‘Nolli’ Waterman – reflections on the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations

15 May 2024

Last month, Marlie Packer’s Red Roses were crowned champions of the 2024 Guinness Women's Six Nations, winning all five of their games to win their sixth tournament in a row.

It concluded a landmark tournament for women’s rugby, one that was particularly poignant for Diageo as it was the first year that Guinness was the title partner for the women’s tournament. The partnership, which was announced back in December 2023, showcases Guinness’s ongoing commitment to women’s rugby, with the brand committed to expanding the accessibility of the sport to fans and helping put women’s rugby on a pedestal.

We sat down with Danielle Sian ‘Nolli’ Waterman, former England international and multiple Six Nations winner, to discuss this year’s tournament and why Guinness’ partnership has accelerated progress to the women’s game.

What are your thoughts on this year’s winners?

The Red Roses were deserved winners of this year’s tournament. They have played some excellent rugby and really brought a different style and tempo to their attacking game, which was exciting to watch. That said, it was great to see the French challenge them in their final match, as well as some hard-fought battles for third position in the table with World Cup and WXV 1 qualification up for grabs. And the Irish going from Wood Spoon last year to nabbing 3rd place this year and gaining a much-awaited qualification after not making the 2021 Rugby World Cup, was unreal.

What made this year’s tournament so special?

Some of the rugby on show throughout this tournament was excellent, and it was awesome seeing so many record crowds being achieved by each of the nations. Not only did this show how the popularity of women’s rugby is significantly increasing, but it also showed that the women’s game can bring in new types of fans, as there is clearly a very different demographic to men’s internationals. We witnessed record viewing figures across all broadcast, and the Red Roses were the most watched sporting event over of the Super Saturday weekend with a peak audience of 1.9million on BBC One!

What was your favourite moment from this year’s tournament?

Personally, I loved seeing the incredible crowd at Twickenham when the Red Roses played against Ireland. The atmosphere and energy were incredible and the halftime entertainment with Sophie Ellis-Bexter got everyone on their feet and singing.

This is Guinness’s first year as title sponsor of the women’s tournament, what difference did the brand make to the tournament?

For a good number of years, Guinness has been at the forefront of supporting and pushing the growth of women’s rugby. Through the ‘Never Settle’ campaign, Guinness significantly increased media coverage of not only the tournament and the matches being played but also helped to increase exposure of the wonderful players involved. This included personal storytelling across social channels, a detailed seven-page pull out in The Sun newspaper, and even ensuring that each of the players has a Wikipedia page to allow the media to know more about the players on an individual basis.

Becoming the title sponsor of both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments is huge as it provides an even greater platform to build on the work already done. I am exceptionally excited to see not only how the partnership progresses over the coming seasons but also the impact it can have on the game as a whole.

If we are to accelerate progress in women’s rugby, what more needs to be done?

Progress can come in many forms when you look at women’s sport and specifically women’s rugby. I believe the investment of time and financial resources in a brave, innovative, and strategic path that the women’s game can/ should take is critical - and this should be action-focussed. There is often lots of discussions about doing something new, but things take far too long to get moving. I believe that doing something is better than nothing, and by utilising a range of stakeholders to ensure decisions aren’t made simply because that is the ‘known path’ it will help to quickly identify what has worked and what hasn’t quite had the impact planned.

Women’s rugby has a chance to be different. It has the chance to engage with a different and more diverse audience. And the more we see women in a vast range of roles within rugby, the more inclusive it will become for everyone.

Nolli Waterman made 82 appearances for the Red Roses, becoming the youngest women to represent her country when making her debut in 2003.

Nolli Waterman made 82 appearances for the Red Roses, becoming the youngest women to represent her country when making her debut in 2003.