Six Nations History | Records | Famous Moments
Six Nations History, Records & Memorable Moments
The Six Nations is one of the highlights of the sporting calendar and it never fails to whip up vibrant pageantry, dramatic clashes and memorable moments. The tournament is steeped in a glorious heritage, and fierce rivalries have developed among the teams that vie for glory each year. The prestige associated with winning lifting the trophy is therefore immense, while securing a Grand Slam can lead to legendary status in the game. Click here for our Fixed-Odds betting markets on the Six Nations.
Six Nations History - From Formation to Now
The first international rugby match took place in 1871 after the captains of five Scottish clubs challenged a team representing England to a 20-a-side game. It took place at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh and the Scots duly triumphed, courtesy of tries from Angus Buchanan and William Cross and a goal. The so-called Home Nations spent the ensuing 12 years playing occasional friendly marches against one another before they decided to launch the inaugural Home International Championship in 1883.
Queen Victoria was on the throne, William Ewart Gladstone was Prime Minister and Robert Louis Stevenson was writing Treasure Island. Rugby fans were delighted to see their heroes lock horns in a series of competitive matches, and England ultimately won the tournament after beating Scotland, Wales and Ireland to secure the Triple Crown. England and Scotland dominated the tournament until Wales earned their first triumph in 1893. The following year, Ireland were victorious, and England embarked on a long fruitless streak.
By the early 20th century, France had emerged as a significant force within world rugby. They played in four tournaments before officially joining in 1910, at which point it was renamed the Five Nations. England ended their lengthy fruitless streak by clinching the inaugural Five Nations that year.
Wales cemented their status as the dominant team of that era by winning the first ever official Grand Slam in 1911.
The competition was suspended between 1915 and 1919 due to World War 1. The Five Nations flourished during the 1920s, but France were unable to win the famous tournament as England and Scotland enjoyed a near monopoly on it. Les Bleus were then ejected from the tournament in 1931 and it reverted to the Home Nations Once again from 1932 to 1939. England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland all enjoyed success during this competitive time.
There was another enforced hiatus due to the outbreak of World War II, and France were welcomed back into the fold when the tournament resumed as the Five Nations in 1947. They tasted success for the first time in in 1954, when they shared the crown with England and Wales. They were outright winners for the first time in 1959, before sharing it with England in 1960 and then vanquishing their rivals in 1961 and 1962.
France continued to enjoy plenty of success in the 1970s, by which point the Five Nations was the pre-eminent event in the northern hemisphere. TV audiences were huge and matches became all-ticket affairs, while the level of competition was phenomenal, as evidenced by a unique five-way tie in 1973. Wales emerged as the most successful team of the 1970s, while France ruled in the 1980s.
The Earl of Westmorland, a huge rugby fan, decided that the winner of the Five Nations should be presented with a trophy. James Brent-Ward was commissioned to design it and a team of eight silversmiths in London created the Championship Trophy, which was first presented to France after their victory in 1993. Rugby union then turned professional after the 1995 World Cup in South Africa proved to be a roaring success, and the Five Nations became increasingly competitive. England secured back-to-back triumphs at the height of the Britpop era, and then France put together consecutive victories in 1997 and 1998. Scotland triumphed in 1999, and that proved to be the last Five Nations.
Italy joined the party in the year 2000 and it has been known as the Six Nations ever since. The Italians served as whipping boys in the early stages of their participation, but they have grown in stature in recent years. England won the first Six Nations and then repeated the feat the following year. In 2002, France became the first team to seize a Six Nations Grand Slam. England pulled it off in 2003 and then went on to win the World Cup in Australia, making it the most successful year in their history. Yet they could not maintain their form the following year, as France breezed to yet another Grand Slam.
The Six Nations has continued to go from strength to strength in the modern era. No team has ever won it three years in row in the professional era, as the standard is extremely high. It always manages to serve up an abundance of drama and excitement, and you can really boost the fun by checking out the rugby spread betting markets on offer for the big tournament in 2020. England are the favourites after finishing runners-up at the 2019 World Cup, but defending champions Wales will be desperate to retain the trophy and Ireland have a very strong team, so it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds.
Six Nations Greatest Moments
There have been countless feats of heroism, individual brilliance and collective genius since the Six Nations began in 2000. However, some moments really stand out due to their history significance and their magnitude at the time. These are the six greatest moments in Six Nations history:
O'Gara's Drop Goal
Ireland went into the 2009 Six Nations as underdogs after enduring a long spell without success in the tournament. Their previous triumph had come in 1985 and their sole Grand Slam had been achieved all the way back in 1948, so Irish fans could have been forgiven for feeling despondent about their team¿s chances. However, they made a blistering start to proceedings when they beat France 30-21 at Croke Park and then they demolished Italy in Rome. They then battled to a thrilling 14-13 victory over England in Dublin, before getting the better of Scotland at Murrayfield.
Finally, the Irish had a shot at Grand Slam glory. It all boiled down to their final match in Cardiff, where they met the defending champions. Wales were in the mood to spoil the party and they racked up plenty of points via the boot of Stephen Jones. The brilliance of Brian O'Driscoll kept the visitors in the contest, but Jones fired over a late drop-goal to hand Wales a 15-14 lead. The game entered its dying embers and dreams of a Grand Slam were fading fast when the ball was launched back to Ronan O'Gara. Cool as a cucumber, he knocked the ball over for a last-gasp drop goal that sealed Ireland's first Grand Slam in 61 years.
Yachvili's Grubber Kick
The French had an axe to grind when they clashed with England in the final match of the 2004 Six Nations. It was just a few months after the teams met in the World Cup semi-final, a contest that saw France overwhelmed by the relentless kicking of Johnny Wilkinson. England were the reigning Six Nations champions, having seized the Grand Slam the previous year, but France were full of confidence after beating Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. They were on the brink of winning the Grand Slam, but the world champions stood in their way, and a veritable clash of the titans was expected.
The match did not disappoint. France raced to a 21-3 lead at the break, but England hit back through dramatic tries from Ben Cohen and Josh Lewsey. Yet France managed to hold on for a 24-21 victory that saw them earn the Grand Slam, and the highlight was a sensational piece of improvisation from Dimitri Yachvili. The Biarritz scrum half worked his way out of a ruck on the French side, darted down the narrow blindside, delivered a deft grubber kick and won the race to the ball. It was a magnificent solo effort and it set the tone for a big win for France.
Gavin Henson's finest performance came during Wales' 11-9 victory over England at the 2005 Six Nations. The Welsh were bidding for their first ever Six Nations triumph and their first Grand Slam since 1978, and they knew they needed a strong start when they hosted England at the Millennium Stadium in their opener. England had never lost an opening game in the Six Nations and they were unbeaten at the Millennium Stadium, so history was decidedly against Wales.
However, Henson played like a man possessed that day. He dumped Matthew Tait on his backside with a ferocious hit and you could see his teammates growing in confidence after the incident. Henson continued to drive his team forward, but England held a 9-8 lead with just three minutes left on the clock.
Wales were awarded a penalty and the chance to kick 44 metres for the win. Stephen Jones was expected to step up, but he gestured for Henson to take it and the supremely confident centre told Jones to start celebrating. The camera panned in on Henson's silver boots and he delivered the perfect kick to hand his team victory. That set the tone for the tournament, as Wales beat all their rivals and won the Grand Slam.
Daly's Match-Winning Try
England have enjoyed many fine moments in the Six Nations, with Martin Johnson and Johnny Wilkinson often at the centre of attention, but Elliot Daly's match-winning final try against Wales in 2017 really stands out. Cardiff is always a difficult place to visit, and the passionate home supporters roared their team on as they built up a 16-11 lead with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Owen Farrell kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit to two, but hope was evaporating when the game entered the 76th minute.
Then the stadium was silenced by a moment of sheer brilliance. A poor clearance kick from Jonathan Davies landed in the arms of George Ford, who fed Farrell with a quality pass. The captain then provided an inch-perfect delivery for Daly, who rounded a hapless Alex Cuthbert and crossed for the match-winning try. It ultimately allowed England to defend the Six Nations and helped them maintain what would turn out to be a world record equalling winning streak.
Dominguez Displays Nerves of Steel
Italy's first Six Nations match saw them host Scotland in Rome. They were 250/1 outsiders for the tournament and given no chance of beating a strong Scottish team featuring the likes of Kenny Logan and Glen Metcalfe. After all, they had just conceded 196 points in the 1999 World Cup, while Scotland were the reigning Six Nations champions. It was expected to be a total mismatch.
However, Italy came flying out of the blocks and ultimately battled to an emphatic victory. The star of the show was Diego Dominguez, who gave an impeccable performance and collected 29 points - six penalties, three drop-goals and one conversion ¿ as the hosts won 34-20. They would lose their subsequent four matches and finish bottom of the pile, but that victory will still live long in the memory of the Italian fans.
Scotland's Astonishing Comeback
Scotland were one of the most successful teams during the Five Nations era, but they have had little to cheer about since the tournament was extended to six teams in 2000. However, they can take plenty of positives from their astonishing comeback against England in 2019. It has to go down as the most remarkable match in the 148-year history between the original international rugby teams.
England raced into a 31-point lead in as many minutes, but the Scots hit back with a phenomenal second-half blitz. Two tries from Darcy Graham and scores from Stuart McInally, Magnus Bradbury and Finn Russell made it 31-31. England were on the ropes and Sam Johnson crossed for what looked like the deciding try, putting Scotland 38-31 up, only for George Ford to level it at the death.
It was an extraordinary draw, and both sides ended up looked utterly depleted at the final whistle. It allowed Scotland to retain the Calcutta Cup, and they came within a whisker of ending a 36-year Twickenham hoodoo, suggesting that brighter times lie ahead.
Six Nations Stats & Records
Wales and England are the most successful teams in the history of this tournament. Wales have been crowned champions 27 times and shared the crown on 12 occasions, while England have won it 28 times and shared it on 10 occasions.
Ireland, Scotland and Wales have played in the most tournaments, with 124 apiece. England have appeared in 122 tournaments, while France have played in 88 and Italy are now up to 19. Despite only appearing in 88 competitions, France have won it 17 times and shared victory in eight occasions.
England have the most Grand Slams (13), followed by Wales (12) and France (9). If one of the original home nations beats the other three, they are awarded the Triple Crown. England also lead the way with 25 Triple Crowns, with Wales on 21, Ireland on 11 and Scotland on 10.
Ireland have been handed the Wooden Spoon for finishing in last place on the most occasions. They have suffered that ignominy 29 times, but not since 1988. Scotland have finished bottom of the pile on 25 occasions, but Italy have racked up 14 Wooden Spoons since joining the tournament in 2000.
A Player of the Tournament has been crowned each year since 2004 and Brian O'Driscoll leads the way with three awards. Scotland's Stuart Hogg is next, having won it in 2016 and 2017, but no other player has won it on multiple occasions.
Ronan O'Gara has scored a record 557 points at the tournament, while Johnny Wilkinson holds the record for the most points in a single game, as he put up 35 against Italy in 2001. England scored 80 points in that match, which is the highest tally in the tournament's history, while their 57-point winning margin is also a record. Wilkinson also holds the record for the most conversions (89) and drop goals (11) in Six Nations history.
England managed 229 points in the 2001 tournament and that is a record. The previous year saw Italy concede 228 points and that is also a record. Italy also scored just 42 points in 2004, which is the lowest ever tally, while the 29 points they conceded in 2016 is yet another unwanted record.
Scotland's George Lindsay scored five tries against Wales in 1887 and nobody has ever beaten that. O'Driscoll has the most tries in total with 26.
Italy's Sergio Parisse has the record number of appearances, having featured in 69 matches since making his debut in 2004. O'Driscoll is next with 65, followed by Rory Best with 55 and Ronan O'Gara with 41.
France won the Grand Slam in 1977 and they made history when they did not concede a single try in the entire tournament. The closest any team has come in the Six Nations era was Wales, who conceded just two tries in five matches during their Grand Slam-winning campaign in 2008.
The 2019 Six Nations saw the most tries in history. The teams combined for 84 tries at a rate of 5.6 per match, suggesting that the tournament is growing increasingly exciting.