Six Nations Championship
The NatWest 6 Nations logo used in 2018
|Instituted||1883 (as Home Nations Championship)
1910 (as Five Nations Championship)
2000 (as Six Nations Championship)
|Number of teams||6|
|Most titles||England (38: 28 outright titles, 10 shared titles)|
The Six Nations Championship (recently known as the NatWest 6 Nations for sponsorship reasons) is an annual international rugby union competition between the teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The current champions are Ireland, having won the 2018 tournament.
The Six Nations is the successor to the Home Nations Championship (1883–1909 and 1932–39), played between teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which was the first international rugby union tournament. With the addition of France, this became the Five Nations Championship (1910–31 and 1947–99), which in turn became the Six Nations Championship with the addition of Italy.
England hold the record for outright wins of the Home Nations, Five Nations and Six Nations tournaments, with 28 titles, although Wales follow closely with 26 outright wins with the addition of 12 shared victories to England's 10. Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the Six Nations title, although Scotland were the last winners of the Five Nations.
- 1 History and expansion
- 2 Format
- 3 Trophies
- 4 Venues
- 5 Results
- 6 Titles and awards
- 7 Records
- 8 Administration and television contracts
- 9 Sponsorship
- 10 See also
- 11 Sources
- 12 References
- 13 External links
History and expansion
The tournament was first played in 1883 as the Home Nations Championship among the four Home Nations — England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The tournament then became the Five Nations Championship in 1910 with the addition of France. The tournament was expanded in 2000 to become the Six Nations Championship with the addition of Italy.
Following the relative success of the Tier 2 nations in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, there were calls by Octavian Morariu, the president of Rugby Union's governing body for promotion and development, to let Georgia and Romania join the Six Nations due to their consistent success in the European Nations Cup and ability to compete in the Rugby World Cup.
Played annually, the format of the Championship is simple: each team plays every other team once (making a total of 15 matches), with home ground advantage alternating from one year to the next. Prior to the 2017 tournament, two points were awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Unlike many other rugby union competitions the bonus point system has not previously been used.
On 30 November 2016, the 6 Nations Committee announced that the bonus point system will be trialled for the 2017 Championship. The system is similar to the one used in most rugby championships (0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win, 1 for scoring four or more tries in match, and 1 for losing by 7 points or fewer), with the only difference being that a Grand Slam winner will be given 3 extra points to ensure they finish top of the table.
Prior to 1994, teams equal on match points shared the championship. Since then, ties have been broken by considering the points difference of the teams. The rules of the championship further provide that if teams tie on both match points and points difference, the team that scored the most tries wins the championship. Were this decider to be a tie, the tying teams would share the championship. To date, however, match points and points difference have been sufficient to decide the championship.
Also, the team that finishes at the bottom of the league table is said to have "won" the Wooden Spoon, although no actual trophy is given to the team. A team that has lost all five matches is said to have been whitewashed. Since the inaugural Six Nations tournament in 2000, only England and Ireland have avoided the Wooden Spoon award. Italy are the holders of the most Wooden Spoon awards in the Six Nations era with eleven, and have been whitewashed six times. However, each of the other five nations has accumulated more than that through competing in previous eras.
The winners of the Six Nations are presented with the Championship Trophy. This was originally conceived by the Earl of Westmorland, and was first presented to the winners of the 1993 championship, France. It is a sterling silver trophy, designed by James Brent-Ward and made by a team of eight silversmiths from the London firm William Comyns.
It has 15 side panels representing the 15 members of the team and with three handles to represent the three officials (referee and two touch judges). The cup has a capacity of 3.75 litres – sufficient for five bottles of champagne. Within the mahogany base is a concealed drawer which contains six alternate finials, each a silver replica of one of the team emblems, which can be screwed on the detachable lid.
A new trophy was introduced for the 2015 Championship. The new trophy was designed and crafted by Thomas Lyte silversmiths and replaces the 1993 edition, which is being retired as it represented the nations that took part in the Five Nations Championship. Ireland were the last team to win the old trophy, and coincidentally, the first team to win the new one.
Grand Slam and Triple Crown
A team that wins all its games wins the 'Grand Slam'.
Victory by any Home Nation over the other three Home Nations is a 'Triple Crown'. Although this achievement has long been a feature of the tournament, it was not until 2006 that a physical Triple Crown trophy was awarded.
The Triple Crown may only be won by England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales, when one nation wins all three of their matches against the others, during the Six Nations Championship. The Triple Crown honour has long been a feature of the tournament, dating back to the original Home Nations Championship, but the physical Triple Crown Trophy has been awarded only since 2006. The current holder of the Triple Crown is Ireland, who defeated England, Scotland, and Wales in the 2018 championship. For the 2006 Six Nations, the Royal Bank of Scotland (the primary sponsor of the competition) commissioned Hamilton & Inches to design and create a dedicated Triple Crown Trophy. It has since been won three times by Ireland and twice by England and Wales.
Several individual competitions take place under the umbrella of the tournament. The oldest such regular competition is for the Calcutta Cup, contested annually between England and Scotland since 1879. It is named the Calcutta Cup as it is made from melted-down Indian Rupees donated by the Calcutta Club. Since 1988, the Millennium Trophy has been awarded to the winner of the game between England and Ireland, and since 1989 the Centenary Quaich has been awarded to the winner of the game between Ireland and Scotland. Since 2007, France and Italy have contested the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy; it was created for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian hero who helped unify Italy and volunteered in the French Republican Army against Prussia.
The following trophies are contested within the main competition, mostly as long-standing fixtures between pairs of teams:
- Millennium Trophy – contested annually between England and Ireland since 1988, presented to celebrate Dublin's millennium in 1988.
- Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy – contested annually between France and Italy since 2007, in memory of Giuseppe Garibaldi, leader in the unification of Italy and volunteer in the French Republican Army against Prussia.
- Auld Alliance Trophy – contested annually between France and Scotland since 2018, in memory of the war dead from the rugby communities of Scotland and France.
As of the 2018 competition, Six Nations matches are held in the following stadia:
|France||Stade de France||81,338|
The opening of the Aviva Stadium in May 2010 ended the arrangement with the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) that allowed the all-Ireland governing body for rugby union, the Irish Rugby Football Union, to use the GAA's flagship stadium, Croke Park, for its international matches. This arrangement was made necessary by the 2007 closure and subsequent demolition of Ireland's traditional home at Lansdowne Road; the Aviva was built on the former Lansdowne Road site. During the construction of the Aviva, Croke Park was the largest of the Six Nations grounds, with a capacity of 82,300.
In 2012 Italy moved their home games from the Stadio Flaminio, which only held 32,000, to the Stadio Olimpico, also in Rome, with a capacity of 72,000.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) had planned to build a new stadium of its own, seating 82,000 in the southern suburbs of Paris, because of frustrations with their tenancy of the Stade de France. However the project was cancelled in December 2016.
|Outright Wins (Shared Wins)|
|Home Nations||5 (4)||NA||4 (4)||NA||10 (3)||7 (4)|
|Five Nations||17 (6)||12 (8)||6 (5)||NA||5 (6)||15 (8)|
|Overall||28 (10)||17 (8)||14 (9)||0 (0)||15 (9)||26 (12)|
Home Nations (1883–1909)
|Year||Champions||Grand Slam||Triple Crown||Calcutta Cup|
|1885||Not completed||Not completed|
|1886||England and Scotland||–||–|
|1888||Ireland, Scotland and Wales||England didn't participate|
|1889||Scotland||England didn't participate|
|1890||England and Scotland||–||England|
|1897||Not completed||Not completed||England|
|1898||Not completed||Not completed||–|
|1906||Ireland and Wales||–||England|
Five Nations (1910–1931)
|Year||Champions||Grand Slam||Triple Crown||Calcutta Cup|
|1912||Ireland and England||–||–||Scotland|
|1915–19||Not held due to World War I|
|1920||Scotland, Wales and England||–||–||England|
|1926||Ireland and Scotland||–||–||Scotland|
|1927||Ireland and Scotland||–||–||Scotland|
Home Nations (1932–1939)
|Year||Champions||Grand Slam||Triple Crown||Calcutta Cup|
|1932||England, Ireland and Wales||–||–||England|
|1939||England, Ireland, Wales||–||–||England|
Five Nations (1940–1999)
Six Nations (2000–present)
Titles and awards
|Nation||Grand Slams||Last Grand Slam||Triple Crowns||Last Triple Crown|
|Team||Wooden Spoons||Years awarded|
|Italy||13||2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018|
|Scotland||4||2004, 2007, 2012, 2015|
Bold indicates that the team did not win any matches.
England's Jonny Wilkinson currently holds the records for individual points in one match (35 points against Italy in 2001) and one season with 89 (scored in 2001). Ronan O'Gara of Ireland holds the career scoring record with 557 points to Wilkinson's 546, having surpassed Wilkinson in Round 3 of the 2011 championship.
The record for tries in a match is held by Scotsman George Lindsay who scored five tries against Wales in 1887. England's Cyril Lowe and Scotland's Ian Smith jointly hold the record for tries in one season with 8 (Lowe in 1914, Smith in 1925). Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll has the Championship record for tries with 26.
The record for appearances is held by O'Gara, with 63 Six Nations appearances from the start of the Six Nations era in 2000 to his retirement in 2013. He surpassed countryman Mike Gibson in the first round of the 2012 tournament against Wales. Gibson played in 56 Five Nations matches (Italy had not become part of the Championship yet) between 1964 and 1979.
The most points scored by a team in one match was 80 points, scored by England against Italy in 2001. England also scored the most ever points in a season in 2001 with 229, and most tries in a season with 29. Wales hold the record for fewest tries conceded during a season in the Six Nations era, conceding only 2 in 5 games in 2008, but the 1977 Grand Slam-winning France team did not concede a try in their four matches. Wales hold the record for the longest time without conceding a try, at 358 minutes in the 2013 tournament.
Administration and television contracts
The Championship is run from headquarters in Dublin, Ireland by Six Nations Rugby Ltd, which also takes responsibility for the British and Irish Lions tours. The CEO of the Championship is John Feehan, a former Leinster player.
The BBC has long covered the tournament, broadcasting all matches apart from England home matches between 1997 and 2002, which were shown live by Sky Sports with highlights on the BBC. Between 2003 and 2015, the BBC covered every match live on BBC Sport either on BBC One or BBC Two with highlights also on the BBC Sport website and either on the BBC Red Button or late at night on BBC Two. In 2011, it was announced that the BBC's coverage of the tournament on TV, radio and online would be extended to 2017. However, on 9 July 2015, in reaction to satellite pay-TV bids from Sky Sports and BT Sport for coverage from 2017, BBC agreed to lose exclusive rights to the tournament two years early. But from 2016, BBC and ITV would jointly broadcast the tournament in the UK, with BBC showing all France, Scotland and Wales home matches live, and ITV showing all England, Ireland and Italy home matches live. This means that the Six Nations will remain on free-to-air television in the UK until 2021.
In Ireland, RTÉ have broadcast the championship since RTÉ's inception and continued to do so until 2017, while TG4 televised highlights. However in late 2015 it was announced that free to air rival TV3 would take over the rights for every game from the Six Nations on Irish Television from 2018–2021, so that after the 2017 championship RTÉ lost the rights.
France Télévisions covered the competition in France; this lasted until 2017.
Until 1998, the Championship had no title sponsor. Sponsorship rights were sold to Lloyds TSB for the 1999 tournament and the competition was titled the Lloyds TSB 5 Nations and Lloyds TSB 6 Nations until 2003.
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group took over sponsorship from 2004 until 2017, with the competition being branded the RBS 6 Nations. A new title sponsor was sought for the 2018 tournament and beyond. However, after struggling to find a new sponsor, organisers agreed a one-year extension with the Royal Bank of Scotland Group at a reduced rate. As the RBS initials brand was being phased out, the tournament was named for their banking arm NatWest, becoming the Natwest 6 Nations.
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