Six Nations rugby will be shown by new broadcaster from 2026, BBC pulling out - Ruck

Six Nations rugby will be shown by new broadcaster from 2026, BBC pulling out

The future of free-to-air coverage for the Six Nations Championship in the United Kingdom has been thrown into doubt, with the BBC hinting at the possibility of withdrawing from broadcasting the esteemed tournament.

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Under the current agreement, broadcasting rights in the UK are divided between the BBC and ITV, with S4C providing Welsh language options, ensuring continued accessibility for fans.

However, the 2025 edition is the last Six Nations Championship under the current broadcast contract. This uncertainty arises from a recent governmental decision not to include the tournament in the list of “crown jewels” sports events, which are mandated for live free-to-air broadcast.

Barbara Slater, the BBC’s outgoing director of sport, conveyed concerns to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in November, suggesting that the network might struggle to financially sustain its share of the broadcasting rights alongside ITV.

This situation hearkens back to 2015 when Sky, a prominent pay-TV broadcaster, sought the rights to air Six Nations matches. However, their bid was thwarted by a joint effort between the BBC and ITV.

With the BBC potentially stepping back, ITV faces a challenge to maintain exclusivity over the tournament’s broadcasting rights. Competing against formidable contenders such as TNT, Sky, Netflix, and Prime Video, ITV’s grip on the prestigious event appears increasingly uncertain.

As the 2025 Championship approaches, fans of the Six Nations eagerly await further developments on the fate of its broadcasting rights, with the looming possibility of pay-TV overshadowing the cherished tradition of free-to-air coverage.


In his remarkable lineup, Owens features three Welsh luminaries – Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, and Gethin Jenkins. Additionally, he acknowledges the contributions of Lee Byrne, Dwayne Peel, and Leigh Halfpenny to the sport.

Notably, a striking facet of Owens’ chosen players is their collective leadership qualities, with the majority of the selected individuals having served as captains for their respective nations.

Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”