The Six Nations, both the men’s and the women’s rugby tournament, takes place every year from the first weekend in February and culminates five weeks later on Super Saturday. The first tournament kicked off in 1883 and featured the then four home nations of the UK: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. France and Italy joined later on in 1910 and 2000 respectively. Every nation plays each other once, resulting in a tournament with a total of 15 matches.
But rugby itself only became a sport in the UK in the 19th century. Until the 1860s, rugby and football were basically the same sport with everyone running and kicking the ball around. It’s thought this original game started all the way back in Scotland and England in the Middle Ages when entire villages would play against each other. People tried to get a ball, usually made from a pig’s bladder, to the opposing village’s cemetery gates. It was known as a ‘mock war’ and wasn’t uncommon for there to be injuries or even fatalities!
In 1871, a game of modern rugby was played between England and Scotland in Edinburgh (which Scotland won). This led to about 12 years of occasional friendly matches between the home nations, after which the Home International Championship, the precursor to the Six Nations, was played in 1883.
Come to Scotland and cheer your favourite team on, once it’s safe to do so! If your country isn’t represented, you’re always welcome to join the Scottish supporters at Murrayfield or in one of the many pubs showing the games.
If you want to see something more like the historic version of rugby in action, check out the Kirkwall Ba’. This event takes place in Orkney every year on Christmas and New Years’ Day, and combines the old rules with a much more gentle play!