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This weekend (February 6, 7) commences the start of the 2015 European Six Nations Championship, a two-month February and March event, where England, Wales, France, Scotland, Italy, and Ireland will play each other once to determine the winner. This year’s tournament comes as a winter preview of autumn’s Rugby World Cup, with four teams meeting other competitors in RWC pool play.
The Six Nations is an independent championship, a private commercial entity, with no association to World Rugby, which only supplies qualified referees and touch judges.
Originally, the event was a Four-Nation Home Countries affair, until France joined in the 1920s to make it Five Nations. And so it remained until 2000, when Italy was admitted.
It was current World Rugby CEO Bernard Lapasset (when he was head of the Five Nations) who decided that a sixth nation (Italy) could generate significant revenues by adding one more televised event, five times over the course of the season. The Italian people have warmly followed the Azzurri for fifteen-years, the team beating all other nations at least once except England. When the All Blacks toured Italy in 2009, the famous San Siro soccer stadium in Milan sold out its 82,000 seats in a day.
There exist specific terminologies and intra-event individual awards:
Grand Slam = Winning all five games
Triple Crown = Beating the three Home Nations
Wooden Spoon = Finishing last in the tournament
Calcutta Cup = England vs. Scotland
Millennium Trophy = England vs. Ireland
Centenary Quatch = Scotland vs. Ireland
Garibaldi Trophy = France vs. Italy
Stadiums and capacity
England Twickenham 82,000
France Stade de France 81,338
Wales Millennium 74,500
Italy Stadio Olimpico 72,698
Scotland Murrayfield 67,144
Ireland Aviva 51,700
England and Wales = 26
France = 17
Scotland = 14
Ireland = 12
Italy = 0
Rugby is the only sport where Ireland joins with Northern Ireland to play as one nation. To accommodate the historic differences, a unique four counties flag is used, and the players sing a specially commissioned, neutral anthem, “Ireland’s Call."