Guinness Six Nations: A round 1 primer and TV/streaming info

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Outside of the Rugby World Cup, the Guinness Six Nations Championship is the most prestigious international rugby tournament in the world.

Unlike the World Cup, the Six Nations Championship takes place every year and is contested between the same countries: France, England, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. The tournament takes place over seven weekends in February, March and sometimes April.

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The Six Nations Championship is the successor to the Home Nations Championship (1883–1909 and 1932–39) played between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The tournament became known as the Five Nations Championship after adding France (1910–31 and 1947–99) and then finally the Six Nations Championship with the addition of Italy (2000-present).

The tournament is round-robin style as each team plays the other five teams once per season. Home field alternates each season. For example, if France host England in 2018, England host France in 2019. There are 15 total matches in the championship. The team that finishes at the top of the miniature table at the end of the tournament wins the title.

Ireland won last year’s tournament in dominant fashion, claiming a Grand Slam title alongside a Triple Crown. England and Wales are the joint all-time leaders with 38 titles each. England holds the record for most outright titles with 28.

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Here’s a quick look at the upcoming matches.

France vs. Wales (Friday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

France

Finished fourth in 2018 Six Nations Championship

  • Have not finished in the top two since 2011
  • Last title was 2010 (won outright)
  • 25 titles all-time
    • 17 outright, eight shared
  • Morgan Parra is the most seasoned member of the squad, leading France in caps (31) and points (158) in the tournament
  • Head coach: Jacques Brunel
    • Second year coaching France in Six Nations Championship
    • Coached Italy from 2011-16
  • Ranked No. 9 in the world

Wales

  • Finished second in 2018 Six Nations Championship
    • Won consecutive titles outright in 2012 and 2013 (have not won since)
  • Joint-record 38 titles all-time (England also have 38)
    • 26 outright, 12 shared
  • Led by Alun Wyn Jones
    • Team-high 48 career Six Nations Championship caps
  • Head coach: Warren Gatland
    • The most experienced coach in the tournament, coaching in his 12th and final Six Nations Championship for Wales
  • Ranked No. 3 in the world

Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny (concussion) has been ruled out of the team’s first two matches of the tournament.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland on Friday’s match: “I think if we can win that first game against France in Paris then we have a really good chance of winning the tournament.”
Gatland on the competitiveness of the tournament: “I remember back in the Five Nations where there was only talk of England or France winning it, but now we’re talking about five teams, and Italy are still good contenders. I think it is brilliant for the fans, sponsors and the sport.”

2018 Six Nations meeting: Wales 14 v. France 13 (Round 5, March 17)

Scotland vs. Italy (Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Scotland

  • Finished third in 2018 Six Nations Championship
    o Joint-best finish in Scotland’s Six Nations Championship history (also finished third in 2001, 2006 and 2013)
    o Have not won the title since 1999, when the tournament was still the Five Nations Championship
  • 24 titles all-time
    o 15 outright, nine shared
  • Two-time Player of the Championship Stuart Hogg (2016, 2017) leads Scotland
    o Hogg: 34 caps (team high) and 92 points in Six Nations Championship career
  • Greig Laidlaw is also a leader for Scotland
    o Laidlaw: 32 caps, 349 points (team high) in Six Nations Championship career
  • Head coach: Gregor Townsend
    o Second year coaching Scotland in Six Nations Championship
  • Ranked No. 7 in the world
    Italy
  • Finished sixth in 2018 Six Nations Championship
    o Third straight sixth-place finish
  • Lost all five matches for third straight year
    o Have finished sixth in 13 of 19 seasons since joining the tournament in 2000
  • Have never won the Six Nations title
    o Highest finish was fourth place twice (2007 and 2013)
    o Fourth-place finish in 2013 came under current France head coach Jacques Brunel
  • Captain: 35-year-old flanker Sergio Parisse
    o Parisse: 65 caps in Six Nations Championship career (most on team)
  • Head coach: Ireland international Conor O’Shea
    o Third year as Italy’s head coach for the Six Nations Championship
  • Ranked No. 15 in the world

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg: “If you are not saying you are going to win the Guinness Six Nations, then what’s the point of being here? We truly believe we can do it.”

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea after poor results in recent Six Nations Championships: “We need to be mentally resilient and players like Sergio [Parisse] have proved we are by maintaining his enthusiasm, energy and belief every time he represents his country. We need this from everyone. It won’t be easy but we need everyone to keep believing.”

2018 Six Nations meeting: Italy 27 v. Scotland 29 (Round 5, March 17)

Ireland vs. England (Saturday, 2:30 a.m. ET on  NBCSN)

Ireland

  • Won 2018 Six Nations Championship outright
    o Won Grand Slam and Triple Crown
    o Looking to become first team in Six Nations era (since 2000) to win consecutive Grand Slams
  • Last team to accomplish feat: France in 1997 and 1998 Five Nations
  • 23 titles all-time
    o 14 outright, nine shared
  • Led by 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton
    o Sexton: 475 career points in the tournament, far more than any other player on the team
    o Sexton: 38 career Six Nations Championship caps
  • Jacob Stockdale made his Six Nations debut last year and led the tournament with seven tries, earning Player of the Championship honors
  • Head coach: Joe Schmidt
    o 2018 World Rugby Coach of the Year
    o Sixth and final Six Nations Championship appearance as Ireland head coach
  • Three titles in previous five appearances
  • Ranked No. 2 in the world
    o Defeated top-ranked New Zealand at the Autumn Internationals for the first time ever on Irish soil
    England
  • Finished fifth in 2018 Six Nations Championship
  • Joint-record 38 titles all-time (Wales also have 38)
    o 28 outright (most ever), 10 shared
    o Won 2016 and 2017 titles outright
  • As the most decorated team in tournament history, England entered last year’s event with high expectations coming off back-to-back Six Nations Championship titles, so their fifth-place finish was a major disappointment
  • Led by 2017 European Player of the Year Owen Farrell, who has 29 career caps in his Six Nations Championship career. Farrell has 477 career points in the tournament, by far the most on the team
    o Farrell, a star for Premiership side Saracens, will serve as England’s captain
  • George Ford, who leads the Premiership with 144 points this season playing for Leicester Tigers, is also on the squad
  • England’s squad vs Ireland is expected to be comprised entirely of Premiership players
  • Head coach: Eddie Jones
    o Fourth time coaching England at Six Nations Championship
    o Led England to Six Nations Championship titles in 2016 and 2017
  • Named World Rugby Coach of the Year in 2017
  • Ranked No. 4 in the world

The two teams that have dominated the Six Nations Championship over the last five years meet each other to open their 2019 campaigns. Ireland won consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015, answered by back-to-back England titles in 2016 and 2017, before Ireland reasserted their dominance with a Grand Slam and Triple Crown to go along with their Six Nations Championship title last season.

Ireland did not play their best in their opening match any of the last three seasons (drew in 2016, lost in 2017, beat France 15-13 in 2018 on go-ahead drop goal in 80th minute). Ireland’s Keith Earls: “We’re going to have to start strong, not like we did in the last couple of years where we kind of had a slow start or a Johnny Sexton kick getting us out of trouble. I suppose that puts a lot of pressure on us as well. We know the challenge that’s in front of us is massive.”

This is a matchup of the last two World Rugby Coach of the Year award winners (Eddie Jones – 2017, Joe Schmidt – 2018).

2018 Six Nations meeting: England 15 v. Ireland 24 (Round 5, March 17)