Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. It is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The RBS 6 Nations Championship is contested each season over seven weekends during February, March and sometimes April by the international sides of France, England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
Each team plays the other five once per season with home advantage in alternate seasons (eg England hosted France in 2003, and so France host England in 2004), giving a total of 15 matches per Championship.
The RBS 6 Nations Championship Trophy is presented to the team who earn the most points during the season, with 2 points being awarded for a win, and 1 point for a drawn match.
If two or more teams finish the Championship with the same number points, the winner is decided on match-points difference (subtracting match-points 'against' from match-points 'for' in all Championship matches). If there is still no winner, then it is awarded to the team who scored the most tries during the Championship.
If after all this a winner still cannot be decided then the Championship is shared between the teams.
If in winning the Championship a team also wins all of their five matches, they are given the title of 'Grand Slam' winner.
There is also the title of 'Triple Crown' competed for each season, which is awarded if a team from the 4 Home Unions (England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) beats each of the other 3 Home Unions.
The Six Nations Championship is the oldest rugby championship in the world, dating back to 1882. Originally held between the four United Kingdom countries England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, France joined in 1910 and Italy joined in 2000.
France did not join the fray until 1910 and, despite their later dominance, they struggled at first to achieve any notable success. They did however, coin the phrase 'five nations'. In their first four years of entry, the French won just one game - a one point victory over Scotland in 1911.
The outbreak of war in 1914 saw the tournament put on hold until 1920 and the inter-war years were dominated by England as they swept to nine championship victories, including five Grand Slams.
Scotland collected their first Grand Slam in 1925 , with an emphatic win against England at Murrayfield. In 1926 , Scotland became the first Home Union side to defeat England at Twickenham after England had won the Grand Slam (winning the Triple Crown AND beating the French) five times in eight seasons.
France continued to struggle and in 1931 the inadequacies of the French game's administration and the discovery that a number of their players had been paid at club level, forced them to pull out of the tournament. Due to this, the championship became an entirely domestic affair for eight years and France rejoined in 1939-40, with the outbreak of World War Two delaying their re-entry for a further eight years.
The Six Nations is the successor to the Five Nations Championship (1910–31 and 1947–99) which in turn succeeded the Home Nations Championship (1883–1909 and 1932–39). The Home Nations Championship, played between teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, was the first international rugby union tournament. The winners of the Six Nations Championship are sometimes unofficially referred to in the media as the European Champions or Northern Hemisphere Champions.
England and Wales are the joint current record holders for outright wins of the Home Nations, Five Nations and Six Nations tournaments, with 26 titles each, although Wales add to that record with 12 shared victories to England's 10 shared titles. Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the actual Six Nations title, although Scotland were the last outright winners of the tournament's predecessor event, the Five Nations, in 1999.
Six Nations 2014
As we go past the halfway point of the Six Nations 2014, things are starting to bubble up pretty nicely indeed.
Wins for England and Wales mean that there are four teams deadlocked on four points heading into the final two fixtures, whilst Scotland’s last-gasp victory over Italy brought them their first points of the campaign.
The competition is as tight as it has been for many a year, and here’s a look at the standings ahead of the fourth round of games, which are to be played out on the weekend of 8 & 9 March: