What is the Rugby Union Six Nations tournament?

  • 11 February 2015
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The tournament kicks off tonight with Wales Vs England playing first. Check out this guide to find out all you need to know about the Six Nations.

Rugby Union Six Nations tournament

The Six Nations is a rugby union tournament played every year between the top countries in Europe.

The six countries who take part are England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.

For the first 90 years of the championships there were only five countries involved, but Italy were invited to take part in 2000.

Rugby Union

Rugby Union is played by teams of 15 players, with each team made up of eight forwards and seven backs.

Even at the top level it used to be amateur; that is, played for fun by people who had other jobs too, but now the top players are all professionals.

The biggest competition in Union is the World Cup, played every four years, but the most famous one in this country is the Six Nations championship.

The Grand Slam

If a team wins all five of its matches it is called a Grand Slam, but to win a Grand Slam is very hard.

England won a Grand Slam in 2003, but only after losing their final match in the three seasons before.

The Triple Crown

The Triple Crown is a special prize that only the four home unions are able to win.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A team can only win the triple crown if they beat all three of the other home unions

Rugby facts

The sport gets its name from the place where it was invented, Rugby School in Warwickshire, England.

In 1816 a pupil called William Webb Ellis got a bit bored during a match of football and decided that picking up the ball would make things more interesting.

Although the game has come a long way since, even splitting into two codes; Rugby Union and Rugby League, that's where it started.

One of the most important rules of the sport is that the ball can only be passed backwards.