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Six Nations: Greatest Matches

The Six Nations is an incredible advert for international rugby union, providing the drama and excitement necessary to entice even the most casual viewer.

A quick browse through the history books throws up all kinds of results, and here we have our rundown of a combination of the best matches, and in some cases, outstanding moments, in the competition's history.

Rugby Union

Ireland 32-19 France - 2023

There might be recency bias at play here, but Ireland's win over France on the second weekend of the 2023 Championship goes down as one of the greatest games in Six Nations history.

With both sides undoubtedly head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, Les Bleus travelled to Dublin eyeing a victory that would go a long way towards them winning a second straight Grand Slam.

In their way stood an Ireland side who had won four out of five in the 2022 tournament, before going on to claim a first-ever series victory over New Zealand.

Billed as the Championship decider despite its early place in the competition, both teams flew out of the blocks, but Ireland always had the edge, albeit they were also the beneficiaries of some kind, perhaps questionable, TMO calls.

Scores from Hugo Keenan, James Lowe, Andrew Porter and Garry Ringrose also secured a four-try bonus point, one of four they collected on their way to their own Grand Slam.

Both sides would eventually crash out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup and were arguably victims of their own brilliance. 

The ferocity and physicality of this game set the benchmark, showing the other leading nations the heights they would need to reach to achieve if they wanted to realise their aspirations of lifting that year's Webb Ellis Cup. 

England 38-38 Scotland - 2019

A late converted try from George Ford sealed a draw for the Red Rose on the final day in 2019, or, should that be, spared their blushes.

England flew into a 31-0 lead through tries from Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May and Twickenham was alive with the chimes of ‘Swing Low…', but the home side took their foot off the gas to allow Stuart McInally to reply before the break.

What happened next was almost unfathomable, as a brace from Darcy Graham and further tries from Magnus Bradbury, Finn Russell and Sam Johnson gave Scotland a 38-31 lead with four minutes to go.

On came the onslaught and England's pressure told, Ford converting his own final play try to level the scores, with the disappointed look on his face illustrating the embarrassment Eddie Jones' men felt. 

Scotland had the consolation of retaining the Calcutta Cup and, with 76 points in total, they were also part of the highest-scoring draw in international rugby history.

England 55-35 France - 2015

With both Wales and Ireland winning earlier on the final day in 2015, England knew they had to beat France by 26 points to seal the title.

Les Bleus' raced into a 15-7 lead, but the poor start allowed Stuart Lancaster's side to release the shackles as they ran in seven tries in total to rack up their greatest-ever points tally against France, with Ford also adding 20 points with the boot.

However, the French were also in rampant form, grabbing five tries of their own to upset England's party.

In the end, the 20-point winning margin proved insufficient, and Ireland took the title.

Wales 30-3 England - 2013

In a real Six Nations ‘Super Saturday' showdown, Wales and England met in Cardiff with both having eyes on winning the Championship.

Having lost their opener to Ireland, Wales gradually grew into the tournament and knew a victory by seven points would give them the Championship.

England were looking to emulate their hosts' exploits from 12 months earlier by sealing the Grand Slam, their first since 2003, but were blown away by a superb second-half showing from Warren Gatland's men.

A brace from Alex Cuthbert, plus a combined kicking performance from Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar saw the Welsh not only get what they needed to defend their Six Nations title, but also lay down a marker for that summer's British & Irish Lions tour of Australia.

Fourteen of the starting side that day earned selection for the victorious trip Down Under.

Ireland 6-42 England - 2003

After losing out on a Grand Slam in the final round in both 2000 and 2001, England finally had a chance to put those demons to bed as they went to Dublin in March 2003.

Ireland were one of the sides who had previously broken their hearts but in a World Cup year, visiting captain Martin Johnson wasn't going to let anything stand in his or his team's way.

The lock laid down the gauntlet pre-match by lining up for the national anthems on the wrong side. Ireland said the left was ‘lucky', but Johnson refused to move and the Irish president Mary McAleese had to walk on the pitch for the usual pleasantries, rather than the red carpet.

England went on to destroy Ireland, Will Greenwood grabbing two of his team's five tries to further solidify their confidence in a year that would see them go on to claim global glory in Australia.

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