Sports: Guide to the Six Nations 2019

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The Six Nations is an annual international rugby union tournament that sees England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales compete against one another for glory. They will face each other over several weekends between 1st February and 16th March in 15 action packed and highly charged matches.

The 2019 edition of the tournament will have added impetus for the six teams, as the Rugby World Cup kicks off in September and momentum could be valuable for the teams.

The history of the Six Nations can be dated back to 1883, under its former moniker of the Home Nations Championship, involving England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Home Nations was the very first international rugby union tournament and in 1910 France were added to the competition and it became known as the Five Nations Championship. 

Then in 1999, Italy were added to the competition and the Six Nations was born. Played every year, the format is quite simple, and home ground advantage is alternated from one year to the next. Up until 2017, teams got two points for a win, one for a draw and nothing for a loss. Unlike nearly every other competition, the bonus point system had not previously been used up to that point. This system was trialled for the 2017 tournament, 0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win, 1 for scoring four or more tries in match, and 1 for losing by 7 points or fewer, with the only difference being that a Grand Slam winner (a team that wins every game) is given 3 extra points to ensure they finish top of the table. 

Since 1994 a tie for the outright winner has been broken by considering the points difference of the teams who are joint top. The rules of the championship now state that if teams tie on both match points and points difference, the team with the most tries will be the outright champions. 

The team that finishes at the bottom of the league table is given the Wooden Spoon. Since the inaugural Six Nations tournament, only Ireland and England have avoided the unsavoury Wooden Spoon award. Italy have the most Wooden Spoon awards in the Six Nations era with eleven, and have actually lost every game of the tournament six times.

England currently hold the record for outright wins of all the formats together, the Home Nations, Five Nations and Six Nations tournaments, having been crowned champions 28 times. They are followed closely by Wales, who hold 26 wins and also 12 shared victories to England's 10. Since the Six Nations format began, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the title, although Scotland were actually the last winners of the tournament before it became the Six Nations. France have 17 total wins.

The 2019 Six Nations begins on Friday, 1st February and France and Wales will play the first match at The Stade de France in Paris. And then on the following day Scotland play Italy at Murrayfield in Edinburgh before reigning champions Ireland take on England in a highly anticipated clash at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. 

The 2019 Six Nations should be a really open affair with each team wanting to impose their will and win the coveted trophy. Can England beat rivals Ireland and restore some national pride? Will Italy win a game this time out? We will find out the answers to these questions and more next spring!

 

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