6 nations rugby flags

The Six Nations Championship

You don’t need to be an avid watcher to know that there really is something about rugby. 

With a reputation that precedes it – one of brutal passion, a punishing 80 minutes played in burning sunshine or torrential mud and rain, and incredible teamwork – rugby is a sport that really needs no introduction, although we love to try. 

It’s also an incredibly old, respected sport with a long and fascinating history behind it. Much like football, it finds its roots in the Victorian era, long before the turn of the twentieth century. While its popularity landed almost instantaneously, it remained relatively unorganised until the latter half of the 1800s. We can really start to recognise a familiar sport at the formation of the Six Nations Championship – then known as the Home Nations Championship – and the rest, as they say, is history. 

But we’re not content to say that. There is so much to learn about this incredible and prestigious event before we can really appreciate quite how special it is to the sporting world, and to fans of the game all across the globe. 

So, from the very basics to the insider secrets only a true fan of the game will know, here is our complete, DAZN Bet-certified guide to the Six Nations Championship. 

Six Nations 101

  •     The Six Nations Championship has been around, in one form or another, for 140 years. 
  •     The Six Nations Championship hasn’t always been for six nations. At one time (and for a considerable stretch in the championship’s history) there were just four ‘home’ nations – and, for decades after that, it was just five nations. The name has, of course, changed accordingly over that time – just in case you were wondering…
  •     The Six Nations Championship has only been around under its current format since the year 2000.
  •     The last nation to join the championship was Italy. So far, they have not yet won the nations title, but they’re not alone – Scotland is also waiting for its golden moment. 
  •     The Six Nations Championship sits on a similar level to the Rugby Championship, which takes place each year between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.   
  •     As of 2023, England and Wales are both in the lead in terms of overall title-wins, with 39 each. But, as mentioned, some nations have been involved in the Six Nations Championship for significantly less time. 
  •     The six nations in question are England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France. 
  •     Sergio Parisse is the current title holder for the most caps in the Six Nations Championship, having represented (and started for) Italy 69 times since 2004. 
  •     The Six Nations is an annual fixture, unlike the World Cup, which takes place just once every four years. 

the six nations ball

A Thumping History of the Six Nations

It all started in 1883, when the first tournament took place between the ‘home nations’ – that is, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which comprise the British Isles. While England managed to claim the first two titles, with consecutive wins across 1883 and 1884, the tournament itself was on rocky foundations thanks to disagreements between the unions for each of the home nations – and issues with the refereeing. 

By 1885, these disputes reached a head (the first of a few that now punctuate the tournament’s history) and the championship was not completed. This was partially down to bad weather, which stopped a match between Ireland and Scotland, but also down to ongoing bitterness over the previous year’s refereeing. Each home nation played 2 games, and things drew to a halt with England in the lead with 4 points, followed by Scotland (3), Wales (1), and Ireland (0). 

Nevertheless, by 1886, things were back on. This time, England and Scotland drew for the title, with 5 points each vs 0 points from both Wales and Ireland. The following year, Scotland managed to come out on top of England, too. 

1888 was when trouble began to brew once again. The Championship would go on without England, who did not want to join the International Rugby Football Board and thus relinquished their ability to participate. After two matches for each of the remaining home nations, the Championship was abandoned. The same thing happened the following year. 

Eventually, in 1890, things got back on track, and continued on quite amicably for a few years. In 1897, Wales was forced to withdraw early from the tournament, after the union made the decision to withdraw from the International Rugby Board (the very same one that England had been so reluctant to join) mid-tournament. This was due to a disagreement over Arthur Gould receiving payment for his part in the sport – something that was, at the time, not permitted. These days, it is referred to simply as the Gould Affair. 

The following year, 1898 would see further trouble, with Scotland refusing to play against Wales due to ongoing hard feelings over the Gould Affair. England were the technical winners but, for many, the tournament is officially remembered as ‘Not completed’.

The Twentieth Century

A fresh century saw an improved track record for the Home Nations Championship. Wales represented the decade’s champions, with 5 wins and 1 draw between 1900 and the close of 1909. England, on the other hand, became the Home Nations’ underdog; they didn’t manage a single win until 1910, when the format changed, and were awarded the ‘wooden spoon’ (having lost every one of its games) 4 times.

In 1910, France joined the tournament, which was renamed to the Five Nations Championship accordingly. England clinched their first win since 1892 and, this time, it was France who was the unlucky recipient of the wooden spoon. In fact, France did not manage to bag a single title. 

The Five Nations was called off for four years, between 1915 and 1919 due to the outbreak of World War I. After that, it resumed and continued on in the same format until 1931. France was accused of ‘professionalism’ – meaning their players were alleged to have received an income, which had been the central issue behind the Gould Affair – and excluded from the Five Nations until 1939. This competition did not take place, however, as a result of World War II.

Without France, the tournament returned to the ‘Home Nations’ format in, and continued on until the outbreak of war with a relatively balanced scoresheet between the nations. 

In 1947, with the war finally over, the Home Nations – and Europe – could return to some semblance of normalcy. Once again, with France welcomed back, the competition became the Five Nations Championship. By the mid-fifties, France was competing at a much higher level, and consistently drew for or won the title. This format would continue for more than half a century. 

 The Twenty-First Century

In the rugby world, the new millennium got off to a bang. What had been the Five Nations for fifty-two years was renamed the Six Nations, with Italy joining France and the home nations to create the format we all now know so well. It was also the 106th championship. 

England, captained by Matt Dawson, won the tournament 2 points clear of France, Ireland, and Wales. The wooden spoon, no longer reserved for nations who lost all games, was awarded to Italy for finishing last. 

Unfortunately, this would become something of a trend for Italy. Between 2000 and 2022, Italy would be awarded the wooden spoon a total of 17 times, and fail to win the title.

In 2005, Wales got its first title of the millennium – and, accordingly, since the Six Nations began. Captained by Alfie (AKA, Gareth Thomas), and with Player of the Tournament (and most capped back row forward for Wales) Martyn Williams on their side, the nation got a total of 17 tries under their belt, and completed 2 points clear of France, who came in second. 

Finally, in 2009, Ireland nabbed their first win since 1985, with captain Brian O’Driscoll at the helm. 

2017 saw the introduction of bonus points, already familiar to rugby fans thanks to its successful implementation in the World Cup in 2003. 

In 2019, fans are treated to what is now widely regarded as the best – and most nail-biting – game of all time. Taking place between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, it remains the highest scoring draw in the history of international rugby. While the first half had England fans relaxing into their seats, the second half was like a bolt of lightning as Scotland recouped their loss, and matched England point-for-point.

England briefly laid claim to the most Championship titles in 2020, with 39 to Wales’s 38. In 2021, however, they levelled the playing field once again. Following an emotional win from France in 2022, they remain in contention for the ultimate honour. 

Six Nations Timeline

  •     1883: the Home Nations Championship begins, with England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales competing in St. Helen’s in Swansea, Raeburn Place in Edinburgh, Whalley Range in Manchester, and Ormeau Road in Belfast. England get that coveted first title, with no games conceded. 
  •     1884: England wins the title once again. Feathers are ruffled over ongoing disagreements between the home nations over refereeing, and other aspects of how the championship should be led. 
  •     1885: all is not forgiven from the previous year, and the championship is abandoned. 
  •     1886: An England-Scotland draw, with 5 table points each. 
  •     1887: Scotland are the first to break England’s streak. 
  •     1888: England refuse to join the International Rugby Football Board and are prevented from joining the Home Nations. The championship is eventually abandoned. 
  •     1889: another bad year for rugby, as the championship is once again abandoned.  
  •     1890: the situation settles, and fans are able to enjoy a few years of uninterrupted Home Nations Championships. 
  •     1897: The Gould Affair hits. The Home Nations accuse Wales of professionalism when the sum of around £100 is raised for Arthur Gould, and perceived as payment for ‘services rendered’. Wales will not play in the Home Nations Championship, which is abandoned halfway through. 
  •     1898: again, forgiveness proves tricky. Wales return, but to little fanfare and, following a refusal to play against them, the championship is abandoned for the last time in the nineteenth century. 
  •     1899: the championship gets back on track, and continues successfully into the new century. 
  •     1910: the Home Nations become the Five Nations, with the addition of France, who get off to a rough start with no games won during their first tournament. 
  •     1915: the championship is called off due to the war. 
  •     1920: the championship resumed with a three-way tie between Scotland, Wales, and England. Ireland is awarded the wooden spoon, for no games won. 
  •     1931: France is accused of professionalism, and are told they will not compete in the next tournament. In fact, their expulsion will last until 1939 – a championship that will not take place, due to the war.
  •     1932: The Five Nations once again becomes the Home Nations. 
  •     1939: This will be the final tournament before World War II. A number of Home/Five Nations players are lost to the war.
  •     1947: The Five Nations Resume, with France reinstated following the controversy of 1931.
  •     1973: the first (and only) five-way tie between the Five Nations. 
  •     1981: France wins the Grand Slam, largely helped by Serge Blanco – known fondly as Rugby’s answer to Pelé. 
  •     1987: France’s 1981 performance is repeated, and the nation gets another Grand Slam under its belt. 
  •     1988: the Millennium Trophy is first introduced.
  •     1993: the Five Nations gets underway, and Martin Johnson makes his test debut for England. He plays through a concussion. 
  •     1994: a big rule change – teams will no longer share a win if they end on equal points. Points difference will decide the championship’s sole winner. 
  •     1999: Jonny Wilkinson, widely regarded to be England’s greatest player of all time, joins the team for the Five Nations Championship. Nevertheless, Scotland come out on top – but it comes before a two-year winning streak for England in the early 2000s. 
  •     2000: The Five Nations become the Six Nations, with the addition of Italy. England win the first title under the new format, but Italy enjoys a stunning start to the championship with a memorable 34-20 defeat of Scotland. 
  •     2001: another title-win for England. 
  •     2002: France wins its first title of the millennium, and break England’s streak.
  •     2003: England win again – and, for the first time since joining the Six Nations, Italy is not the recipients of the wooden spoon. Instead, Wales comes in last. 
  •     2005: Wales win the championship for the first time since 1994. 
  •     2009: a win for Ireland, and its first since 1985. It’s an emotional moment, as it also marks their first grand slam in 61 years. The nation is turned to the television – even those who care little for the sport – to see O’Gara make that match-turning drop goal. 
  •     2010: three tries, each as memorable as the last, are scored by Wales within the last five minutes of their game against Scotland. It remains one of the most memorable five-minute stretches in rugby’s history. 
  •     2017: Bonus points are added to the tournament structure. 
  •     2019: The 125th edition of the championship (from its inception as the Home Nations to now) is played. Wales comes out on top, led by captain Alun Wyn Jones. 

Rugby Six Nations Wales Celebrate

The Six Nations: DAZN Bet’s Pop Quiz

Consider yourself a Six Nations trivia buff? Check out some of our top FAQs, and see if you can’t score a try or two. 

Which nations haven’t been awarded the wooden spoon? 

Just two nations – England and Ireland – have managed to avoid winning the dreaded wooden spoon. France and Wales have been awarded it once each, and the rest are shared between Scotland (4), and Italy (17). 

How many times has each country won the Six Nations? 

After the 2022 Six Nations Championship, the standings err in England and Wales’s favour, with both teams having won 39 titles each since the Home Nations Championship began in 1888. France have won 36, Ireland and Scotland 22, and Italy 0. 

In terms of outright wins (as opposed to shared wins), England has won the most, with 29 beating Wales’s 28. 

Which player has the most caps in the Six Nations Championship?

Sergio Parisse. Not only does he have five Rugby World Cups under his belt (an incredibly rare feat shared by just two other players – Brian Lima and Mauro Bergamasco), but he has also made 69 caps (and 69 starts) for Italy in Six Nations Championships. He is also one of the most capped players across the sporting world – not just rugby. 

Sergio Parisse is still playing to this day, and no doubt has a few more record-breaking appearances to make before his retirement. Hopefully, he can stick around long enough to enjoy an Italian victory against England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and France. The next player looking to beat his ubiquity with the Six Nations will have to be very dedicated indeed. 

Which player scored the most tries in a single game? 

Scotland’s very own legend, George Lindsay. During the 1887 Five Nations, during a game against Wales, Lindsay scored an incredible 5 tries.

Overall, Brian O’Driscoll has scored the most tries at the Six Nations, throughout the course of his career.

Which nations have seen the most Player of the Tournament awards? 

That would be Ireland. Since 2004 (the year when the award was first introduced in the Six Nations), Ireland have seen 7 players go onto claim the title. The country is like a factory when it comes to putting out star talent. 

Brian O’Driscoll has scored the most Player of the Tournament awards, with a healthy 3 to his name. 

What is the most memorable moment in Six Nations history?

This one is bound to be controversial – and, for some longstanding fans of the sport, impossible to answer. If we had to pick just one, then we’d have to say Brian O’Driscoll’s stunning hat-trick in 2000 – the first year for the Six Nations. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s not difficult to get a little overwhelmed by the memory of Ireland’s star player showing the world what he’s made of – and who he’s going to be. 

Then again, there are so many incredible moments. Italy’s stunning debut that same year brought a landslide 43-20 victory over the Scots but, unfortunately, did not sustain them throughout the rest of the Championship – or over the years to come. And who could forget Wales’s ten-minute turnaround in 2010? So many moments worth celebrating. 

How many bottles of champagne does the Championship Trophy hold? 

Five bottles – about enough to keep a rugby team happy.

Six Nations 2023: Our Predictions 

Another year gone, and we join millions of fans in that unbeatable feeling that another Six Nations Championship is right around the corner. 

First, France. They will enter this year’s tournament the defending champions, with the heavy weight of sustaining a lofty position for a second year running. So far, general opinion seems to be that France are the more likely winners than Ireland. Nevertheless, all signs point to star centre Jonathan Danty having a knee injury, which is anticipated to keep him on the side-lines until the spring. 

For Ireland, Sexton and Furlong are both expected back in time for the Championship, after both sustaining bad injuries just weeks ahead of the tournament’s start in February. The nation is set to appear against Ireland on the 4th of February – a match that promises to be an impactful start to the championship. 

 The biggest news of the season comes from England. Eddie Jones, coach for the side since 2015, was sacked in early December – a move that proved just as controversial as it did surprising. While Jones saw his fair share of underwhelming results over the past 7 years, he also saw England to numerous victories – something which no doubt kept his job relatively secure, despite criticisms. The move was a bold one, given the proximity of the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup, and only time will tell whether his replacement, Steve Borthwick, can lead the team to greener pastures. 

As for Italy, their first match will be a true test of their mettle, as they clash with France in Stadio Olimpico on 5th February. The benefit of a home-crowd may help to shore-up the underdog team and, hopefully, we will see a repeat of some of their more memorable opening matches from the past two decades. It has been just over two years since the nation seemed to be making its way up the ranks but, since then, fans’ devotion has been put to the test consistently. Hopefully, 2023 can be a year for the history books for the Six Nations’ least successful team…