The history of the Six Nations Rugby competition goes back to the last quarter of the Nineteenth century. In 1871 , England and Scotland played the first rugby union international. Wales and Ireland joined battle in the 1880 s, and the Home International Championships began. By 1910, England had acquired a 10.5 acre site at Twickenham and had built the first international rugby stadium in the world. Previously, England had played their games at Crystal Palace football ground. Over the years since then, the ground has been extensively developed, but has always remained steeped in the culture of rugby. Great rivalry and commitment on the pitch, great friends off the pitch.
In 1910 , the French, who had played in four of the tournaments up to that time, coined the phrase "Five Nations", but by 1931 the inadequacies of the French game's administration led to the Home Unions halting relations with them. Due to this, the championship became an entirely domestic affair for eight years until France rejoined in 1939-40. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of World War Two their re-entry was delayed for a further eight years, - talk about bad timing!.
In 2000 with the addition of the Italian Rugby team, the Five Nations became Six , adding a new dimension to the development and history of Northern hemisphere rugby and hence the title, - Six Nations.
Last year's championship was, if you were an Englishman, a very bitter pill to swallow. I knew, by the form they were showing, that the chances of England winning were not good, but I expected us to come a decent second to France. What I didn't expect, and still can't accept is that the Welsh won the championship. More over, they won it as a grand slam, - they won all their matches. This must not happen again. I do not want to see a similar picture to the one above. It would constitute unusual and unnatural punishment.
In 2003, England were crowned World Champions after a dramatic final in Brisbane against Australia. A superb drop-goal by Johnny Wilkinson sealed the win for England led by the magnificent Martin Johnson. If we are to repeat that win in Paris in 2007, - a short 18 months away, then this season is really England's make or break season. We have simply just got to start winning, - and winning well. Just scraping a win is not good enough. We need to show dominance, control and flair. I'll give my run down on the teams tomorrow, but this year, France are again favorites and probably rightly so judging from performances during the Autumn internationals, but we should at the very least gain the Triple Crown, - that is a win against each of the home nations (Wales, Ireland & Scotland) and push France very hard if we are to have a credible build up to the World Cup. This season's Six Nations is just the place to start developing that winning habit again.
And finally, boys, you owe it to this young lady to start winning again!