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Stern criticism of the 'elite' International Rugby Board was offered by USA Rugby Chairman Bob Watkins at the Asian Pacific Rugby Congress in Hong Kong, leading to the eventual expansion of the IRB from only eight countries to the over 130 nations today.
The annual matches played between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France were known as the Five Nations championship, or the International rugby championship from 1883 to 2000. When Italy joined in 2000 it was logical that the title for the showpiece to be generally known as The Six Nations Championship.
Ii is not widely known that in fact for over 100 years there was no such official tournament by name. The matches played were merely the annual fixtures between the British, Irish and French countries and it was only the media and fans who awarded a ‘Championship’ at the end of the season. There was no official trophy or title at stake. In 1992 official recognition came for the tournament and a trophy was awarded.
Terry Godwin, who wrote a book in 1984 on the international championship’s first 100 years, could find no definite date when public reference to a ‘championship’ was first made. Godwin believed it was near 1893 or 1894, some 10 years after annual matches had begun involving all four British and Irish teams. In the years that followed, only random mention was made to the ‘championship’ winners or ‘wooden spoon’ winners each year. And even when France was added to the list of annual fixtures for the four ‘home’ teams, it was left off published championship tables until after World War I.
The tournament has encouraged its own terminology. A ‘Grand Slam’ is the winning against all five other teams in the same season. A ‘Triple Crown’ refers to British teams winning against the other three home country teams. France or Italy cannot win a Triple Crown.
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