Free TV coverage of the Six Nations is under threat(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)

Tonight's rugby news as bid launched to save Six Nations on free TV and Welsh coach wants payback

The latest rugby news stories from Wales and beyond

by · Wales Online

These are your evening rugby headlines on Monday, December 18.

Bid to keep Six Nations on free TV

The Six Nations could stay on free-to-air TV after a bid was made to give matches involving home countries protected status.

A Bill has been submitted by Labour former minister John Spellar to expand Ofcom's list of protected sporting events, which currently includes the likes of Wimbledon, the Olympics, the Grand National and even the men's Rugby World Cup final. However, the Six Nations is not afforded the same protection.

Now, Mr Spellar, MP for Warley, has called for an expansion, which would see full coverage of the championships offered to free-to-air broadcasters. He has asked for his Broadcasting (Listed Sporting Events) Bill to be considered further on March 22 next year. Get the latest Welsh rugby news sent straight to your inbox with our FREE daily newsletter.

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"The big international games should be free-to-air, should be available for everyone," he told the PA news agency. "Because we want those to encourage people, and particularly youngsters, to participate in sport, and also as part of national cohesion of supporting."

As well as the Six Nations, the Bill also focuses on trying to ensure special status is granted for Test cricket played in domestic venues.

The move comes after the BBC warned MPs that it could lose its coverage of the Six Nations amid spiralling costs and a fall in income, with the broadcaster's outgoing director of sport revealing that they faced "incredibly difficult decisions" on whether to keep coverage on their channels, admitting they were "probably not going to be the highest bidder" for the tournament.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said: "The listed events regime means many of the biggest sports events are available to watch for free throughout the UK. Our goal is to ensure events of national interest are free-to-air wherever possible, while protecting competition organisers' ability to raise income from the sale of broadcast rights to invest in their sports.

"We believe the current list strikes an appropriate balance, with protections in place for highlights of cricket Test Matches played in England, and the Six Nations tournament matches involving home countries. Therefore we have no plans to amend the regime."

Peel eyes payback after 'humbling'

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel is out for revenge as his side look to bounce back from their disappointing start to the Challenge Cup in their Boxing Day clash with the Ospreys.

Peel's side were stunned 23-7 at home by Georgian side Black Lion at the weekend, having also lost 34-16 to Castres on the opening weekend of European action.

And with just two wins to their name in the URC, the 42-year-old coach finds himself under mounting pressure with fans calling for big changes to be made at the club. But even amid the current woes, Peel is now looking ahead to next weekend as they face the Ospreys for the second time in the space of a month. While they were thrashed 31-9 by Toby Booth's men last month, the coach is looking to "repay" that result with a big performance.

"This match is huge for us," said Peel. "We had a pretty humbling night when we played Ospreys last and we have an opportunity in 10 days time to repay that.

"It’s always a big game against them and for where we are now it becomes an important game and we’ll prepare that way and put in a performance that we’re proud of.”

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'World class' Doris signs new deal

Caelan Doris said he is "delighted" after signing a new deal with Ireland and Leinster, claiming that "the best is yet to come".

The IRFU has announced that the back row forward has signed a contract until 2027, having won 36 caps for Andy Farrell's side. He formed a crucial part of Ireland's Grand Slam success in this year's Six Nations, while he also made five appearances at the World Cup, scoring one try.

Doris - who has also scored 11 tries in 72 appearances for Leinster - was named the Rugby Players Ireland Players’ Player of the Year earlier this year, before being selected in World Rugby Men’s 15’s Dream Team of the Year. He won four successive Pro14 titles with the province between 2018 and 2021.

"It has been a dream come true to play in ambitious environments at club and international levels and I believe that the best is yet to come, both for me personally and as a collective," said the 25-year-old, after signing the deal. "I am hugely excited about what the future has to offer and would like to thank all those who have helped me in my career to date."

IRFU high-performance director David Nucifora added: "The IRFU is committed to attracting and retaining the highest playing and coaching talent and we are delighted that Caelan has signed this new deal.

"Since making his debut for Ireland three years ago, Caelan has proved himself as a world-class performer, and today’s announcement is testament to his growing reputation and high standing both here in Ireland and internationally. Caelan is a leader who has displayed a consistently high level of performance and I have no doubt that he will aim to reach higher levels in the coming years."

Dupont 'a little bit scared'

France star Antoine Dupont has admitted he is "a little bit scared" about the prospect of making the switch to Sevens as he targets Olympic gold. The 27-year-old will miss the upcoming Six Nations to join France's Sevens Programme ahead of the Paris Olympics, in what is shaping up to be another eventful year for the scrum-half.

Telling BBC Radio 5 Live that he is "very excited but a little bit scared" about the big move, he added: "I will have a very busy year, but I love that and I am excited."

Dupont, whose Toulouse side thumped Harlequins 17-49 in their Champions Cup clash at the weekend, also said he was motivated by France's disappointing World Cup campaign, after Les Bleus crashed out in the quarter-finals to South Africa.

"When you lose a competition you want to do another thing to try to win again," he said. "The Champions Cup is always a special competition for us, and I think we saw the last two weeks that we are very motivated for this competition."

The talismanic back is set to be involved in Sevens series events in February and March, briefly returning to Toulouse towards the end of the season, before switching back to the Sevens programme in time for the Olympics in July.

"I will have to work a lot to be competitive in all the competitions," he added. "The last time [playing Sevens] was under-18, I think, but it is the same sport and there are a lot of things similar.

"I will have to do my best. I have a lot of calls with the coach to try to learn some skills, and I will try to learn by watching the game. Yes, it's hard [to miss the Six Nation], but I have to make choices unfortunately."