Rugby's Six Nations championship will remain live on "free-to-air" TV in Ireland after a deal, in principle, between RTÉ, Virgin Media and Six Nations Rugby.

RTÉ lost the TV broadcast rights to the Guinness Six Nations in 2015, and since 2018 games have been shown live on Virgin Media.

But under an agreement announced this morning, some live games in the Guinness Six Nations will return to RTÉ Television in 2022, and Virgin Media will show games from both the Women’s Six Nations and Men’s Under 20s Championships for the first time.

While final terms have yet to be agreed, RTÉ’s Director-General Dee Forbes said the deal was a "win for the Irish public" with games available to the biggest possible audience in Ireland.

"As competition increases from global players in the sports rights market, we are delighted to work locally with Virgin Media Television, with the aim of serving Irish audiences with fantastic Six Nations action," she added.

RTÉ have retained Irish radio rights for the Six Nations.

Ben Morel, chief executive of Six Nations Rugby said: "I am delighted that we have agreed the principles of a unique three-party partnership with Virgin Media and RTÉ, and that they have chosen the Six Nations to build such a strong and compelling collaboration around all our competitions which will be to the benefit of our sport, our unions and of Rugby fans in Ireland."

Philip Browne, the IRFU CEO, said rugby in Ireland, as a participation sport, was striving to balance TV rights income with the need for continued exposure.

"It is a win-win for all involved to have the future of all three Championships move through the contact stages with partners that have a history of showcasing our game.

"How we, and our broadcast partners, present our game is important, not only for the here-and-now of the viewers sitting down together to watch a particular game, but for those who may be inspired to take up the ball and play in schools and clubs.

"We look forward to working with both Virgin Media and RTÉ on the promotion of our great game across men's and women’s rugby."

RTÉ previously broadcasted the Five/Six Nations on television up until the 2018 season.