Next Friday night sees The RBS Six Nations Championship begin. The Championship is without doubt the world's greatest annual rugby (union) tournament. Each year the collective fans of six proud nations – England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales – share in the passion and excitement of this feast of rugby. Some of the rivalries in this tournament date back more than 140 years, which simply adds to the sense of occasion.
The first match of the 121st edition of 2015 Six Nations Championship is a February 6th clash (we didn’t think using the word fixture was appropriate) between Wales and England at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. The last time England visited there Wales triumphed 30-3.
The following day, Ireland travel to Rome to begin the defence of their Six Nations title against Italy at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Also on the Saturday, France and Scotland get their campaigns underway at the Stade de France in Paris.
It really is a competition that you have to hit the ground running in. With a round-robin tournament format one defeat and that could be the Championship over before it has even really started!
The final match of the tournament sees England at home to France on March 21st at Twickenham, in what could be a title decider, although admittedly there is a lot of rugby to have been played before then. It is however not uncommon to see it go down to the last kick (or throw) of a ball in the final game. Just look at last year for example.
The 2014 tournament was one of the best we have seen in recent memory, and going into the final day, three teams could have still won the championship – Ireland, England and France. In the final game, Ireland hung on to win against France by just two points and secure the championship, on points difference over England.
It’s been 16 years since Scotland won, 2 years for Wales, 4 for England, and 5 for France, and the best finish newbies Italy have had since they joined the tournament in 2000 has been a 4th place finish in 2007 & 2013, but you know the fans of each country will accept nothing but the top spot. And what fans they are!
There was a total attendance in 2014 of 1,038,744 which broke down to an impressive average of 69,250 per match, although with the noise generated you would have thought it was even more. You’d be hard pressed to find a sport with more passionate fans that these.
For further information about the tournament please see the official website.
And if you’re disappointed once the tournament is over don’t worry, cause the Rugby World Cup is just around the corner.