Six Nations Stadiums
There is something really grand about the Six Nations stadiums - the perfect carpet of grass, the meticulous markings, crowds joyous and passionate and the perfect ceremonies. But then it goes back longer than any other international competition in rugby, way back to 1871.
England: Twickenham, London
England played international matches in England at various venues. The first international played in England was at Kennington Oval in 1872 - a 0-0 draw with Scotland. Other venues include Whalley Range in Manchester, Cardigan Fields and Headingley in Leeds, the Rectory Field in Blackheath, Crown Flatt in Dewsbury, Kingsholme in Gloucester, the Athletic Ground in Richmond, Welford Road in Leicester, Ashton Gate in Bristol and Crystal Palace.
Then an RFU committee member, Billy Williams was given the job of finding a home for England's rugby. He identified market gardens and orchards in Twickenham in southwest London, which is why the ground is sometimes referred to as Billy Williams's cabbage patch.
When first used the capacity was 7 000. Over the years Twickenham was built up to its present capacity. In 1950 the capacity was over 75 000. The last development was to the South Stand, opened in 2006.
It is also used for music concerts, the first being the Rolling Stones in 2003
Capacity: 82 000
First match: 2 October 1909 when Harlequins beat Richmond 14-10.
First Test: 15 January 1910 when England beat Wales 11-6.
The first visiting team to win at Twickenham was the Springboks on 4 January 1913 when the visitors won 9-3.
France: Stade de France, Paris
Stade de France is a multipurpose stadium built for the 1995 soccer World Cup.
Like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, but much more so than the other three, France has played its Tests in many venues though Paris has been the most important. France has played other countries in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, Strasbourg, Marseille at its Vélodrome, Nantes, Bayonne, Tarbes, Béziers, Clermont-Ferrand, Montauban, Agen, Lille, Narbonne, Lourdes, Lens, Brive, Valence, Le Havre, Chambéry, Grenoble, Toulon, Auch, Montpellier, Toulon, Saint Etienne and Besançon up near Switzerland.
In Paris, the first Test was played in Parc des Princes, against New Zealand. That was on 1 January 1906. In 1908 France played England at Stade Yves du Manoir in the suburb of Colombes. The Paris venue was for many years either Parc des Princes or Colombes. The last time Colombes was used was 26 February 1972 when France beat England 37-12.
The last Test at Parc des Princes was between France and South Africa in 1997 when the Springboks won 52-10.
Capacity: 81 338
Building started: 1995
First Test: 7 February 1998 when France beat England 24-17
Ireland: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
There was a stadium there before the Aviva Stadium. It was called Lansdowne Road, for that was the road it was built on. It was wholly owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union
The ground started as an athletics ground but also accommodated other sports as gradually rugby took over. The first Test played there was in 1874, making that piece of ground the oldest Test venue in rugby's history that is still in use for Test matches.
The Aviva Stadium is owned 50-50 by Irish rugby and Irish soccer. It bears the name of the title sponsor, an insurance company.
Capacity: 51 700
Building started: 2007
First Test: 11 March 1878 when England beat Ireland by two goals and a try to nil
First Test at Aviva Stadium: 6 November 2010 when South Africa beat Ireland 23–21.
Italy: Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Rome - the eternal city - the Vatican, St Peters and the Pope, the fountains, the seven hills, the Tibur, Michelangelo, the Capitoleum with its Wedding Cake. It is a miracle of a city and eternal for there is no end to it and its wonders.
The Stadio Olimpico in the north of Rome is part of a sporting complex and is primarily a soccer ground. It is certainly not the only Test venue in Italy, for Tests are played in Padua and Genoa up in the north down to Catania on the island of Sicily.
Six Nations matches are played in Rome, an added attraction for visitors.
And it's better not to take the result for granted. After all in 2013. Italy beat France and Ireland at this great ground.
Capacity: 70 634
First rugby Test: 24 April 1954 when France beat Italy 39-12
Scotland: Murrayfield, Edinburgh
The first rugby international was played in Scotland - in Raeburn Placer in Edinburgh when Scotland won by a goal and a try to a try.
Raeburn Place is still in use as the home ground of the Edinburgh Academicals. It continued to be used, along with Hampden Park for big matches, till first Powderhall and then in 1899 Inverleith took over. Then in 1925, Scotland got a bigger home in Murrayfield. When the Scottish Rugby Union bought the ground it was a polo club.
Capacity: Capacity: 67 144
Opened: 21 March 1925
First Test: 21 March 1925 when Scotland beat England 14-11
Wales: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
The famous Cardiff ground was Cardiff Arms Park, known simply as the Arms Park. It took its name from a pub. It was Cardiff RFC's home ground and a venue for Test matches more often than St Helen's Ground in Swansea. Wales and Cardiff Arms Park became one to the rugby world.
It was the growth of speculating that changed the ground. First in 1984 a bigger stadium was built and called the National Stadium, though to the world it stayed the Arms Park
But then it had to be made bigger still as Wales hosted the 999 Rugby World Cup. It was called the Millennium Stadium when it hosted its first Test in 1999. In 2016 its name was changed to Principality Stadium for the sake of a sponsorship by Principality Building Society.
Capacity: 74 500
First Test: 12 April 1884 when Wales beat Ireland by two tries and a dropped goal to nil
First Test at Millennium Stadium: 26 June 1999 when for the very first time Wales beat South Africa (29-19).
Some Test Grounds by Test Age
These grounds are still in use for rugby Tests.
1878: Aviva Stadium
1884: Principality Stadium
1900: Eden Park
1937: Stadio Olimpico
1986: Vélez Sársfield, Buenos Aires
1989: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
1998: Stade de France