Every year it comes around, it never ceases to amaze me the spell the Six Nations casts upon everyone from the most loyal of rugby union followers to more casual fans who simply enjoy the spectacle and a chance to come together with their fellow countrymen and women.

This most unique of championships completely transcends the sport at the centre of it. It is a conversation starter.

It is an event in the calendar many people plan an entire month and a half around and what transpires on the field has the power to change the complexion of the week ahead in quite remarkable ways for so many.

Scotland Rugby News: Ireland were crowned 2024 Guinness Six Nations championsIreland were crowned 2024 Guinness Six Nations champions (Image: PA)

I have had chats with people over the last few weeks who I know don’t watch rugby week in, week out who have been utterly gripped by the matches, whether it be Scotland beating England for the fourth year in a row, a thrilling comeback by Wales against Gregor Townsend’s men in Cardiff, or England managing to overcome Ireland at Twickenham when all the world had written them off.

READ MORE: Gregor Townsend insists Scotland making progress

Even those who don’t watch the games still know what the Six Nations means to people and will still say things like “are you watching the game this weekend?” or “Scotland are playing tomorrow aren’t they?”.

The weight of the occasion is lost on very few and Scots, whether they follow the sport or not, are all familiar with the team’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I was hearing how my colleagues, some of whom were only casual observers of the sport, were getting excited about Scotland seemingly running away with the game in the first half in Cardiff, only to be warned by another colleague who doesn’t generally watch the Six Nations not to get ahead of themselves. How right she was.

All of this is why we should never see the Six Nations move behind a paywall, something that has the potential to happen very soon.

The current deal between BBC and ITV for the men’s tournament runs out next year and MPs have recently rejected widespread calls to give the competition free-to-air protection.

Abi Tierney, chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, argued that keeping the sport on free-to-air TV would have a devastating impact on the sport in Wales, suggesting bids for rights would be lower without the possibility of games shifting behind a paywall.

Scotland Rugby News: Gabby Logan presents BBC Sport's coverage of a Six Nations game from MurrayfieldGabby Logan presents BBC Sport's coverage of a Six Nations game from Murrayfield (Image: PA)

You can see the financial case, but beyond that there are very few ways you could argue that losing the Six Nations off free-to-air television would be anything short of a disaster for both the sport and people joining together in an annual celebration of national unity and pride.

Some people might point out a lot of football has disappeared behind a paywall and has not suffered, as a lot of fans are prepared to pay. I’m not for a moment suggesting ardent followers of rugby union would not pay for a subscription. They would. But it isn’t them I am worried about.

If I was a betting woman, I would say those people who just take an interest in the Six Nations and don’t follow the rest of the rugby season would find it hard to justify paying a monthly fee to continue watching the tournament.

A huge part of the reason they take an interest is because there is access for all.

It would be a big loss for more casual fans to stop following the tournament for they do so much to remind us rugby nauses that it’s just a game and what matters is we’re enjoying the ride together.

Scotland Rugby News: France players celebrate beating England in one of the best matches of this year's Six NationsFrance players celebrate beating England in one of the best matches of this year's Six Nations (Image: PA)

I also fear if the Six Nations did become accessible to subscribers only, there would be a distinct lack of rugby union on free-to-air TV.

The English Premiership and Sevens Series are on TNT Sports, the United Rugby Championship and Top 14 are on Viaplay and Super Rugby Pacific is on Sky Sports. The Rugby World Cup is not even fully protected on free-to-air TV.

When the game is struggling to attract fresh talent – Scotland is a stark example of that with yet another U20s whitewash having just occurred  – this would surely put the sport in long-term jeopardy. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

READ MORE: Kenny Murray believes in bright Scotland U20 future despite Six Nations whitewash

The same cannot be said for football when you still get the likes of the European Championships and the World Cup protected on free-to-air TV, not to mention regular live broadcasts of FA Cup and Scottish Cup matches alongside the Women’s Super League.

Some might also argue the Six Nations isn’t unique in the way it brings countries together. The football World Cup and Euros do that too, for example.

But tell me about another tournament in sport where you play your nearest neighbours in the UK and Europe every year. Tell me another tournament where every game within it is absolutely colossal in its meaning to the nations involved, rather than having moments where it ebbs and flows. In my view, there isn’t one.

If the Six Nations goes behind a paywall, we simply would not know what we had until it was gone.