Six Nations Championship
The Six Nations Championship (known as the Guinness Six Nations for sponsorship reasons) is an annual international men’s rugby union competition between the teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. The current champions are England, who won the 2020 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 with 29. Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the Six Nations title.
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. However, England was excluded from the 1888 and 1889 tournaments due to their refusal to join the International Rugby Football Board. 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 Europe, 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
The tournament begins on the first weekend in February and culminates with Super Saturday on the second or third Saturday in March. 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 had not previously been used.
On 30 November 2016, the Six Nations Committee announced that a bonus point system would be trialled in 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 a 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 (total points scored minus total points conceded) 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 15, and have been whitewashed eleven times. However, each of the other five nations has accumulated more than that through competing in previous eras.
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Since the establishment of the Six Nations in 2000, Wales, England and Scotland have played all home matches at their current location, Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, London’s Twickenham Stadium and Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium respectively. France also played in all home matches at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, with the sole exception of the France-Italy match of the 2018 edition, held at the Vélodrome Stadium in Marseille. The match was also, for the transalpines, the first home game ever in the history of the tournament played far from the urban area of Paris. In the last twenty years, on the other hand, Ireland and Italy have changed headquarters. The Irish played the first editions of the Six Nations in their historic home, Dublin’s Lansdowne Road Stadium, which was demolished in 2007 to make way for the current Aviva Stadium. During the duration of the construction works of the plant, the Irish national team temporarily moved to Croke Park, also in Dublin, a stadium mainly used for the practice of Gaelic sports. Italy, on the other hand, made its debut in the tournament at the Stadio Flaminio in Rome to move in 2012, due to the unscheduled renovation work required by the facility (both in terms of capacity and safety), in the nearby Olympic Stadium.