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Six Nations Championship Trophy

Infographic of Six Nations Championship Trophy

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European rugby fans have the privilege of watching top-class action every year thanks to the battle for the Six Nations Championship Trophy.  Sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, this annual tournament features the national teams of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy, serving as the de facto European Championship for the sport since the league was formed in the year 2000.  Its history goes back much further, as the British countries have been playing against each other in formal competitions since 1883, with France joining them in 1910 and, but for occasional political tensions, playing ever since.  Despite the championship’s long history, a physical trophy has been in existence for less than two decades.

History

In 1993, after well over a hundred years of fierce competition, the Earl of Westmorland proposed the idea of a trophy to then-Five Nations holders France.  He commissioned James Brent-Ward to create the design before turning it over to the William Comyns silversmiths in London to bring it to life.  Using 200 ounces of sterling silver, eight workers completed the unique 15-sided trophy (one for each of the field players per team), which is securely held by the Six Nations Championship Trophy Trust from year to year.  Upon completion of the alternate-site, round-robin tournament, the trophy is presented to the nation that has topped the table.  In many cases, the winner is the named based on superior points differential, often by incredibly slim margins.

The 15-sided cup, has three handles to represent the match officials, making it perhaps the only trophy in the world to give a nod to those who preside over the championship’s games.  When displayed, the trophy rests on top of a six-sided wooden platform which bears the emblem of one country on each face.  And, deep inside this mahogany base, five additional finials (handle on the lid) are stored – six in total to represent each of the competing national teams.  When the trophy is presented to the winning captain, it bears the crest of the newly-crowned champions on the top.

Insured for nearly $87,000 US, the inside of the cup has been refinished in recent years with 22 carat gold.  The goblet is large enough to hold five bottles of champagne – one for each of the competing teams at the time it was made – and has a slightly curved lip to make it easier to drink from.  After several years of being filled with so much sparkling wine, the new precious metal was put inside to protect the Six Nations Championship Trophy from further corrosion.

Best Teams

England (1995-96)

Over the course of two years, the English national team caught a string of consistency across the competition that only a handful of teams have pulled off in the history of the opinion.  Winning all but one match of the eight played, they managed at least 20 points in each victory – often holding opponents to 10 or less, as comprehensive a string of triumphs as the competition has seen since the advent of the Six Nations Championship Trophy.

France (1997-98)

After watching the English capture two straight – and finishing in third place both times – the French came back to claim the Grand Slam twice in a row.  In managing to go undefeated both years, they rolled off a streak of ten consecutive victories that stretched into the 1999 campaign and became the first (and only) repeat Grand Slam champion since the trophy debuted at the 1993 tournament.

England (2000-01)

The championship expanded to include Italy for the 2000 season, adding an extra match to the process and setting the format for the tournament as it stands today.  Many had tipped the English to complete the Grand Slam based on the strong form they displayed, but losses to Scotland and Ireland prevented them from finishing with an unblemished record.  Often winning by six points or more, England brought the prize home for the first time since the completing the double in 1996.

France (2006-07)

The French began this two-year run with a tight loss to unheralded Scotland on foreign turf, then regained their footing to claim four consecutive wins over the competition, including a 31-6 drubbing of rival England in March 2006.  The British exacted revenge a year later, but the strength of France’s attack gave them superior scoring differential – an extra four points was just enough to edge out Ireland and retain the Six Nations Championship Trophy.

Winners

France (8; 1993, 1997-98, 2002, 2004, 2006-07, 2010)

England (6; 1995-96, 2000-01, 2003, 2011)

Wales (3; 1994, 2005, 2008)

Ireland (1; 2009)

Scotland (1; 1999)