The 6 Nations Rugby Championship kicks off tonight and will provide the rugby world with thrilling, sporting entertainment for the next six weeks. This year’s championship is seen as a precursor to the Rugby World Cup, however, the tournament has a long, colourful history and has witnessed some of the world’s greatest players. British Pathé’s cameras covered much of the tournament’s history in its earlier formation as the 5 Nations.
The 5 Nations tournament was officially formed in 1910 although the home nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) had unofficially played France in 1908 and 1909 seasons. England won the inaugural tournament with Wales securing the competition’s first grand slam in 1911.
England dominated the early years of the tournament and, despite the interruption of war, won back to back grand slams in 1913 and 1914 and again in 1923 and 1924. These would be the first of 11 grand slams by England, making them the competition’s most successful team.
Although trounced in Twickenham 19-0 the previous year, Scotland claimed their first grand slam in the 1925 season and secured the championship again in 1926, 1927 and 1929.
The championship suffered some upheaval in its early years and was suspended twice due to WW1 and WW2. France were also excluded from the tournament briefly in the 1930s for rumoured professionalism, strictly prohibited in rugby union at the time.
Ireland had the better of the initial post-war years and won their first grand slam in 1948 followed by championships in 1949 and 1951.
France too experienced a post-war revival and collected their first championship with Wales in 1954. Their first outright championship win came in 1959. Although they led the tournament in the 1960s, they had to wait until 1968 to secure the first French grand slam.
British Pathé’s coverage of the 5 Nations ended in 1970 with perhaps the best team to ever play in the tournament. Wales dominated rugby in the Northern Hemisphere in the 1970s winning 6 outright championships and 3 grand slams. The film below sees them trouncing England 30-9 on their way to securing their first title in 1969.
Although now played by professionals on immaculate pitches in state of the art stadiums, the heart of the 6 Nations remains as it was when filmed by British Pathé…pride, passion and skill.
Enjoy the Games!