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Rugby Union Five Nations Championship

The Five Nations Championship, with its predecessor, the Home Championship, was the premier international rugby union tournament in the northern hemisphere. After 12 years of occasional friendly matches between the teams, the inaugural Home Championship, comprising England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales was played in 1883. The addition of the French in 1910 brought the number of nations to five, and it was another 90 years before a sixth team, Italy, joined the competition. Since then it has been known as the Six Nations Championship. The competition is something of an anomaly since the Irish team is comprised of players from both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Played annually, the format is simple: each team plays every other team once, with home field advantage alternating from one year to the next. Two points are awarded for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. Victory in every game results in a so-called "Grand Slam", victory by a home nation (i.e. excluding France and Italy) over the three other home nations is a "Triple Crown". The victors of the game between England and Scotland win the "Calcutta Cup".

The importance of the competition has decreased slightly since the introduction of the Rugby Union World Cup, but the long standing rivalries between teams mean that it remains a passionate and fiercely contested prize.

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