THE SIX NATIONS: HISTORY & LEADING PLAYERS

The Six Nations is one of the biggest tournaments on the international rugby calendar. We look back at its history. 

The origins of the Six Nations go back to the very first meetings between England and Scotland in the 1870s. Today, as its name suggests, this annual tournament held in February and March is contested by six nations.

 

1. THE HISTORY OF THE TOURNAMENT

England and Scotland contested the very first international rugby matches in the 1870s. In 1883, England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales played each other for the first time across a single season, in what was known as the Home Nations Championship.

France made their international debut in 1893, against England. In 1910, the French were officially invited to join the competition. It was then that the Five Nations tournament came into being. England won the title that year. 

In 1931, France were excluded from the tournament by the other nations due to violent play and the fact that some of their players were being paid at club level. They were readmitted to the competition in 1939. The outbreak of the Second World War meant the tournament was not held again until 1947. 1959 proved to be a landmark year for France as they won the title for the first time. They did so by winning all their matches, a feat known in the competition as the grand slam

Wales then enjoyed a period of domination, winning the championship ten times between 1964 and 1979. France were the leading force in the 1980s, winning the tournament four times in a row. It was at this time that the English began calling their fixture against France "Le Crunch", an indication of the match's significance. The two sides were regarded as the strongest in the northern hemisphere at that time. The meetings between them were hard-fought and often fiery affairs. 

In 1993 a new rule was introduced whereby, in the event of teams being tied on the same number of match points, the total number of points scored across the championship determined their position in the table. The winner of the competition received the Five Nations trophy. 

1999 was the final year of the Five Nations. Scotland were its last champions. 

Italy joined the competition in 2000, at which point it changed its name to the Six Nations. In 2003 England became the first nation in the Six Nations era to complete the grand slam, winning all five of their matches.

Georgia's recent performances and Italy's struggles in the Six Nations have raised the issue of promotion and relegation, while a group of other European nations (Spain, Romania, Belgium, Portugal and Russia) are also on the rise. Results at future World Cups will be watched closely.

 

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2. THE LEADING PLAYERS

The history of the Six Nations has been shaped by the many great players who have graced it. 

Jonny Wilkinson (England), fly-half. Regarded as the greatest fly-half of the period between 2003 and 2010, not least because of his consistent place kicking.

Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), centre. Holds the record for the most tries scored in the competition and also held the tournament appearance record at one stage. The heart and soul of the Ireland team, and a legend of the game.

Sergio Parisse (Italy), number 8. The Italian beat Brian O'Driscoll's Six Nations appearance record. Parisse is still going strong and can be expected to add to the 69 tournament starts he has made to date. 

Serge Blanco (France), full-back. France's greatest player of all time. Blanco has won the tournament more times than any other French player. 

Gareth Edwards (Wales), scrum-half. 

Gavin Hastings (Scotland), full-back. 

 

3. THE STADIUMS

The six stadiums used to stage the tournament's matches are all cathedrals of rugby. 

Aviva Stadium, Dublin: IRELAND

Murrayfield, Edinburgh: SCOTLAND

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff: WALES

Stadio Olimpico, Rome: ITALY

Stade de France , Paris: FRANCE

Twickenham, London: ENGLAND

 

You now know the history of the Six Nations and its leading players of the last few years. 

 

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