Seven Of The Biggest Ever Upsets At The Six Nations
The Six Nations, the sport's oldest championship that harks back to 1882, has the trademark on logic-defying results that even the best betting sites for rugby union could not see coming.
While Japan’s last gasp win over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup is arguably the game's greatest ever surprise, the Six Nations odds have also taken a absolute battering from time-to-time.
So, we're going to wind back the clock on the iconic tournament to pick its greatest upsets of all time.
Italy 34 Scotland 20, Stadio Flaminio, 2000
Call it beginner’s luck. The Azzurri marked their Six Nations debut with an emphatic victory over Scotland in Rome.
At 250/1 championship outsiders with UK bookmakers, Italy weren’t given a hope against the reigning holders, yet fly-half Diego Dominguez put in a faultless display, kicking 29 of the home side’s 34 points, including a hat-trick of audacious drop-goals.
Italy struggled to match those heady heights in their remaining four matches and wound up with the wooden spoon, a badge of dishonour they’ve earned 16 times out of the 22 Six Nations they’ve played, yet this was the perfect way to silence the doubters and doomsters who tried to block their inclusion in the expanded tournament.
England 35 Ireland 3, Twickenham, 1988
England v Ireland is one of the great sporting rivalries, but the 1988 Five Nations had been a shameful affair for England up to this point, most memorable for a beer-soaked Dean Richards stumbling down Edinburgh’s Princes Street with Scotland’s John Jeffrey, grubbering the Calcutta Cup along the cobbles.
On the field, despite having just edged the Scots in a forgettable kick fest, England had lost to France and Wales and were yet to register a single try in the tournament – and hadn’t scored one at the home of English rugby for two years.
At half-time, trailing 3-0, it didn’t look like that drought would end until replacement scrum half Richard Harding sparked the match and his side into life.
Harding teed up two tries for 22-year-old Chris Oti – England’s first black player for 80 years – before the Wasps winger scored a blistering third and England notched up their highest score for 50 years.
Oti’s hat-trick try was also significant for inspiring the first impromptu chorus of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that has since become a fan favourite.
Wales 32 England 31, Wembley, 1999
Wales’ record 30-3 demolition of a Grand Slam chasing England in 2013 was notable for the one-sided scoreline, but it was preceded 14 years earlier - at Wembley Stadium of all places - by a jinking run from centre Scott Gibbs that will live longer in the memory.
In 1999 England were again denied a Grand Slam by the Welsh, playing their home matches in north London while their new stadium in Cardiff was being erected.
With England leading by six points and the game slipping into injury time, the Welsh pocket rocket Gibbs carved through four tackles to break English hearts and gift the last Five Nations title to Scotland on points difference.
Ireland 20 England 32, Aviva Stadium, 2019
Dublin, so often the scene of English rugby heartbreak, was transformed into the stage for one of head coach Eddie Jones’ finest victories.
Ireland had just toppled world champions New Zealand in an unbeaten, imperious autumn. They were on a run of 12 home wins on the bounce and 18 victories from their past 19.
England hadn’t scored a try in Ireland in eight years, so it was no wonder the best betting sites had Joe Schmidt's men down as heavy favourites on the day.
But the English set that straight within 95 seconds of kick-off. Manu Tuilagi, a man reborn, flew off the back of a lineout to set a dominant tone for the visitors and Jonny May scored from the resulting move.
A second-half Henry Slade intercept sealed a bonus point victory for England and with it extinguished Ireland’s hopes of backing up their 2018 triumph. It was only England’s second Six Nations win in Dublin since 2003. So one sided was the encounter, the only surprise was that England didn’t win by a bigger margin.
Italy 22 France 21, Stadio Flaminio, 2011
It’s only fair the Six Nations’ eternal whipping boys have a huge say when it comes to historic upsets in rugby betting. Following in Dominguez’s kicking boots, this time it was Mirco Bergamasco who pulled off the ultimate Italian job in the Eternal City.
Les Blues were the defending Grand Slam champions, Italy had endured an eight-try thumping by England earlier in the competition and had only beaten their continental neighbours once before in 32 games.
Yet the hosts fought their way back from 12 points down to earn a shot for glory from the touchline in the 74th minute. The curly-haired Bergamasco duly stepped up to slot the kick, his fifth of the day, to give the Azzurri the lead.
Five heart-stopping minutes and a missed French drop-kick later saw the final whistle blown, sparking a wild roar from the crowd worthy of the Colosseum itself.
Italy 22 Ireland 15, Stadio Olimpico, 2013
The 2013 Six Nations campaign was a one of the few bright spots in Italy’s overall shoddy participation in the competition since they joined up in 2000 and you only have to look at the 2022 Six Nations betting to see not much has changed since.
But, the Italians grabbed their best ever finish in the championship in the 2013 edition, as they matched the fourth place they achieved for the only other time in 2007 – however, they ended this tournament with a better points difference.
On the flip side, 2013 saw Ireland endure a nightmare campaign where they only managed to win one game (their first outing against Wales) and barely avoid the wooden spoon ahead of France.
A Sergio Parisse-inspired Italy outfit toppled France in their championship opener in Rome, so Ireland couldn’t claim they were not forewarned about what was coming at them when they kicked off at the Stadio Olimpico on March 16, 2013.
Winger Giovanbattista Venditti grabbed the only try of the game as the home side ran out utterly deserved 22-15 winners in front of over 74,000 people in the Italian capital.
The Ireland team that day included the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Rory Best, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony, so there really was no excuses for head coach Declan Kidney. It should come as no surprise then that Kidney’s contract was terminated soon after the horror result for Ireland.
England 6 Scotland 11, Twickenham, 2021
As is always the case, England were overwhelming favourites to beat Scotland at Twickenham when the two sides met on the opening weekend of the 2021 Six Nations.
The hosts were outright tournament favourites heading into the renewal and were therefore 1/6 to open with a win against the Scots, who were 9/2 underdogs.
But things don’t always go to play in rugby and Duhan van der Merwe’s try plus Finn Russell’s two penalties saw Scotland chalk up 11 points, which was enough to beat the reigning champions who could only muster up six in return from two Owen Farrell penalties, which kept England in the game throughout.
However, the Scots dug their heels in and held out for what head coach Gregor Townsend claimed to be his country’s best ever Test win.
Indeed, it was their first at Twickenham in 38 years and there could be no better occasion to upset the odds in what was the 150th anniversary of the oldest rivalry in the sport as Scotland reclaimed the Calcutta Cup.
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