A must-attend event for all rugby fans in the northern hemisphere, the Rugby 6 Nations has allowed six European nations to compete each year for many decades. Although the competition between Ireland, England, Wales, France, Scotland and Italy gathers millions of viewers every year, the 2022 edition has seen a peak in audience including a Scottish victory over England and a French win over Ireland. These numbers make it one of the most watched sporting events in Europe.
1- The oldest Rugby Union competition worldwide celebrates 139 years
Created in 1883, the Home Nations Championship, forerunner of the 6 Nations tournament was already played between England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland in a rugby that certainly was less professionalised than today, but just as competitive. However, the early years of the tournament were quite tumultuous. The 1885 edition was shorten after England and Scotland refused to play each other after a disagreement on arbitration during their 1884 match. In 1888 and 1889, England was excluded for not joining the International Rugby Board (IRB). During the 1897 and 1898 editions, Ireland reused to play against Wales as the Welsh team was accused of professionalism. The appearance of major historical events such as World War I have resulted in the suspension of the tournament from 1915 to 1919 before resuming in 1920. On its side, France officially entered the tournament in 1910 which made the competition the first 5 nations championship but was excluded from 1932 to 1939 due to brutal behaviours on the pitch. It was much later, in 2000 that Italy joined the championship to form the 6 Nations Tournament as we know it today.
2. Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll is the best try scorer in the history of the competition
With 133 caps for Ireland, the former Leinster player is a key figure in Irish rugby. Playing at outside centre, Brian O’Driscoll holds the record for most tries scored in the 6 Nations tournament with 26 in 15 seasons. A stunning record that puts him ahead of the two wingers Ian Smith (24 tries) and Shane Williams (22 tries). The Irish player has won a total of 45 victories in the 6 Nations tournament against only 19 defeats and one draw. His pace, power and ability to put the opponent in difficulty on the pitch enabled him to become a three time IRB Player of the Year nominee.
3. Several trophies are at stake during the tournament
The Six Nations Tournament does not only have a trophy for the winner of the competition, the nations actually compete for numerous trophies to be won during the challenge. The first category of prizes all the nations are competing for is the Six Nations trophies. The main cup that different people are trying to raise is the Six Nations Championship trophy, awarded to the nation winning the tournament. The Earl of Westmoreland was the first to have the idea of this reward, which enabled France, winners of the 1993 Six Nations tournament, to be the first team to receive this trophy.
The Triple Crown Trophy is the second prize being contested between several nations. However, only the home nations such as Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland can win this title. To win this prize, a country must defeat all the other home nations. This title was originally an informal honour but in 2006, Ireland was the first Nation to win the official trophy.
The second category of prices to win during the Six Nations tournament can be considered as “rivalry trophies”. They are awarded according to specific match wins. The Calcutta Cup is contested between England and Scotland. This trophy was invented in memory of the Calcutta Rugby Football Club disbanded in 1878. Scotland are the current title holders, after defeating England (20-17) at Murrayfield stadium in Edinburgh.
Each year, Ireland and England also contest the Millennium trophy. Launched in 1988 for Ireland’s millennial celebrations, when the tournament was only including five nations, the award is in the shape of a horned Viking helmet standing on a wooden base. Ireland are the current holders of this title after defeating England during the 2021 edition of the Guinness Six Nations. The trophy will be awarded on 12 February 2022 at Twickenham Stadium in London.
When Ireland meets Scotland during the tournament, the Centenary Quaich trophy is contested. The award was inaugurated in 1989 to celebrate the 100h meeting between the two nations. The trophy is in the shape of a quaich, a traditional Celtic drinking vessel in the shape of a bowl with small handles. This trophy will be contested on 19 March, when Ireland hosts Scotland for the last match of the tournament.
The Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy is awarded to the winner between France and Italy. Named after Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), an Italian general who also served in the French army and contributed to the unification of the Kingdom of Italy, the trophy was designed by former French player Jean-Pierre Rives who became a professional sculptor after finishing his rugby career. This year, the trophy was awarded to France after their victory (37-10) against Italy in the opening match of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations.
At each meeting between Scotland and Wales, the Doddie Weir Cup is to be won. This title was invented to pay tribute to George Wilson “Doddie” Weir, a former Scotland and British and Irish Lions player diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) since 2017. The Doddie Weir Cup also intends to raise awareness about this disease which, according to the Motor Neurone Disease Association “affects the motor neurone in the brain and the spatial cord and gradually stop reaching the muscles”.
The last “rivalry trophy” of the Guinness Six Nations is contested between Scotland and France. Since 2018, the two countries have been competing for the Auld Alliance Trophy launched by Scottish rugby and the French Rugby Federation to pay tribute to the rugby players from the two countries who died during World War I. In total, 22 French and 30 Scottish internationals lost their lives during during the Great War.
4. The record holder of the number of total points scored during the Guinness Six Nations tournament is also Irish
As you may know, in rugby it is possible to score points thanks to tries (+5 pts) but also to conversions (+2 or 3 pts), therefore, kickers are essential to get ahead of the opponent and hope to win. Former International Irish player Ronan O’Gara holds the record of the most points scored (557 pts) in the history of Guinness Six Nations. Ahead of English rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson (546 pts) and Ireland’s current fly half Johnny Sexton (513 pts), Ronan O’Gara is considered as one of the best goal-kicker of his era. With 128 tests within the Irish National rugby team, the fly half originally from Cork scored 1,083 points for his country, all international competitions combined.
5. England is the most successful in the Guinness Six Nations tournament
With 39 wins each, England and Wales hold the record of the most titles won since the creation of the tournament. However, England remains the most successful team in the history of the Guinness Six Nations. In 491 participations, the English team won 269 matchs which makes it the team with the best win percentage of the Northern hemisphere (54.79%). 987 times, the English players have crossed the line on the opposite side to score a try and have scored 7165 points since their first official participations in 1883.