Six Nations Classics
The 15th season of Six Nations Championship rugby will begin next Saturday, with Wales looking to make history by landing a hat-trick of titles.
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Here, we look back on five classic Six Nations encounters that helped underpin the tournament as a consistent box-office draw.
ITALY 34 SCOTLAND 20 (Rome, February 5, 2000)
Italy's introduction to Six Nations action saw them launch the inaugural competition at Stadio Flaminio as 250-1 tournament outsiders, but they delivered a mighty display highlighted by the contribution of their fly-half marksman Diego Dominguez. The diminutive match-winner kicked 29 points, including three drop-goals, as Scotland were sent packing from the Eternal City and Italy immediately silenced any doubters about deserving their place at European rugby's top table.
FRANCE 25 IRELAND 27 (Paris, March 19, 2000)
Brian O'Driscoll set the tone for a glittering career by scoring three tries at Stade de France as Ireland claimed their first win in Paris for 28 years. Les Bleus could not handle the 21-year-old as he shredded their defence with a display of attacking brilliance that was to become his hallmark during more than a decade at the top. Now in his final season before retirement, O'Driscoll will step away from Test rugby as an all-time great of the game.
WALES 15 IRELAND 17 (Cardiff, March 21, 2009)
It was agonising, dramatic and nerve-tingling, but Ireland finally got there, ending a 61-year wait for Grand Slam glory by defeating defending Six Nations champions Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Brian O'Driscoll and Tommy Bowe scored tries for Ireland, but it required a late drop-goal from fly-half Ronan O'Gara to edge the visitors ahead, and even then they had to look on as Wales number 10 Stephen Jones sent a 50-metre penalty chance with the game's final kick wide of the posts. It was a gripping Six Nations spectacle.
WALES 31 SCOTLAND 24 (Cardiff, February 13, 2010)
Wales and Scotland have a history of producing thrilling, action-packed contests, but nothing could prepare the Millennium Stadium crowd for a finale that even the most ambitious of script-writers would have found implausible. Wales trailed 24-14 with 77 minutes gone as Scotland looked set to mark Chris Paterson's 100th cap in fitting fashion, but after Scott Lawson and Phil Godman were sin-binned, Wales wreaked havoc through a converted Leigh Halfpenny try and a Stephen Jones penalty before wing wizard Shane Williams completed a breathtaking smash and grab raid by touching down deep into stoppage time. Wales were jubilant, Scotland crestfallen.
WALES 30 ENGLAND 3 (Cardiff, March 16, 2013)
England, refreshed and rejuvenated following the appointment of new head coach Stuart Lancaster, arrived in Cardiff on a Grand Slam trail to tackle a Wales team that would clinch a second successive Six Nations title if they won by at least seven points. It was just 9-3 at the break, but the second half proved a Welsh masterclass of attacking accuracy as wing Alex Cuthbert scored two tries to underpin an astounding record triumph for them in the fixture. Wales had started the tournament with a home defeat against Ireland, but ended it as champions. England, in contrast, left Cardiff with nothing.
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