Six Nations 2020: What is the rugby union tournament all about?

Last updated at 11:47
rugby captains 2020Six Nations tournament

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 tournament starting on Saturday, 1 February.

There's a men's and a women's competition.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Six Nations (it was the Five Nations before that) and there are lot of changes to the teams this season, with first-time captains (Luca Bigi, Johnny Sexton, Stuart Hogg and Charles Ollivon) leading out the men's teams for Italy, Ireland, Scotland and France.

There are also four coaches entering their first men's Championship in charge. Wayne Pivac (Wales), Franco Smith (Italy), Fabien Galthié (France) and Andy Farrell (Ireland) will have the honour of steering their countries.

The men's tournament gets under way with Wales v Italy at 2.15pm on Saturday, followed by Ireland v Scotland. England travel to play France on Sunday, which is also the day the women's tournament starts.

Rugby union
Man kicking a rugby ballGetty Images

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 ladiesPA Media

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

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

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

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

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 did the same.

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.

But winning the triple crown doesn't always mean you win the Six Nations.

In 2007 Ireland beat England, Wales and Scotand 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.