The Six Nations Championship, one of the biggest dates in the rugby union calendar, kicks off at the beginning of February and the best teams in Europe will battle to achieve the glory of winning.


England, Wales, Ireland, France, Scotland and Italy compete every year for the coveted championship trophy. Originally known as the Home Nations Championship in 1883, the competition has grown in stature and popularity over the years. In 1947, following the World War Two, the Home Nations had evolved into the Five Nations as France were added into the mix. It took the French a few years to get into their stride, and they shared their first title in 1954 with England and Wales in 1954. The championship adopted its current format in 2000 when Italy joined the Five Nations.


Much of the excitement of the Six Nations comes from the unpredictability of the ultimate winners. Four of the six teams have dominated at some stage: the French in the 1960’s, the emergence of Wales glory days of the 1970’s and England has played some stunning championships to reach glory. Since 2011 England, Ireland and Wales have each won the championship 3 times….so 2020 is all to play for.


The Grand Slam is the major prize and is awarded to the team that wins all five of their games without dropping a point. This has been achieved 39 times in total with Wales achieving the first and last crowning, in 1908 and 2019 respectively. Their old rivals, England, are currently in the lead for total Grand Slam wins, have done it 13 times. The Triple Crown involves Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England and is a homage to the Home Nations: there is a huge amount of pride at stake and old rivalries come to the fore.


Prior to 2000, each team played four matches, two at home and two away from home. Following the inclusion of Italy in 2000, each team plays five matches, two at home and three away in one year, and the opposite in the following season. When Wales won the Grand Slam in 2005, it was the first time that the feat had been achieved by a team that had played more matches away than at home. This was repeated by Ireland in 2009, by England in 2016, and by Wales in 2019.


Since 2017, the Six Nations Championship has used bonus points. A team that wins the Grand Slam will get three bonus points which eliminates the possibility of a Grand Slam winner losing the championship on bonus points.


Following Grand Slams and Triple Crown comes a series of trophies contested between teams. The Calcutta Cup pits England and Scotland against each other, the Millennium Trophy is between England and Ireland, the Centenary Quaich is held between Ireland and Scotland while France and Italy play for the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy.


With a long and storied history stretching back more than 120 years, the Championship has taken a handful of forms and produced plenty of memorable championships.


From the early Home Nations shootouts in the 1880s to two World Wars, the swashbuckling 1970s to the vibrant pageantry and electric atmosphere of modern ‘Super Saturday’, the Guinness Six Nations is a key fixture in the rugby calendar.