The Six Nations Championship, an annual rugby union competition featuring England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales, is a stage for fierce battles, nail-biting moments, and historic rivalries.
As rugby fans eagerly await each tournament, let’s delve into the heart of the action and explore the five biggest rivalries that have defined the essence of the Six Nations.
5. Ireland vs. England: The Battle for the Centenary Quaich
The rivalry between Ireland and England adds an extra layer of intensity to the Six Nations. The Centenary Quaich, a trophy awarded to the winner of their annual encounter, has witnessed some of the most thrilling moments in the tournament’s history. With passionate fans and a shared rugby heritage, these clashes are always eagerly anticipated, featuring hard-hitting contests that leave an indelible mark on the championship.
4. England vs. France: The Historic Feud
One of the oldest and most storied rivalries in rugby, the clash between England and France is steeped in history and intensity. Dating back to 1906, this rivalry transcends the rugby pitch, embodying the long-standing historical and cultural tensions between the two nations. Matches between England and France are often unpredictable, marked by breathtaking displays of skill and physicality, making it a highlight of the Six Nations calendar.
3. Scotland vs. England: The Calcutta Cup
The Calcutta Cup, one of rugby’s oldest trophies, is the prize contested by Scotland and England in their annual encounter. Dating back to 1879, this historic rivalry is fueled by a desire for bragging rights and the chance to lift a trophy with a rich legacy. Matches between these two teams are known for their intensity, tactical battles, and the sheer unpredictability that makes them a highlight of the Six Nations.
2. Ireland vs. Wales: The Celtic Clash
The rivalry between Ireland and Wales is a Celtic affair that captivates rugby fans with its blend of skill, passion, and rivalry. Rooted in the shared Celtic heritage of both nations, matches between Ireland and Wales often feature open and entertaining rugby. The Millennium Trophy, contested between the two teams, adds an extra layer of significance, making their encounters a crucial chapter in the Six Nations narrative.
1. Wales vs. England: The Battle for Supremacy
The clash between Wales and England is a rivalry that transcends the rugby field, defined by its rich history and a deep-seated sense of national pride. Matches between these two powerhouses are fiercely contested, featuring iconic moments that resonate with fans on both sides of the border. The fierce competition for the Triple Crown, awarded to the Home Nations victor in the Six Nations, adds extra spice to this perennial showdown.
NIGEL OWENS DREAM XV:
Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia), replaced by Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.”
Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.
“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.
“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”
Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)
Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.
“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”
Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand), replaced by Owen Farrell (England)
Owens praised Farrell as a player on numerous occasions.
On one occasion he wrote: “I can only speak from my own experience of refereeing him and, when I did, he was an excellent captain to deal with.
“I have a huge amount of respect for him as a player and a person. He always knew where the line was with me.
“I would say to him that he could always come and talk to me as long as it was at the right time and in the right tone and he always did that.”
Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)
Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.
“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.
“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”