With the Six Nations running from 5th February to 19th March, bookmaker Fitzdares shares its thoughts on the competition and takes a look back at some of the most memorable matches
The Six Nations is the pinnacle of international rugby in the northern hemisphere, where the best six nations (clue: it’s in the name) in Europe compete against each other in their bid to be crowned champions.
Initially, the competition that we all know and love today looked very different. Founded in 1883, England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland all met in the Home Nations Championship. Since then, the competition has blossomed significantly. Following an enforced six-year hiatus during World War II, it evolved to include France in its mix – in turn becoming the Five Nations.
At the turn of the millennium, the competition rebranded again, giving Italy the green light to come on board and become the sixth nation in 2000. This was just five years after the sport became professional. Since the Six Nations entered its current format, the spoils have largely been shared, with both France and Ireland also getting in on the act. However, England and Wales have historically dominated over the past century. Remarkably, neither Scotland nor Italy have lifted the trophy in the past two decades.
In fact, Italy have been somewhat the whipping boys since they entered the competition, having last won a game at the Six Nations in 2015. It should therefore come as no surprise that they have claimed the ‘wooden spoon’ for finishing last on 16 separate occasions.
However, that isn’t to say that they haven’t upset the odds along the way. None more so than when they stunned France in 2011 to run out 22-21 winners in what is largely cited as the biggest upset in Six Nations history. We had installed Les Bleus as the 1/20 favourites (in simple terms: place a £20 bet to win £1). Astoundingly, the Azzurri shocked the visitors to go on and record the most improbable of wins.
However, it’s the subplots and individual battles between the six teams that truly defines the competition. The oldest of which is the Calcutta Cup. A gift from the Calcutta Rugby Club in India, the silver trophy was made from 270 melted-down Indian rupees. Every year since 1879, England and Scotland have competed for the Cup (aside from during the two world wars), with the silverware becoming synonymous with the Anglo-Scottish rugby rivalry.
One of the most incredible games in Six Nations history was arguably the 2019 Calcutta Cup at Twickenham. England fans could be forgiven for thinking it was job done and business as usual at the break as they led 31-7. Heading out into the second half, England’s odds of 1/100 (£100 bet to win £1) are what people call ‘buying money’. Most people wouldn’t have even considered a bet on England a gamble. What happened next can only be described as extraordinary.
If ever you needed an example to show that momentum is key in sport, then look no further. As the pendulum swung, the Scots were riding the crest of a wave as they hit back with six unanswered tries to take an astonishing 38-31 lead. They were set to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in history.
With the visitors seconds away from ending 36 years of hurt on Twickenham’s hallowed turf, George Ford managed to dart in under the posts and leave an easy conversion [pictured above]. England escaped with a draw, the last-gasp try sparing their blushes. It was, by a country mile, the most incredible and unpredictable Calcutta Cup in its 140-year history.
You could say that it was the perfect result that day for us here at Fitzdares, given that we didn’t lay a single bet on the draw – just as well, given it was a massive 66/1. Whatever there is to come next, we may have to wait another 140 years to witness anything like that.
By Fitzdares, Racing Bookmaker of the Year (fitzdares.com)