The Guinness Six Nations Championship kicks off on Friday 1st February 2019, with France taking on Wales.
The rugby tournament first started off as the Home Nations in 1883 with only England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland taking part. In 1910 came the introduction of France to the competition and with it a new name-Five Nations. It wasn’t until 2000 when Italy was added to the list of teams competing did it become the Six Nations as we know it. Played annually, each team plays every other team once- making a total of 15 incredible games for us to watch!
The first game for each team is critical, as the outcome could set the tone for the rest of the championship. View the full fixtures list here.
England are the record holders with 38 competition wins in total (28 outright and 10 shared). In 2003, England became the first team to win both the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup in the same year. The iconic England team included Captain Martin Johnson, Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and Full Back Jason Robinson.
The current favourites to win this year are Ireland. They are the reigning champions after winning the Grand slam last year. The Irish squad are coming in with high expectations on their shoulders, however after beating the All Blacks in the summer they are coming into the competition in fine form. Johnny Sexton, the Irish fly-half, was named World Rugby Player of the Year in 2018 and is one of the players to watch for the tournament.
Many high-profile players and pundits are now however backing Wales to beat out Ireland for the Championship title. With nine victories in a row, Planet Rugby have called the Welsh squad “more than dark horses” in their predictions. The final game between Ireland and Wales on March 16 could be the decider for the tournament.
With Rugby World Cup upon the horizon later in the year, the importance of this years Six Nations is monumental. Positive results in this competition could be pivotal coming into Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. This could be a defining year for any player or coaches’ career.
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Pictured above the Six Nations captains: (L-R) Scotland's Greig Laidlaw, Italy's Sergio Parisse, Ireland's Rory Best, Wales' Alun Wyn Jones, England's Owen Farrell and France's Guilhem Guirado. (Photo Getty Images)