Six Nations 2021: What is the rugby union tournament all about?

Last updated at 07:37
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The Six Nations rugby championship is here!

If you don't know know that much about rugby, but would like to find out more, then read on!

In this guide you'll find out all you need to know about the Six Nations, and the sport of rugby union, with the men's tournament starting on Saturday, 6 February.

After the 2020 Six Nations had to be stopped and then restarted because of the coronavirus pandemic, fans are hoping that the 2021 tournament goes ahead without disruption.

England are the reigning champions and get their campaign started on the opening Saturday against Scotland at Twickenham. It follows the first match which is Italy v France in Rome.

The 2021 Women's Six Nations will be delayed - but organisers are aiming for a April start.

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

The players who are forwards are generally bigger and heavier, while the backs are faster and smaller.

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 aim of the game is to score more points than the other team. You can do that by scoring a try - carrying the ball over the opponent's goal-line - or by kicking the ball over the other team's goal-posts.

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

The Six Nations tournament
England competing in the 2020 Women's Six NationsGetty Images
England won the 2020 Women's Six Nations

The Six Nations is one of the oldest tournaments in rugby, having been played in one form or another for more than 138 years.

It takes place every year between the top rugby union-playing countries in Europe.

What was initially a men's international tournament featuring England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, has grown to include France and then Italy who were invited to take part in 2000. There has been a women's competition since 1996.

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

England are the reigning champions of the men and women's tournament.

The Grand Slam
WalesPA Media

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

Wales men won the Six Nations by completing the Grand Slam in 2019, and England's women won the Grand Slam two years in a row in 2019 and 2020.

The Triple Crown
IrelandGetty Images

The 'Triple Crown' is a special prize that only the four home unions - England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - are able to win.

A team can only win the triple crown if they beat all three of the other home sides.

Although it gives a team a great chance of overall success - winning the triple crown doesn't always mean you win the Six Nations.

In 2007 Ireland beat England, Wales and Scotland but didn't win the Six Nations tournament overall.

Rugby facts
And for the likes of Stuart Hogg, the summary will be glowingly positive no matter what happens. See PA story RUGBYU Six Nations Scotland.PA

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.

Will you be watching the Six Nations? Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments.

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