The Guinness Six Nations Championship currently consists of 6 rugby union teams representing England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.
The tournament originally started as the Home Nations back in 1883. This competition (which ran between 1883–1909 and 1932–39) was played between teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. This was the first international rugby union tournament of its kind.
With the addition of France in 1910, the tournament was re-named as the Five Nations Championship. The tournament was then further expanded in 2000 with Italy joining the competition, to become the Six Nations Championship as we now know it.
The Championship has historically been dominated by England and Wales, both teams hold the record for the most titles at 39 victories each, but England slightly edge out Wales on more outright titles (29 for England and 28 for Wales). Since the Six Nations era started in 2000, only Italy and Scotland have failed to win the title at all.
Ireland legend Johnny Sexton currently holds the record for most points in the competition, with an incredible total of 566 points. Jonny Wilkinson holds the records for most individual points in one game (35 points against Italy in 2001) and most points in one season with (89 in 2001).
Brian O'Driscoll still holds the Championship record for most amount of tries with 26. Scotsman George Campbell Lindsay holds the record for most tries in one game after he scored five tries against Wales in 1887.
The record for most appearances is held by Italian Sergio Parisse, who has made 69 appearances in the competition for Italy since 2004.
Italy, unfortunately, hold the record for most “Wooden Spoon awards” having finished last 18 times in the Six Nations era, and have lost every match 13 times. The Wooden Spoon is a metaphorical award given to the team that finishes in last place, or a team that loses all of its games in the tournament.
Could the 2024 Championship be decided in round 1?
With the bookies’ favourites (France) and last year’s winners (Ireland) facing each other in the very first game of the tournament at Orange Velodrome, could the tournament be decided within 80 minutes of game 1? Although both teams have equally difficult games after round 1, a strong tournament favourite would be viewed towards to the winning side of this particular crunch.
The home field advantage of a potential 67,000 “Allez Les Bleus” fans could help sway the French to secure a pivotal win, even without three-time Player Of The Championship winner Antoine Dupont. In the absence of Dupont, who misses the entire tournament to focus on a potential rugby sevens appearance at the 2024 Olympics, Grégory Alldritt will step up to captain France. France finished in 2nd place behind Ireland last year but have the goal of repeating their 2022 Grand Slam victory.
Although Ireland come into the competition as reigning Six Nations Champions, having held the World Number 1 ranking at the time and made it the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year, they are set to start this year’s competition without Johnny Sexton. With colossal shoes to fill, experienced back-row Peter O'Mahony has been trusted with captaining the Irish to victory by Andy Farrell. Munster's Jack Crowley is hot favourite to take start in Sexton’s previous 10 role in the game opener. Hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of exiting the World Cup earlier than expected last year, Ireland will need to find their ruthless winning mentality of early 2023.
The wooden spoon race could also be determined within the first few outright games. 18-time Six Nations wooden spoon “recipients”, Italy are taking on Steve Borthwick’s English side in round 1. Italy failed to win a single game in last year’s competition but are hoping to stir an upset against England with new coach Gonzalo Quesada. As of March 2023, “Gli Azzurri” have only won thirteen Six Nations games: 7 against Scotland, 3 against Wales, 2 against France and 1 against Ireland. England are the only team that Italy have yet to beat in the competition, could this spur the Italians to shock victory in round 1 and overcome the 200/1 odds against them?
England started their campaign without notable key players such as Owen Farell and Billy Vunipola, but things have gone from bad to worse with injury woes during the warm-up camp. In the last few weeks Ollie Lawrence, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Oscar Beard, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson, George Martin and Nick Isiekwe have been ruled out with injury scares, plus most recently fly-half Marcus Smith has been seen on crutches in camp. Steve Borthwick’s men surprised many by reaching the semi-finals at the World Cup last year and are looking to shock again this year. With previous leader Owen Farrell stepping away from international duties, newly appointed captain, Ellis Genge will have high expectations from fans and players alike to guide the team to an imperative victory in Rome.
Wales on the other hand, look to be staggering into this year's competition. Having already lost incredibly experienced and formidable players at the beginning of the year (Alun Wyn Jones, Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny) Wales are now looking even more depleted with the loss of Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens to injury plus Louis Rees-Zammit’s surprise move to the NFL. Having one of the least experienced Welsh sides in recent history, Exeter Chiefs young lock Dafydd Jenkins has a huge task on his hands with captaining the squad in their first game against a superior looking Scottish side in Cardiff.
Gregor Townsend, who has yet to appoint a matchday captain for the Wales game, has decided to name Rory Darge and Finn Russell as Scotland’s co-captains for the tournament. With a strong and reliable group of players to choose from, Scotland are hoping to break the curse of not being able to beat Wales under coach Warren Gatland in the Principality Stadium. With a fierce historical rugby rivalry (a total of 129 matches since 1883) this Six Nations round 1 game between the pair could dismantle either teams’ chances of success in this Championship.
One’s to watch:
Out with the old and in with the new! With plenty of young stars being given the chance to shine at this Six Nations tournament in 2024, who are we expecting to make a name for themselves? Here’s a small list of fresh faces to keep an eye out for this year:
Posolo Tuilagi (France)
Immanuel Feyi-Waboso (England)
Sam Costelow (Wales)
Alessandro Izekor (Italy)
Jack Crowley (Ireland)
Tommy Freeman (England)
Arron Reed (Scotland)
Emmanuel Meafou (France)
Ross Vintcent (Italy)
Andy Christie (Scotland)
The competition is France’s to lose. With a favourable fixture list, Les Bleus should be able to run away with the Grand Slam if they manage to beat out Ireland in the first game.
Italy, once again, walk away with the wooden spoon. This will be a hard feat to shake, as Gli Azzurri would likely have to steal a surprise victory against Wales (at the Principality Stadium) in round 5 to change this.
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