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Mon 29 Jan 2018 | 10:19

Six Nations: A comprehensive history

Six Nations launch
Mon 29 Jan 2018 | 10:19

Six Nations: A comprehensive history

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First, England played Scotland at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh on 27 March 1871, a match which Scotland won. The ground at Raeburn Place is still there, the home of Edinburgh Academicals.

In 1875 Ireland came along. Then there were three. 

Matches were played 20-a-side in those days. Ireland managed a bit of chaos for their match at the Oval. The team was made up of ten from the south and ten from the north, players unknown to each other. Two who had been selected did not pitch up at all, and backs were played in the forwards, and vice versa. England won.

In 1881, Wales joined in. And then there were four. England smashed them. Points were not awarded in those days but in today's terms the score would have been 82-0. And so Wales dropped out again for the nest year, restarting in Swansea in December 1882. Now there were four.

Then England were dropped in 1888 and 1889, because England did not want to join in with the newly formed IRB lest it lose clout. And then there were three.

In 1890, England toed the line, and there were four.

In 1910, France joined in. And then there were five.

In 1931, France were pitched out on the grounds that they were brutal and soft on professionalism. And then there were four.

In 1947, after the break for World War II, France were allowed back in. And then there were five.

In 2000 Italy joined in. And now there are six.

But they did not play every year. There were no official matches during World War I and World War II, and in 1885, when Scotland were refusing to play England, and in 1897 when Scotland and Ireland refused to play Wales because of alleged professionalism as Scotland did again in 1898, and in 1972 the "Championship" was not completed because Scotland and Wales, to their shame, decided it was too dangerous to visit Ireland to play rugby.

"Championship"? Yes, it was a myth until 1993. Till then people, largely in retrospect, worked out what the championship could have looked like had it been one, starting in 1883.

In 1993 it became officially a championship with a trophy whose winner would be decided if necessary by points' difference, as happened in 1999 when Scotland ended with a better points' difference than England after England's dramatic last-minute defeat by Wales at Wembley Stadium. That was not enough in a rugby world in which trophies were proliferating. So a new trophy was introduced in 2015.

And it should be called the International Championship, because there have not always been five nations involved. It sounds a bit presumptuous to call it that as there are nations outside of the cosy five who play international rugby, but let's let that ride.

A Grand Slam is awarded to the team which beats all the other five. It has no trophy.

There is another "trophy" which used to be mythical – the Triple Crown. That is for competition amongst England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and goes to the team which beats the other three. When France have not played, we have referred to a successful run as a Triple Crown victory. When France have played, we have referred to a full house of victories as a Grand Slam. The Triple Crown got a tangible trophy in 2016

After we have made allowance for all of this, the winners of the International Championship down the years have been:

1883: England, Grand Slam
1884: England, Triple Crown 
1885: No result
1886: Scotland
1887: Scotland
1888: Ireland with one more try than Scotland or Wales
1889: Scotland
1890: England
1891: Scotland, Triple Crown
1892: England, Triple Crown
1893: Wales, Triple Crown
1894: Ireland, Triple Crown
1895: Scotland, Triple Crown
1896: Ireland
1897: No result
1898: No result
1899: Ireland, Triple Crown
1900: Wales, Triple Crown
1901: Scotland, Triple Crown
1902: Wales, Triple Crown
1903: Scotland, Triple Crown
1904: Scotland
1905: Wales, Triple Crown
1906: Ireland, better points' difference than Wales
1907: Scotland, Triple Crown
1908: Wales, Triple Crown
1909: Wales, Triple Crown
1910: England
1911: Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1912: England, better points' difference than Ireland
1913: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1914: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1915-1919: No matches
1920: Wales, better points' difference than England & Scotland
1921: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1922: Wales
1923: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1924: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1925: Scotland, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1926: Scotland
1927: Scotland
1928: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1929: Scotland
1930: England
1931: Wales
1932: Ireland
1933: Scotland, Triple Crown
1934: England, Triple Crown
1935: Ireland
1936: Wales
1937: England, Triple Crown
1938: Scotland, Triple Crown
1939: Wales, better points' difference than Ireland & England
1940-46: No matches
1947: England
1948 Ireland, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1949 Ireland, Triple Crown
1950 Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1951 Ireland
1952 Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1953 England
1954 Wales, Triple Crown
1955 Wales
1956 Wales
1957 England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1958 England
1959 France
1960 France
England, Triple Crown
1961 France
1962 France
1963 England
1964 Wales, better points' difference than Scotland
1965 Wales, Triple Crown
1966 Wales
1967 France
1968 France, Grand Slam
1969 Wales, Triple Crown
1970 France
1971 Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1972 No result
1973 Scotland, better points' difference than Wales, England, Ireland, France
1974 Ireland
1975 Wales
1976 Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1977 France, Grand Slam; Wales, Triple Crown
1978 Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1979 Wales, Triple Crown
1980 England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1981: France, Grand Slam
1982: Ireland, Triple Crown
1983: Ireland
1984: Scotland, Grand Slam
1985: Ireland
1986: France, better points' difference than Scotland
1987: France, Grand Slam
1988: Wales, better points' difference than France
1989: France
1990: Scotland, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1991: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1992: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1993: France
1994: Wales, better points' difference than England
1995: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
1996: England, better points' difference than Scotland
1997: France, Grand Slam; England, Triple Crown
1998: France, Grand Slam; England, Triple Crown
1999: Scotland, better points' difference than England
2000: England
2001: England
2002: France, Grand Slam; England Triple Crown
2003: England, Grand Slam; England Triple Crown
2004: France, Grand Slam; Ireland Triple Crown
2005: Wales, Grand Slam; Wales Triple Crown
2006: France, Ireland Triple Crown
2007: France, Ireland Triple Crown
2008: Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
2009: Ireland, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
2010: France, Grand Slam
2011: England
2012: Wales, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
2013: Wales
2014: Ireland; England Triple Crown
2015: Ireland
2016: England, Grand Slam, Triple Crown
2017: England

Winners

England: 13 Grand Slams, 25 Triple Crowns
Wales: 11 Grand Slams, 20 Triple Crowns
France: 9 Grand Slams
Scotland: 3 Grand Slams, 10 Triple Crowns
Ireland: 2 Grand Slams, 10 Triple Crowns
Italy: 0

Records:

Match:
Highest aggregate of points: 103, England vs Italy, 2001

Team:
Most points in a season: 229, England, 2001
Most tries in a season: 29,  England, 2001
Highest score: 80, England vs Italy, 2001
Biggest win: 57, England vs Italy, 2001 (80-23)

Individual:
Most caps: 63, Ronan O'Gara, Ireland
Most tries: 24, IS Smith, Scotland 
Most points: 557, Ronan O'Gara, Ireland
Most tries in a match: 5, George Lindsay, Scotland vs Wales, 1887
Most tries in a season: 8, Cyril Lowe (England), Ian Smith (Scotland)
Most tries in a career: 26, Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)
Most points in a match: 35, Jonny Wilkinson (England)
Most points in a season: 89, Jonny Wilkinson (England)

The 2001 match between England and Italy makes the records a bit lopsided.

PV: 2
Six Nations: A Comprehensive History | Rugby365