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Updated: Saturday 4 February 2012

BBC Sport extends Six Nations Rugby contract until 2017

The BBC has announced a new deal to broadcast the Six Nations Championship until 2017.

It extends its current deal, which runs until 2013, as exclusive broadcaster of the Six Nations and covers TV, radio and online.

Last year’s tournament saw audiences increase to their highest level for 13 years, with an average audience of 4.7m per match.

“The Six Nations is a crown jewel in the sporting calendar,” said BBC director of sport Barbara Slater.

“We’re delighted that we can continue to bring the tournament to our audiences. Viewing figures continue to grow year on year and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Six Nations to build interest even further through the BBC’s unparalleled offering of TV, radio, online and interactive services.”

The annual northern hemisphere rugby union championship is contested by England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

The 2012 championship begins later today when France take on Italy from 2:30pm live on BBC One and BBC One HD.