ireland boost their average home attendance whilst Wales, Scotland and England also set national records.
Wales’ round three clash with England at Cardiff Arms Park saw an attendance of 8,862, nearly double their previous home record, whilst Scotland’s final round clash against Ireland drew in a crowd of 4,862 at the DAM Health stadium, the largest Scottish crowd ever.
On top of that, England set a new world record for a women’s rugby game as their Grand Slam decider against France saw 58,498 people flock to Twickenham, surpassing the previous record of 42,759 set at last year’s World Cup final in New Zealand.
Shaunagh Brown, who made 27 appearances for England between 2017 and 2022, claimed the game, which was the first standalone women’s fixture at Twickenham, could provide a watershed moment for the sport.
She said: “You see it and take it in and you think, people are here to watch women play.
“It just goes to show that it can be done if you make it accessible and promote it like the way England Rugby did with the game against France.
“Over the last few years, there’s been a shift change in England Rugby’s attitude and mentality towards the growth of the women’s game. They’ve listened and made things happen.
“Hopefully that game gets people asking, ‘How do I watch these girls week in and week out?’”
In addition to the surge in attendance, there was also a 28% rise from last year in fans tuning in to watch all five rounds of fixtures, and more than 100,000 new fans visited the Six Nations’ social channels.
Brown credited the increased hype to professional contracts skyrocketing competitiveness amongst the teams.
She said: “It just goes to show that if you start paying your players they play better. To me it wasn’t a secret but apparently to some of the home nations it has been.
“A competitive Six Nations is how you get people watching, you want to watch a game not knowing the result before the whistle has been blown.
“You want to watch high-intensity, high-pressure rugby and games where if someone makes a mistake it could matter.
“The growth of the sport has to come from competitive games.”
England and France have had a head start over the other four nations as they have been fully professional since 2019.
But with Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy all introducing full-time contracts within the last 12 months, it’s no surprise to see the rise in the quality of fixtures, which has led to the spike in attendance.
Translating the Six Nations frenzy into the domestic and grassroots game is the next challenge on the horizon, and Brown believes players speaking out is the key to continuing the upward trajectory for one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.
She said: “It takes an emotional strength from players to keep asking for more but it’s for the better of the game and most importantly for getting more people involved.
“Eventually they’ll give us what we want if we keep going on about it and keep being vocal.
“I’m proud of how far we’ve come but when you start at minus 100 it’s not hard to get to minus 50.
“There’s still so far to go. I could moan every day for the next 20 years and I still wouldn’t be happy because I always want more.
“But things are slowly changing, and people are realising that we’re not going away.
“It’s only going to keep getting better and it’s about people embracing that growth and not settling. We can always do more, and I won’t ever stop.”
Featured image credit: INPHO/Sandra Mailer for TikTok Women’s Six Nations