Cea mai prestigioasa competitie de rugby din emisfera nordica, Turneul Celor 6 Natiuni, programeaza in acest an editia cu numarul 107, cele mai bune sase echipe de pe Batranul Continent concurand pentru suprematie si glorie.
In continuare, va voi prezenta o descriere a acestei competitii, facuta de mine in 2001, ca o parte a atestatului de limba engleza.
SIX NATIONS’ HISTORY
The Six Nations Championship is the oldest rugby championship in the world, dating back to 1882. Originally held between the four United Kingdom countries England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, France joined in 1910 and Italy joined in 2000.
When the English rugby team traveled to Swansea on a dreary day in 1882, few could have realized the importance of the occasion. The game, in which England beat Wales by two goals and four tries to none, sparked a festival of rugby that has since become the pride of the northern hemisphere. Known in the early days as the International Championship – with only England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland competing – it was far less organized than the modern tournament.
There was no points system, for example. Instead, teams were judged simply on whether they won or lost.
Before the turn of the century the Championship was marred by disputes and three times (in 1885, 1887 and 1889) it could not be completed. Indeed, even after 1900, it continued to be a source of controversy.
England and Scotland were the most successful teams in the early days, but by the mid-1890s the Welsh had developed an impressive side and a new system that would alter the face of the game.
This “four three-quarter” system came into its own in 1893 when Wales became champions for the first time, winning rugby’s “invisible trophy”, the Triple Crown – beating all three other home nations.
Their success showed the other Home Union sides that the six backs/nine forwards game would no longer be effective against the Welsh system and four threequarters became the norm at national and club level.
By 1900 all of the four Home teams had found success at a game that was rapidly growing in popularity.
In the first decade of the 20th century, Wales were the team to beat. Unbeaten at home between 1900 and 1913, they won six outright titles before England staged a revival that coincided with the 1910 opening of the RFU’s new home at Twickenham. The very first international at Twickenham brought England success over Wales, and heralded a golden era for English rugby.
2.FOUR BECOMES FIVE
France did not join the fray until 1910 and, despite their later dominance, they struggled at first to achieve any notable success. They did however, coin the phrase ‘five nations’. In their first four years of entry, the French won just one game – a one point victory over Scotland in 1911.
The outbreak of war in 1914 saw the tournament put on hold until 1920 and the inter-war years were dominated by England as they swept to nine championship victories, including five Grand Slams.
Scotland collected their first Grand Slam in 1925 with an emphatic win against England at Murrayfield. In 1926 , Scotland became the first Home Union side to defeat England at Twickenham after England had won the Grand Slam (winning the Triple Crown AND beating the French) five times in eight seasons.
France continued to struggle and in 1931 the inadequacies of the French game’s administration and the discovery that a number of their players had been paid at club level, forced them to pull out of the tournament. Due to this, the championship became an entirely domestic affair for eight years and France rejoined in 1939-40, with the outbreak of World War Two delaying their re-entry for a further eight years.
3.RISE OF THE FRENCH
War again meant the curtailment of the championship in 1940. But when it resumed in 1947 it marked the beginning of a new rugby order.
In the early post-war seasons, Ireland hit the front, taking three outright titles including consecutive Triple Crowns in 1948 and 1949.
France shared the title in 1954 and 1955 and the “Tricolores” won it outright in 1959, driven by stars such as the inspirational lock forward Lucien Mias, fullback Pierre Lacaze and flanker Francois Moncla. They were champions for four years in a row from 1959 to 1962 and in 1968 won their first Grand Slam.
The 1970′s brought mixed fortunes for both the Championship and the teams. In 1972 the tournament could not be completed after Scotland and Wales refused to play in Dublin because of the escalating political problems. And the following year the tournament finished with a unique five way tie – every country having won and lost two games.
For Wales, however, the 1970s will be remembered as the golden era of Welsh rugby. They finished the decade with three Grand Slams and one Triple Crown and were led by legendary players such as fullback JPR Williams and scrum-half Gareth Edwards. The Welsh side were absolutely unstoppable. Only an outstanding French side prevented them from adding to the three Grand Slams achieved in this decade. England struggled throughout the 1970s and most of the following decade – their only relief being Bill Beaumont’s Grand Slam winning side of 1980. Instead, it was France who dominated, winning the title outright three times, including two Grand Slams in 1981 and 1987.
In 1984, Scotland won their first Grand Slam for 59 years and Ireland scooped the title 12 months later. They have not won it since.
5.A GLIMPSE AT THE FUTURE
The dominance of England and France during the 1990′s brought criticism that the championship was not offering a high enough standard of competition.The response was to bring an end to the historic format by asking Italy to join in 2000.
Ironically, the past three campaigns have seen something a Celtic revival. In 1999, Scotland took the championship and Wales finished third, having defeated both England and France. And in 2000 and 2001, England claimed the tournament – but only after losing their final games against Scotland and Ireland respectively.
Italy, meanwhile, started the newly christened Six Nations championship superbly, winning their opening game against Scotland in Rome.