It’s that time of year again. The Six Nations is back. And people go nuts for it. Suddenly it seems like accents are getting stronger, pubs are getting busier and your mate Ryan who has never been outside of the M25 in his life is now a fierce Ireland rugby supporter because his grandma’s neighbour once went to Dublin for a long weekend.
Whether rugby is in your blood or you haven’t a clue what’s going on, The Guinness Six Nations Championship is an exciting and sociable thing to follow. But it can also be complicated to get your head around. So, whether you’re eager to learn more about the tournament or just want some sound bites you can use at the pub to sound clued up, Hussle are here with six facts about the six nations.
1) There haven’t always been 6 nations.
In 1883, the tournament started out with just the four ‘Home Nations’ England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and was called the Home Nations Championship. France joined in 1910 to make it five. Italy didn’t join until 2000 to make up the current six. Although the Six Nations has a nice ring to it, there has been talk of Fiji and Japan joining the tournament based on their performance in recent Rugby World Cups. In fact, although Japan are technically ranked as a Tier 2 Nation, they are currently ranked number 5 in the northern hemisphere, above both Scotland and Italy.
2) There’s more than one award to win.
Winning the Six Nations tournament gets you the Championship Trophy. Big, shiny and silver, the team awarded this prize is the one with the most points at the end of the tournament. You get 0 points for a loss, 2 for a draw, 4 for a win. There are also bonus points up for grabs. You can nab one if you score more than 4 tries in a match and/or if you lose to your opponent by fewer than 7 points.
Still with us? Great. You might win the tournament, but there are also better ways to win the tournament. The Triple crown is awarded if you’re a ‘Home Nation’ and beat all the other ‘Home Nations’. The Grand Slam is awarded if you beat every other team in the tournament. You don’t actually get an additional prize for this, just pride.
You can also win a trophy without winning the Six Nations. In fact, there are quite a few opportunities to get your hands on something shiny. Ready? The Calcutta Cup is awarded to the winner of the Scotland vs. England match. The Millennium Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Ireland vs. England match. The Centenary Quaich is awarded to the winner of the Ireland vs. Scotland match. The Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Italy vs. France match. The Auld Alliance Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Scotland vs. France match. The Doddie Weir Trophy is awarded to the winner of the Scotland vs. Wales match. And breathe.
On the other hand, if you lose the tournament, you get awarded the ‘Wooden Spoon’. The saddest part about this is you don’t actually get to go home with a new kitchen utensil.
3) What are the odds?
Going into the 2020 tournament England are currently ranked at number 3 in the world. Wales at number 4. Ireland at number 5. France at number 7. Scotland at number 9. And Italy at number 12.
In last years tournament, Wales won with 23 points. England came second with 18 points. Then Ireland, then France, then Scotland, then Italy.
In the recent Rugby World Cup tournament in Japan, England made it to the final. Wales made it to the semi-finals. France and Ireland both made it to the quarter finals. Italy and Scotland didn’t make it out of their pool.
Although you never know what will happen on the day, betting odds for England to win are around 4/6. Betting odds for Italy to win are around 500/1.
4) Names to drop (kick)
Ben Young: Although England’s fly half Owen Farrell’s name will ring a bell, his teammate Ben Young has the most caps and Six Nations appearances out of this year’s England squad. In 2019, Young became England’s most capped scrum half.
Stuart McCloskey: Ulster star Stuart McCloskey didn’t originally make the 35-man Ireland squad, but was recently called up to join the team following concerns over several players picking up injuries. He’s played once before in the Six Nations and will be competing for time on the pitch.
Sergio Parisse: Holding the record for the most caps in the Six Nations, Italy’s Sergio Parisse plans to end his international career at The Six Nations in Rome. But he won’t be playing for the entire tournament as he makes way for fresh talent.
Stuart Hogg: The most experienced player in the Scotland squad, Stuart Hogg, will take over the title of captain from Stuart McInally. The full back has capped for Scotland 72 times and was named The Guinness Six Nations Player of The Championship in 2016 and 2017.
5) Rugby Jargon
There is lots of angry looking game-play in Rugby Union and the words themselves look just as intimidating. Here’s the lowdown on the Scrum, Ruck and Maul.
Scrum: Short for scrummage, the scrum is used to restart play. You’ll hear the referee call out ‘crouch’, ‘bound’ and ‘set’ to instruct different players to carry out their roles in forming the scrum. The scrum half from the team with possession will then throw the ball into the gap between the teams. The hookers will try to hook the ball backwards with their feet, whilst both teams attempt to drive themselves over the ball.
Ruck: When tackled to the ground, a player must release the ball immediately. To get possession, players will bind into a ruck and try to drive over the ball, making it available for their teammates behind them. Other players can join a ruck but must join from the back. Players can use their feet to hook the ball backwards but can’t use their hands. A turnover happens when the defending team manages to drive their opposition back over the ball.
Maul: A maul is similar to a ruck but happens when the tackled player remains standing with the ball. A tackled player’s teammates join the ruck and bind the player upright with the ball and keep moving forward. If it stops moving, the referee awards a scrum to the opposition. It’s also illegal to collapse or pull down the maul. The maul ends when the ball is passed.
6) It’s not all about the boys
Don’t forget that The Six Nations also includes a women’s tournament. It has the same rules, same size pitch and same number of players. The women don’t play at the same stadiums as the men, but the tournament will run across the same dates from the 2nd of Feb up until the 15th of March. Up until 2007, Spain used to make up the sixth nation before being replaced by Italy to match the men’s tournament. In 2019, England took the title of champions, with France taking it in 2018.
With your new facts intact, you can tackle the pub chat and get involved with the biggest rugby tournament of the year. Who knows, you might even be inspired to pick up a ball yourself.