The Women’s Six Nations must not be “hamstrung” by the format of the men’s competition, according to RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney.

“We need to be a little bit more innovative in our thinking around how we structure this tournament going forward,” Sweeney told the BBC.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same Six Nations as the men.”

The RFU and other unions speak with the Six Nations on a weekly basis and Sweeney was clear on the English governing body’s message for the future of the women’s tournament.

“Keep that April-May format, the weather is better, and it gets you away from the men’s game,” he said.

“It leaves a window, where you can really focus on the women and also look at more interesting formats for the competition structure so we can build more excitement as well.”

The 2021 tournament was delayed and the format altered because of the pandemic. Instead of the usual round-robin format, the six teams played in two pools of three, with the teams who finished top meeting each other in a final.

BBC Sport showed the games in the UK on BBC iPlayer. Saturday’s final between England and France attracted an audience of 600,000 on BBC Two.

Sweeney said he thought the figures could have been higher but wanted to try to keep the game on free-to-air platforms.

“We want to have conversations with the BBC also about continued broadcast and making sure that it’s on free-to-air,” he added.

“We think in this case, when you’re building something like the women’s game, the free-to-air component is quite important for us.”

World Cup plans and domestic league future

With both England and France effectively untested by their Six Nations group stage games, Sweeney admitted both looked “rusty” in Saturday’s final.

Finding the Red Roses stronger regular competition away from France is now a focus for the RFU, with the next Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, originally scheduled for 2021, delayed until 2022.

Sweeney said: “We’re working hard to see what we can do in the autumn, who we can get to come in and have competitive games in the lead-up to the World Cup.”

Sweeney also confirmed that RFU discussions with the UK government are continuing on a bid for England to host the 2025 World Cup.

The RFU hopes other nations will continue to invest in their women’s programmes and said it was possible for both the Scottish Rugby Union and Welsh Rugby Union to have teams in the English domestic league, the Allianz Premier 15s, in the future.

He thought a second division for the league was a “way off” but different conferences could be a possibility, stressing “the teams have to be competitive”.