Rugby on the Internet

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The Independent Online

Eight weeks of European rugby started at the weekend when the inaugural Six Nations' Championship kicked off with Italy v Scotland in Rome. Surprisingly, for a major event, there does not appear to be an official site for the competition, but for a coherent overview of the tournament, the unofficial 6nations.co.uk has a lot going for it.

Eight weeks of European rugby started at the weekend when the inaugural Six Nations' Championship kicked off with Italy v Scotland in Rome. Surprisingly, for a major event, there does not appear to be an official site for the competition, but for a coherent overview of the tournament, the unofficial 6nations.co.uk has a lot going for it.

In the run-up to the competition, stories going back to the end of October last year have been posted on the main page. The latest news is presented in full on the page with older stories apparently archived. Unfortunately, clicking on the headline links last week did not lead to the archives - it merely reloaded the home page.

There was no such glitch with the fixtures, which are presented in a straightforward manner. The presentation is good, but the graphics slow down page loading times. Presumably to help download times, only the bare information is given. A simpler design might be a better option; for instance, one has to go a page deeper into the site structure to learn something as simple as where the venues are. However, it is a step worth taking as the information here is comprehensive with previews, results, and head-to-head details provided by Planet Rugby.

For newcomers to the game, there is an idiot's guide to team structure and a glossary of terms from "advantage" to "wing threequarters". A pub guide for areas around the grounds and humour pages (songs, jokes and trivia) are on site, as is a guide for UK TV and radio coverage. Visitors can also register for an e-mail service of news, information and details on site updates.

The only mention of Webcasts is on the live discussion message boards, where users complain about not being able to find them. Webcasts are also notable by their absence on the BBC news site dedicated to the competition. The breaking news service, however, goes some way to making amends for that, and Real Audio interviews and analysis help fill the multimedia void left by the lack of live commentary.

A drop-down menu is employed for quick navigation to other stories, from beginners' guides to a history of the competition and the latest news. Links to the official rugby unions of the six nations are also given.

Planet Rugby, as well as providing data for 6nations.co.uk and portals such as Freeserve, has a section of its own site devoted to the tournament. All the expected match facts, results and statistics are online in a slick package. Adding value are features from the likes of former Wallaby fly-half Michael Lynagh and journalist Stephen Jones.

Scrum.com takes the same route, mixing live news and results with columns from Lawrence Dallagio, Gavin Hastings, John Inverdale and a Q&A with the French coach, Bernard Laporte. Like Planet Rugby, Scrum.com's package is well designed and fast in operation.

andy.oldfield@virgin.net

Site Addresses

6nations.co.uk http://www.6nations.co.uk/

BBC News Six Nations' Championship http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sport/rugby_union/six_nations/

Planet Rugby http://www.planetrugby.com/

Scrum.com http://www.scrum.com/

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