The Six Nations Rugby Tournament is one of the most prestigious events in the rugby world, held every year and is competed by six European countries- Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales and Italy. The event is the successor to the “Five Nations” and the “Home Nations Championship”, the first international rugby event in Europe. The “Royal Bank of Scotland” funds the contest and the winners are labelled as the “European Champions”.

The French are the reigning champions, having defeated England 12-10 last year at their home ground. The journey follows a simplistic format where every country plays the other once and the home field decision alternates every successive year.

Teams are awarded 2 points for a win, 1 in the event of a draw and no points are given for a loss. In the event of a team winning all its stipulated matches, it is said to have completed a “Grand Slam”. Whereas, if a team defeats all the other three home nations, it constitutes a “Triple Crown”. The English team has the honorary reputation of 12 Grand Slams to her name, followed by Wales(10), France(9), the Scotts(3) and Ireland(2). The English team even holds the record for maximum Triple Crowns, repeating the feat 23 times. Wales has done it 20 times, followed by the Scots and Ireland who have done it 10 times each. The team which lags at the bottom of the points table at the end of the competition is said to have won the “Wooden Spoon”. The first physical trophy for the clash was dished out in the year 2006 by its sponsors- the Royal Bank of Scotland. The 2011 instalment kicks off on 4th of this February.

The current champions France have a certain amount of pressure on them to repeat the feat they achieved last year. The opposition team’s coaches believe the French team will come out hard and will play brutally to retain the trophy. The English team, starting as favourites for the title, is relying heavily on their hooker Dylan Hartley to get them through the points table. Harley has lately been the centre of attention for some off-field aggression and the English fans can’t wait to see him in action. Meanwhile, flanker Tom Wood and James Hakell have bagged a position in the team at the last moment and will surely like to make it count.

The Welsh hopes for clinching the title were in for a blow when the super talented winger Leigh Halfpenny broke his ankle before the crucial encounter with England. Even the new player George North, who impressed all with his super display of technical skills, is out with a shoulder fracture and will be sorely missed. The youngster Morgan Stoddart has come in as a replacement and a lot of hope rides on his shoulders now. The Scottish team could very well turn out to be the dark horse in the upcoming tournament. They have been in good form lately and would like to put behind the last year’s disappointment when they started off a tad too slowly on the points table. Much of the responsibility lies on the experienced shoulders of Nathan Hines, one of the best players in the tourney. Having played in the second row for the most part of his career, it would be interesting to see how he copes with the foreign territory of blindside flanker. Italy is running high on the confidence front with the comeback of their inspirational skipper Sergio Parisse. Regarded by many as the game’s best captain in present times, he will be key in leading Italy to the ultimate glory along with Edoardo Gori and their coach Nick Mallet.

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