The Six Nations (Rugby Union) tournament, contested by the four nations that make up the British Isles with the addition of France and more latterly of Italy is one of the most fiercely contested in the entire world of sport. These matches featuring England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France are held over weekends in the first quarter of each year, with the upcoming 2017 tournament commencing on 4th February and finishing on 18th March.
Up to 1939 the tournament was known as the Home Nations Championship, which was in fact the first ever international rugby championship. It expanded into the Five Nations in 1947 when France was included and since the turn of the century the recognition of Italy’s growing status as a Rugby playing nation has seen the tournament evolve into today’s Six Nations and become more popular as ever as a result. The victors are sometimes referred, unofficially, as the European champions or the Northern Hemisphere Champions.
England are the undisputed champions having achieved the Grand Slam (beating all other sides) in 2016 for the first time in thirteen seasons as part of their record breaking undefeated year – in great contrast to their previous record of underachievement. This takes England into the lead for outright wins of the three tournaments, having won 27 titles to Wales’s 26. Wales have gone better with 12 shared victories to England's 10. Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the Six Nations title, although Scotland were the last outright winners of the Five Nations.
The ultimate for each team is to win the much coveted “Grand Slam” With their latest victory England have done this 13 times, Wales 11, France 9, Scotland 3 and Ireland 2.
There are other mini-achievements within the larger picture. The Triple Crown trophy is awarded to the most successful team within the four home nations – here again England hold the lead with 25 Triple Crowns to Wales’s’ 20. The match between England and Scotland is known as the Calcutta Cup, an Indian crafted trophy presented to the Rugby Football Union in 1878 on the disbandment of the Calcutta Football Cup.
It can confidently be predicted that the 2017 tournament will provide several weekends of rugby brilliance and tickets will as always be in enormous demand.
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