The Six Nations Championship is one of the biggest rugby union competitions in the world. The 125th series  of the tournament is set to start in early February next year with defending champions Ireland the favourites to win it for the second consecutive year, according to the Six Nations odds.

Since the tournament is just a couple of months away, here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know about the Six Nations Championship.

The Origins

The tournament began in 1883 and was made up of the four teams in the UK at the time: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The location of the teams meant that the original name of the tournament was the ‘Home Nations Championship’. In the first 24 series of the competition, all teams won the championship multiple times, with Scotland being the most successful team, winning the tournament 11 times.

The French rugby union team were invited to the competition in 1910, leading to it being renamed the ‘Five Nations’. Despite their invitation to the tournament, the French side weren’t initially successful and were even expelled from the competition in 1932 due to allegations of professionalism (which was illegal at the time). France’s exclusion from the tournament in the 1930s meant that the competition was referred to by its original name once again.

Following the Second World War, the French side were allowed back into the competition and enjoyed far  more success this time. From 1947 until 1999, France won the competition outright 12 times, the third most successful team during this period. In 2000, the tournament was expanded yet again into the ‘Six Nations Championships’ following the addition of Italy. The format of the competition has remained the same ever since.

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The Tournament

Anyone who is familiar with the sport will know that the format and the point scoring system is fairly simple.

In total there are fifteen matches per championship, with all the teams playing each other once. As it is a single round-robin schedule, home advantage alternates every year in order to level the playing field. For example, England are hosting France in 2019 since this year’s fixture took place in Paris.

Whilst the scoring system has changed slightly over the years the big change has been point allocations for individual match results in order to determine the overall winner. The point system has changed in the past few years from a traditional point system into a bonus point system. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Winning teams are awarded four match points (five point if they scores four tries or more in a match)
  • Each team is awarded two points if a match finishes in a draw, however, if a team scores four tries or more in a match that ends in a draw, a further match point will be awarded to that team
  • Losing teams are awarded no match points, but if they score more than four tries in the process or lose by a margin of seven points or fewer they are awarded one match point, two points if they achieve both of these
  • Any team which completes a ‘Grand Slam’ will be awarded three bonus points.

The introduction of the system was to “encourage and reward try scoring and attacking play”, and it seems to have had an impact as last year, all but one team achieved 11 or more tries. The only team that didn’t reach this was Scotland with eight tries.

2019 Preview

The 2019 tournament will be the 125th running of the competition and every team has a point to make. Current holders Ireland will be looking to build on their Grand Slam victories in 2018 and win a second consecutive championship.

England, France and Wales will be looking to improve on their fairly underwhelming performances last time out, whilst Scotland will be looking to improve their win:lose ratio  they’ve had in the last few years. There is very little expectation surrounding Italy, but you’d think their main aim will be record their first Six Nations win since 2015.

On paper it seems like Ireland are the most likely to win it for a second consecutive year, but it all comes down to how the players perform when they step on the pitch.