The annual Six Nations Rugby Union tournament starts on Saturday, February 6, with reigning champions, England, looking to defend the title they won last year. The competition between England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales will be a round-robin format as usual, with every side having to play against each other once.
The history of the tournament
The competition was first played in 1883 and called the Home Nations Championship, which was contested by the four home nations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. By 1910, the tournament became the Five Nations Championship as France joined, but the format was reverted to home nations again between 1932-1939.
France would re-join in 1940 and it was not until 2000 before the tournament was expanded again to become the Six Nations with the addition of Italy.
The story of the 2020 tournament
The climax to the 2020 Six Nations tournament was delayed by eight months due to the global pandemic, with just one game to play. The teams resumed in October with England or France set to be crowned champions. A bonus point win over Italy saw England clinch the title on points difference after France, needing to win by a 31-point margin, could only beat Ireland 35-27 in Paris.
Ireland finished third, level on points with fourth-placed Scotland, with each team winning three of their five games. Wales managed just one win, against Italy, who finished bottom of the table with zero points to receive a 15th wooden spoon in 21 years.
Favourites for the 2021 title
Current champions England have been installed as the 11/10 favourites with William Hill to clinch back-to-back titles. Eddie Jones men start the defence of their title at Twickenham against the Auld Enemy, Scotland.
France are second favourites at 11/4, but they last won the tournament in 2010. They start their challenge in Rome against Italy. Elsewhere, the two previous winners of the competition in 2018 and 2019 meet in Cardiff, as Wales host Ireland. The Irish are third favourites for the title at 7/2.
Will we see a Grand Slam this year?
Winning the Six Nations is the main goal of the tournament, but to do so by winning a Grand Slam is the pinnacle of European Rugby. A Grand Slam is achieved when a team has won all their games against each of the other competing nations.
England holds the record for most Grand Slams on 13, but they haven’t won one since 2016. Wales are second on the list of most Grand Slam tournament wins, and they were the last team to achieve the feat in 2019.
William Hill has priced there being no Grand Slam winner at 10/11, with England at odds of 12/5 and France 6/1 to accomplish the achievement.
The trophies and titles on offer within the competition
There are several individual trophies and competitions that can be won or lost under the umbrella of the Six Nations tournament. Some of these terms are explained here.
- Calcutta Cup – presented to the winner of the England and Scotland game
- Millennium Trophy – awarded to the winner of the England and Ireland game
- Centenary Quaich – presented to the winner of the Scotland and Ireland game
- Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy – awarded to the winner of the France and Italy game
- Auld Alliance Trophy – presented to the winner of the France and Scotland game
- Doddie Weir Cup – awarded to the winner of the Wales and Scotland game
- Grand Slam – won by a team if they beat all five other nations
- Triple Crown – contested between England, Scotland, and Wales
- Wooden spoon – the team finishing bottom of the Six Nations table