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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

Overall Winners

England and Wales = 26

France = 17

Scotland = 14

Ireland = 12

Italy = 0

Final Note

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."