The Six Nations: A Tale of Two Championships

imgresYou can’t really argue with a couple of months of solid world-class rugby. But while my days of propping for the CCB Medallion ‘C’ XV are over, I make do with the Six Nations, which is also great.

It’s an even year, which means Ireland are playing France and England away (this roughly translates to “nae chance pal”)- it got me thinking as to how much different the championship gets each year. Wonder no more.

There are two potential ways of looking at this- in one, I’ve looked at the average scores each time the teams played in even and odd years and awarded a win to the team with the higher average score.

Even Years Won Drawn Lost     For Against
France 5 0 0 133 80
England 4 0 1 133 78
Ireland 3 0 2 128 105
Wales 2 0 3 115 116
Italy 1 0 4 69 154
Scotland 0 0 5 75 119
Odd Years Won Drawn Lost    For Against
Ireland 5 0 0 116 87
England 4 0 1 142 78
France 3 0 2 125 95
Wales 2 0 3 108 105
Scotland 1 0 4 88 129
Italy 0 0 5 78 162

France and Ireland swap positions and grand slams in even and odd years, Wales and England stay fast and Scotland and Italy share the wooden spoon. This makes sense: home advantage is a big boost in Rugby. England play one home and one away game against France and Ireland in both years, while Ireland and France play both at home and both away alternately. Scotland play Italy at home in odd years and away in even years.

One thing I found is that being at home gives you an advantage of 4.7 points per game. In odd years, this becomes 2.3 in odd years and 7 in even years. This means that the championship in odd years contains closer games on average (Ireland v France is usually a lot closer with an average Irish victory margin of less than a point than France v Ireland, which France win on average by 13 points).

The other way is to average out the proportion of wins and draws between the teams over the course of the 14 championships, and assign two points for a win and 1 for a draw. Results are below. I am less keen on this method, mostly because it cruelly takes away Ireland’s grand slam.

Even years Won Drawn Lost Points
France  3.86  0.14  1.00  7.86
England  3.14  0.14  1.71  6.43
Ireland  3.00  0.14  1.86  6.14
Wales  2.71  0.14  2.14  5.57
Scotland  1.14  0.14  3.71  2.43
Italy  0.71  0.14  4.14  1.57
Odd years Won Drawn Lost Points
England  3.57  –  1.43  7.14
Ireland  3.43  0.14  1.43  7.00
France  3.00  0.14  1.86  6.14
Wales  2.86  0.14  2.00  5.86
Scotland  1.43  0.14  3.43  3.00
Italy  0.86  –  4.14  1.71

The good news for Scotland is that they avoid the wooden spoon in both scenarios! Wales are closer to third place in odd years, while England take the championship spoils.

As I said, all this is taken over the course of the 14 seasons- I suspect Wales and Italy would improve if I considered only the last eight championships.

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