It’s that time of the year again when I get very excited about one of the oldest rugby contests in the world – The 6 Nations. Of all the topics online that I “follow” (outside of Search!) the one that I think has the broadest reach and amuses me most is probably rugby. It has also impressed me that rugby as a whole has embraced online, and in particular social media, so wholeheartedly in a relatively short period of time.
With this in mind I thought it was a great time to have look at how this old school competition has migrated and grown in popularity thanks to online and in particular the social space.
For those of you living outside the “Home Nations,” it might be worth providing a bit of an introduction to the 6 Nations. Inaugurated in the 1880s, the Home International Championships – as it was originally named –consisted of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The addition of France in 1939 and Italy in 2000 saw the competition being renamed the 5 Nations and then the 6 Nations. The competition consists of each country playing the five other teams throughout February and March.
Come the end of January the competition is officially launched , captains named and the saturation of digital media officially starts. My first digital recollection of the 6 Nations online was via a Guinness Fantasy rugby site back in 2004, but since then the 6 Nations and its proponents have saturated all forms of digital and in particular social media.
Facebook  perhaps leads the field in terms of fans (731K likes) and hosts a heated debate following each game and round of the tournament. The question posted on Facebook – “Who will be lifting the trophy March 16th” received 1,472 comments in just two days. The social media profiles really engage the target audience with on-trend topics without over-moderating and most importantly without showing bias towards one nation over another. Here’s just one other of many engaging posts from the last week:
The fans are not always so well behaved – Brian from Scotland: “I hope England get trashed by Italy and take the spoon. Blue and green. Best teams in the world.” Oh dear.The tone on Twitter lends itself more to the traditional gentleman’s approach to the game. The banter on Twitter is led by players past and present, the retired players tending to provide more authoritative, insightful commentary versus the comedic and generally amusing commentary of current players. Old school analysis of the tournament is provided by people like Will Greenwood , who regular interact with the fellow fans:
While Ireland’s own Brian O’Driscoll  provides insights into the antics in the Irish and Leinster camps:
(Jonny Sexton is another Leinster and Irish player, of course)
What impresses me the most is how the tournament has optimised its various facets online; from the official site content to the content repurposed across social network activity. The official site is content rich, regularly updated, socially connected and appropriately linked (with a Page Rank of 5).
With the tournament kicking off in just 3 days, news items are posted to the site every hour and the country specific versions  provide up to date information to fans on all team related topics – including naming the teams within minutes of the official announcements.
There’s so much more for 6 Nations fans to discover online as well – for more information check out an array of related properties:
I’ll be staying regularly updated thanks to all of the 6 Nations online profiles and well-oiled and optimised sites, I assume you’ll all be doing the same, right?!