The Guinness Six Nations is where the cream of the crop earn their stripes but longevity is something that few achieve in Rugby’s Greatest Championship.
And while new heroes emerged to make their presence felt in the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, some of the game’s most seasoned campaigners were still at the heart of the action as Wales, England, Ireland, France, Scotland and Italy did battle over six thrilling weeks.
On the opening weekend of this year’s Championship, Italy icon Sergio Parisse rose to the top of the tree, becoming the Guinness Six Nations’ all-time appearance-maker.
The 35-year-old No.8 played his 66th game in Rugby’s Greatest Championship as the Azzurri took on Scotland at BT Murrayfield, moving him ahead of former Grand Slam-winning Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll.
Starting four of his side’s five matches, Parisse would go on to put clear daylight between himself and O’Driscoll and stands tall with a mighty 69 Guinness Six Nations appearances to his name.
Meanwhile, in what looks set to be his final campaign in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, another celebrated gladiator moved up the appearances leaderboard, with Rory Best moving third on the all-time list.
The 36-year-old hooker, who captained Ireland to a Grand Slam in 2018, announced his intention to retire later this year.
In the 2019 Guinness Six Nations, he was a near ever-present for Joe Schmidt’s troops.
Although he missed his team’s bonus-point success over Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Round Three, stalwart Best moved up to 64 Guinness Six Nations appearances, surpassing compatriot Ronan O’Gara (63).
As if he did not have a magical enough campaign, Alun Wyn Jones moved shoulder-to-shoulder with exalted company in more ways than one.
Crowned the 2019 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship, second row Jones captained an all-conquering Wales to their third Grand Slam since 2012.
And, against Italy in Round Two, the 33-year-old reached a half-century of games in Rugby’s Greatest Championship.
Jones now has 53 Guinness Six Nations appearances to his name, having moved past the great Paul O’Connell and level with Willie John McBride in terms of the most-capped lock.
And following in Jones’ footsteps was Italy’s veteran hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini, who also played his 53rd Guinness Six Nations game before his Championship was unfortunately ended by injury.