People are rightly excited about this year’s Six Nations, some already hailing it as the most competitive. But, if this is to be best Six Nations, what is the competition? The Six Nations was welcomed into this world by the greatest championship of them all, 1999’s end-of-a-century romp. Here are the six best editions since (see, not everything has to be five).
This one’s included almost exclusively because of its famous last day. An extraordinary second-half spree by the Welsh in Rome in the first match sent rugby fans into a delirium of drama. In the end, England fell short of Ireland’s points difference by six, despite beating France 55-35 in the final match. Wonderful, surreal events.
The Six Nations’ first decade was superior to its second. This little gem of an edition fits in a run of three consecutive years in this list. Its first weekend showcased the heaviest defeat ever suffered by grand-slam champions – Wales’s to England – and a win for Scotland over France, which would cost the latter a grand slam. Italy later picked up their first away point, in Wales. And Ireland, 20-1 at the start, might have clinched the title on the final day, but France eventually overcame Wales.
Included more for its exhibition of greatness than for its drama. England were on their way to World Cup glory, and their dismantling of Ireland in Dublin in a grand-slam decider served notice of their intent after the disappointments of preceding years. But, actually, that final win aside, they were less rampant in this championship than earlier.
This was the year they should have won the grand slam. England were unplayable at this point, annihilating sides as a matter of routine. Ireland in Dublin was the third-round assignment and victory all but certain. But the foot-and-mouth outbreak ripped this and two other Ireland fixtures from out of their natural place. When rescheduled the following autumn, momentum had changed, and Ireland denied England the grand slam.
Wales have won three grand slams in the Six Nations era. Indeed, it is often overlooked that the Six Nations has had more grand slams than not (nine out of 17). Which makes sense, as teams get on a roll, but it can be quite dispiriting on the entertainment front. Not this one. This was brilliant, seat-of-the-pants madness from start to finish.
The final day of 2015’s championship may be the most famous, but it’s far from the only to have seen the fate of the title up for grabs. Four teams went into this finale with hopes of varying degrees of realism. And, get this, one of them was Italy, courtesy of their first away win – an incredible rout of Scotland – followed by a home win against Wales. Ireland’s rout of England at Croke Park was fairly unforgettable too. In the end, France pinched the title from Ireland with a last-gasp try against Scotland, which required TMO verification.