The Six Nations (previously the Five Nations until the inclusion of Italy in 2000) is the main annual international tournament amongst the premier rugby playing nations of Europe which decides who is the best side in Europe. The tournament consists of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy, with each side playing the other only once, variations of home and away are done on a broader two-year cycle. The points scoring system is extremely simple with 2 points awarded for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss and with no bonus points on offer. In the event of a tied points tally, the winner of the cup is decided on points difference (points scored minus points against).
What makes this tournament stand out from all the others is the range of playing styles and sporting clashes between nations which have a long histories of rivalry between them, with the Grand Slam (awarded only when a country has won all of its matches), the Triple Crown (awarded to the one home nation of the British Isles which defeats all the others), the Calcutta Cup (fought between England and Scotland) and the much loathed Wooden Spoon (given to the nation which comes last in the competition).
Whether in the exuberance of the French backs, pure grit of the Scottish forwards, the ten-man rugby of the English or the wonderful blend of guile, agility and power of both Irish and Welsh rugby, there is always room for a rugby partisan to find another team to support other than their own.
The RBS Six Nations Rugby is one of the three most popular sporting events in the Rugby Union calendar and certainly up there with Britains most eagerly anticipated sports.
The Six Nations contests between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. Matches take place usually every two weeks and each team plays each other once resulting in five matches for each nation.
The winner is the nation who accumulates the most points after all five matches, with two points awarded to a nation for a win and one point awarded for a draw. This year is Irelands final year at Croke Park and Englands centenary year at the famous Twickenham.
If a nation manages to defeat all other opponent they are awarded the Grand Slam crown.
The BBC follows the RBS Six Nations with live coverage, analysis and updates spectators with tables and statistics throughout. These are live on BBC One and always available on BBC 5 Live Sport.
Every year the competition gets hotter and stronger and every team seems to improve and close the gap on their rivals. It is so close this year that nobody knows who will win. Any nation can beat any nation on their day.
So get behind your nation and cheer them on in this years RBS Six Nations
The Six Nations every year, the world cup asides (this happens every four years) provides the most exciting rugby tournament in the world which attracts record crowds for every game and huge media interest and blows the tri nations out of the water. Although the tri nations boasts the top three teams in the world (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia) and are soon to welcome Argentina into the competition next year, it is no match for the might of the six nations which also boasts some of the best rugby nations in the world.
The Six Nations is a tournament that is played in a league format and contested over 7 weekends. The teams that compete are Ireland, France, Wales, England, Scotland and Italy (4th,5th,7th,8th,10 & 12th in the world respectively) who play each play eachother once. Each side has home advantage on alternating season eg. In 2005 Wales hosted England, while in 2006 Wales travelled to Twickenham.
A team is awarded two points for a win and one point for a draw. As would be expected whoever finishes in first place in the table becomes six nation champions, however, should any one team accomplish this feat without tasting defeat then they are rewarded with what is called the grandslam (run of five matches undefeated in the tournament) and aswell as this there is also a trophy rewarded called the "Calcutta Cup", which is a trophy only redeemable for either Scotland or England when they battle. As well as this, there is also another trophy known as the triple crown which is exclusive to the home nations (Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England) which is rewarded if any one of these nations beat the other three homes nations consecutively.
Overall the exciting brand of rugby played by Wales and France and the physicality of England, Ireland, Scotland and Italy make this tournament the most exciting and open tournament in world rugby. The tournament is played across six world famous stadiums (Wales' Millenium Stadium, England's Twickenham, France's Stade de France, Scotland's Murrayfield, Ireland's Lansdowne Road and Italy's Stadio de Flaminio) which each offer a different kind of atmosphere and unique experience for spectator and player. All these factors contribute to the huge success of the Six Nations and may long the brilliant tournament continue
At this point in time the western hemisphere is struggling to compete with southern hemisphere rugby. HOWEVER regardless of this point, the western hemisphere's six nations tournament by far and away out trumps the tri nations played in the southern hemisphere. Let me tell you why! Firstly there are more teams. An obvious point but the more teams there are the more exciting the competition as more teams can win! Secondly you just never know who's going to win each year. Perhaps Italian rugby and Scottish rugby aren't potential winners but the remainding four always clash horns for the top spot adding to the excitement, particularly if you support one of these sides. Thirdly the western hemisphere boasts far and away the most passionate fans. As newish countries South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are not blessed with the long history between them that the six nations are blessed with. Scotland are still trying to take revenge on England for wars which took place 500 years ago! Throw in a pinch of French flair, Italian passion, Welsh voices and Irish egoism and you have a fine tournament. Crowds are always large and most games are shown on regular television. It's a great tournament to watch to get into the rugby scene and I can't wait for when it starts!
I never really took much notice from the Six Nations until Wales' first Grand Slam in 2005, in which I watched every match. Prior to that, my only real experience of watching international rugby were the World Cups in 1999 and 2003 respectively.
Since that Grand Slam of 2005 I've looked into the history of the tournament (Six Nations, not Five Nations or Home Nations) and found out that my home nation of Wales hadn't been so successful, so I took much more interest in the competition than I had done before.
The Six Nations Tournament runs from the first weekend in February over the course of 7 weeks into mid-March. It is contested by the top six rugby nations in Europe (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales). France are the most successful nation in the current format of the Six Nations with 4 victories, including 2 grand Slams. England have won it 3 times with 1 grand slam and Wales have won it twice, both being grand Slams. They also are the current holders.
Apart from the Rugby World Cup when it comes around, I think the RBS Six Nations is perhaps one of the most exciting in the rugby calendar for several reasons. It gives the rugbying nations of Europe the chance to show off how good they are to the Southern Hemisphere sides, even if the Southern Hemisphere sides triumph a majority of the time. The Six Nations also produces some fantastic games year in year out. Recently, I enjoyed the Ireland v France game at Croke Park, and every year I look forward to the Wales v England fixture, bringing me to my highlight of the Six Nations in it's 9-year history, being Wales' 26-19 win at Twickenham. Another aspect of the Six Nations I like is the fact that it is no longer a 2 horse race between France and England as it was in the first half of the decade. The championship is much more open now, with Wales and Ireland proving difficult competition. Scotland have progressed a long way in recent years, even Italy have strengthened giving a more exciting overall championship. Yet another positive aspect like many international meetings, be it rugby, football etc. are the national anthems. Watching 'Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau' at the Millennium Stadium on match day is always an extravaganza for me as the atmosphere is always fantastic. I also enjoy watching the other national anthems as it intensifies the atmosphere, and the variety of anthems makes the meetings extra special.
The 6 nations is the biggest annual event of Northeren Hemisphere Rugby, with England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. It is always during February and March. The 6 nations is a compition that rugby fans will look forward to every year, and the fact that it is yearly is great meaning that you do not have to wait every 4 or so years like other major tournaments, giving you the chance to get behind your country, year in, year out.
There is a certain magic about the 6 nations that dates back through all the years of Britsh Rivalry and untouched patriotism that no other sporting competition can compete with in my opinion. This is chiefly because it flares up this border rivalry that we Brits revel in. In this respect it is probably worth noting that many, many shock defeats take place due to the will to beat the English or other such nations.
The addition of the Italians is great in my opinion as although they were basically there to make up the numbers at first, there is now a clear and marked improvement in their rugby year upon year, and soon they will be challenging the likes of Ireland or England. Which is clearly good for world rugby and has been the backing behind plans for Argentina to join such a competition.
Bring on the 6 nations !
The Rugby Six Nations is the only time I actually get interested in rugby unless there is a World Cup on, partly because I like looking at hunky muscle bound men rather than some of the wimps you see in other sports and also I live the singing that goes on at rugby internationals rather than the obscene chanting you get at football games and at rugby internationals there is a hightened sense of drama and skill. I hav been dragged along to see a couple of league games at Nothampton Saints and it is just not the same when compared to my one visit to Twickenham for an England Ireland game a few years ago.
The six nations was expanded from the five a few years back to accomodate Italy and to gice Scotland a bit of competition for the wooden spoon each year, last year Wales triumphed and they look good again this year alongside the French who are always good, England lost heavily in games before xmas and look weak and a bit clueless.
Each team plays the other once and they alternate home and away each year so some year you may hve all the better teams at home and your away games may be relatively easier. It is a great spectacle as the atmosphere in each country can be so different and very patriotic, I love to hear Swing Low at full volume lets just hope we hear it a lot more this season.
The Rugby 6 Nations Championship is one of the biggest northern hemisphere rugby tournaments of the year, and is an international that first started in 1883, with England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales taking part. France joined in 1910 and Italy in 2000. Known as the 5 Nations Championship since France joined, it changed to the 6 Nations in 2000 with the arrival of Italy to the fray.
The tournament happens during January and February each year, and features each of the 6 teams playing each other once in an attempt to find the best team. Of more recent years, it has been anybody's guess who will win, and with Italy improving every year, it is definitely a 6 horse race as far as winning is concerned.
But of course, there are other challenges throughout the tournament, with other 'trophies' and 'cups' up for grabs as well as the much coveted title of winner of the 6 Nations. If a team wins all of its matches, that's called a Grand Slam, with a 100% record. Any of the home nations, that's England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, who beat the other three, win the Triple Crown. There's also individual match cups such as the Calcutta Cup between England and Scotland, and the small mentals victories for each team as rivalries come into it.
This year, Wales are definitely my pick to go and win the tournament. They have been consistently the stronger team throughout the past couple of years, and recently have done better against the southern hemisphere teams than any of the other home nations who have played them. Their team seems to be very solid and working well with a new style of management, and with two strong fly-halves in James Hook and Stephen Jones who can change a game with flair and control respectively, they have a very structured setup.
England, on the other hand, seem to play Russian Roulette every time they take to the field. Under the new management of Martin Johnson, they have not had great success, suffering big defeats to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, but beating the Pacific Islanders. The team is under a new regime and there a lot of new and inexperienced faces, and the silly mistakes are everywhere. There is a lot of pressure on England publicly and on the pitch, and this could be the opening for the other teams to sweep them out of the way and head for 6 Nations glory themselves.
Ireland have had a relatively quiet time of it this winter so far, but have showed times of brilliance against the southern hemisphere teams, and are a force to be reckoned with, while Scotland have also shown that despite common opinion that they are a lesser team, theyh could give anyone a run for their money. France are always dangerous with their flair and passion when they play, and with Italy emerging year after year as a better team than the year before, it shows that playing with superior teams will bring your levels of skill up to theirs.
It is safe to say that the upcoming 6 Nations competition is up in the air. I would tip Wales to come in top spot, and then it is a race for the rest of the places. Ireland are a likely second for me, but the other four places I wouldn't like to guess. I just haven't seen enough rugby from them all to know for sure or even have an informed opinion anyway.
One thing I do know is that, as an Englishman, and a supporter of English Rugby, England will have their work cut out to finish in the top three of the tournament this year. This will be another testing tournament for them, and they must go all out to do what they can to ensure the victories.
I find the 6 Nations a really exciting tournament. It is a joy to watch the same confrontations year after year, and how the players and teams have developed within the relatively short space of a year in international rugby. I shall be glued to the screen when the matches are on. Will you?
A brief history:
I suppose it all began with the inaugural Home International Championship first played back in 1883 by England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. In 1910 the French officially joined the tournament and it became known as the 'five nations.' Finally, Italy joined in 2000 and it became the 'six nations championship.'
The tournament is fantastic and some great rugby is played, many see it as one of the highlights of the sporting year. It is played annually; each nation plays every other once. Although it seems unfair that some teams play at home, while others away, the home sides are rotated annually in an attempt to make the competition fair for all sides. Unlike football where three points are awarded for a victory, here two points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a defeat and there is no bonus system in use for scoring 'x' amount of points etc unlike other major tournaments.
By beating certain nations there are titles up for grabs. For example if a home nation beats all three other home nations eg if Wales were to beat England, Scotland and Ireland then this is called the 'Triple Crown.' There is now a trophy in place for this, but it wasn't until 2006 that it was produced, before this teams just had the honour of knowing they had achieved the feat, which in certain ways is nicer I think. A 'Grand Slam' is achieved if a nation beats all five other teams, you would think this would be quite rare, but in fact it isn't, England hold the record with twelve. The nation who finishes last is deemed to have won the 'wooden spoon' although no trophy is made for this, not that they would be keen to collect it anyway. Similarly, there are individual battles fought when the fixtures take place. The 'Calcutta Cup' is hosted when England play Scotland and has been since 1879. The 'Millenium Trophy' is played for when England play Ireland and since 2007 the 'Guiseppe Garibaldi Trophy' is contested when France play Italy. As you can see it is a very interesting tournament with lots of associated history.
Who's going to win?
I think, based on recent performances that Wales are going to be a real force in the six nations. They beat Australia and their players are very much united as a team. They have a strong squad and a real mix of youth and experience, which is sadly what England are lacking at the moment. England will be up their too, I think Johnson will make sure that by the time the tournament comes around recent defeats to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand will be well out of players memories. They'll be challenging, but I think Wales will be too strong. France will probably contest third place with Ireland, Scotland fifth and Italy sixth; although are improving as a team every year they participate. An away fixture in Italy isn't the easy two points that it once was and there is a potential banana skin lurking for teams not on the top of their game.
The tournament actually takes place in the spring time of next year, with fixtures being played from Saturday 7th February to Saturday 21st March.
Saturday 7th February: England v Italy
Saturday 14th February: Wales v England
Saturday 28th February: Ireland v England
Sunday 15th March: England v France
Saturday 21st March: England v Scotland
Looking at England's fixtures, the order is not the kindest to be honest. Opening against Italy which should be a comfortable victory, they then face Wales, who I have tipped to win the overall tournament. It will be very hard to adjust for the England boys and this will make the job harder for them. Next is another tricky fixture away to Ireland, before taking on the French at Twickenham. We finish against Scotland, again at home.
Let's hope the tournament will be as good as it should be and the standard of Rugby is right up there. Thanks for reading, feel free to comment. Come on England!