Six Nations Championship – history, rules and more
It’s that time of year again, when all the countries of the United Kingdom, as well as our friends from France and Italy, come together to compete in the Six Nations Championship! This highly popular annual tournament has been celebrated in its current format since 1999, but it’s history, previously as the Five Nations Championship, and before even that, as the Home Nations Championship, takes us all the way back to 1883!
The tournament began when, following a series of irregular friendly matches between Scottish and English teams, the four “Home Nations” of the United Kingdom, Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales joined together to start the first international rugby competition. The format was very simple, and remains so today; each team plays every other team once and home field advantage changes each year. Points are awarded as two for a win, one for a draw, and zero for a loss, with the team with the most points winning the overall Championship. These regulations remain in place to this day; with the addition of special circumstances rules to determine the overall winner in situations where two teams finish with the same number of points, prior to this, if two teams garnered an equal score at the end of the Championship, both were declared winners.
France joined the tournament in 1910, making it the Five Nations Championship, though they briefly withdrew between 1931 and 1947 due to the pressures of recovery from WWI and subsequently, WWII. By the late 1950s the French were really coming into their own, and they dominated the tournament from this time until the mid-1960s, following which the Welsh came bursting forward for a series of thrilling wins throughout the 1970s. Also during the ‘70s, there was the only instance of all participating teams being declared winners, after political problems prevented the completion of all games, and the tournament was stopped early with each team registering two wins each!
Italy joined the tournament in 1999, playing for the first time in 2000, and are now just an integral a part of the competition as the more established members, they even have a special competition within the main event, known as the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy, to win they must beat France in the game they play against each other, should France prevail, they instead win the Trophy. Similar mini-competitions are played between Scotland and Ireland (The Centenary Quaich), Scotland and England (The Calcutta Cup, so named as the trophy was manufactured from melted Indian rupee coins), and England and Ireland (The Millennium Trophy).
Another competition played within the banner of the Six Nations Tournament is the Triple Crown, although this is not awarded every year. To qualify as a Triple Crown winner, you must be one of the Home Nations teams, Scotland, England, Ireland or Wales, and you must have beat all of the other Home Nation teams. Triple Crown Winners often go on to win the whole Championship, if they do so with five wins, i.e. beating every other team they play against, this is known as a Grand Slam. In the entire history of the Six Nations, in its other guises as well, this has been achieved 37 times, most often by England! Sadly, the “Wooden Spoon”, the figurative trophy awarded since 2000, to whichever team comes last, has been most often given to Italy, with Scotland also receiving this three times! But, while Scotland’s team may not have, in recent years at least, had many striking wins, we, along with the other participants, always enjoy following the tournament to its fullest!
Scotland’s home stadium is Murrayfield, in our beautiful capital Edinburgh. In fact, we have just played this year’s match against Ireland there with a result of 12-8 to Scotland, congratulations to the home team! Every year at this time Edinburgh is once again taken over with a festival spirit, with many European rugby fans visiting for the various fixtures, and of course the home fans letting their national hope and pride show freely! With face-painting, novelty hats, replica strips and the usual cheerful and indomitable spirit all on show, a Murrayfield match is always guaranteed to be a great party atmosphere, regardless of the outcome!
So readers, will you be attending any of the Six Nations Championship matches this year, or following with bated breath from home? Who’s your pick for the winner? And most importantly of all, have you got your Jimmy hat and Scotland shirt at the ready to cheers on the boys no matter the result?!