Ireland are the first team to win consecutive Guinness Six Nations Championships either side of a Rugby World Cup.

Andy Farrell’s team have shown true resilience to bounce back from the disappointment between Championship titles, producing emphatic and commanding performances throughout the series. The likes of captain Peter O’Mahony, Cian Healy, Conor Murray, and Iain Henderson have now won as many Championship titles as any other players; this group will be full of excitement and confidence ahead of their summer tour against World Champions, South Africa.

Insights provided by Sage throughout the Championship have highlighted the identity of this Irish team: relentless, uncompromising, smart. Ireland averaged the most passes per match (197.8) but the shortest pass distance (5.8 metres), going phase after phase to break down their opposition. Their loss against England was the only match in which they made fewer than a kilometre of passing distance (665 metres). They recovered and asserted themselves against Scotland in Round 5, stringing together a round-high seven sequences in which they made more than ten passes, compared to two the previous weekend. Their surprise defeat in Round 4 was the only blight on an otherwise rampant campaign, during which their high possession game plan was applied with ruthless precision.

England were the only team to topple the Champions, but grew into the Championship rather than showing the consistency of Ireland. Last season, England dominated kicking metres, finishing as the only team who averaged more than a kilometre of kicking distance per match (1,048 metres). Particularly in their last two matches, England showed a different dimension in 2024, attacking with intent and invention. George Ford – who started all five matches at 10 – was key to this development. Playing teammates into holes at the gainline, Ford’ average pass depth was 1.03 metres against Ireland and just 88 centimetres against France; his razor-sharp passing game allowed dynamic, physical threats such as Ben Earl and Ollie Lawrence to penetrate the gainline. The 2024 Championship could’ve played host to a paradigm shift for a new-look England side.

Though they did show real signs of promise, England were pipped at the post by France for second place. France similarly improved throughout their campaign. The shadow of World Cup disappointment and the absence of their talisman, Antoine Dupont, were evident in their home defeat to Ireland in Round 1; lacklustre performances against Scotland and Italy followed. However, France rediscovered themselves in the later stages, expressing their innate flair in their performances. Nolann le Garrec was undoubtedly a catalyst for this. When he received the ball 68 metres from England’s try line, he whipped a 16.6 metre pass at 54.4 km/h to the edge; running a clairvoyant tracking line, five passes later he finished off the attack. Thomas Ramos – deputising at fly-half for Romain Ntamack and Mathieu Jalibert by the end of the Championship – partnered him well with his accuracy off the tee. Ramos kicked a 46-metre penalty against England, the longest of the Championship until he broke his own record from 46.3 metres out in the 80th minute.

Despite their resurgence later in the Championship, they narrowly avoided a home defeat at the hands of Italy. The Azzurri were consistently greatly improved in the 2024 Guinness Six Nations, earning them a historically successful campaign: Italy narrowly lost to England, were put to the sword by Ireland, but claimed two wins and a draw in their other matches. This improvement stems largely from their dogged defence, inspired by captain Michele Lamaro, who was the only player to make over 100 tackles in the Championship. The security of their defence meant they became increasingly comfortable without the ball, pressuring their opposition to play in inopportune positions rather than vice versa. Only one team made fewer passing metres in a match this season than Italy against Wales (495). Learning that they could create opportunities without the ball, their pass-to-kick ratio dropped incrementally in the final three rounds. This allowed them to make the most territory from penalty kicks to touch, an average of 194 metres per match. The growing strength and confidence of Italy will only improve the quality of the Championship.

Italy’s success was notably at the expense of Scotland, who finished fourth despite anticipation that 2024 could see their maiden Six Nations win – testament to the competitiveness of the Championship. This season, Scotland tried to balance their scintillating attack with more astute tactical play. They averaged more kicks per match than any other team (32.3) and Finn Russell – renowned for his deft touches in attack – made 1,095 more kicking metres than any other player, a total of 2,551. Scotland, via the likes of Huw Jones and Duhan van der Merwe, produced some remarkable tries from this platform. However, Scotland also conceded more territory than any other team from penalty kicks – an average of 194 metres per match – including 212 against Ireland on Super Saturday. Nonetheless, this Scotland team made history by winning their fourth consecutive Calcutta Cup. The Championship may have evaded them, but Scotland once again lit it up with several moments of brilliance.

Despite a rampaging first-half performance in Round 1, Scotland’s weaknesses were exposed by Wales in the second period of that match. Wales’ campaign was one to forget, with the four-time Grand Slam Champions failing to win a match in 2024. However, the highlight of their Championship was how close they came to a record-breaking comeback in Round 1, during which they dominated Scotland in terms of passing metres (1,182 to 794). Tomos Williams’ assist of Rio Dyer was the flashpoint for this resurgence, spinning the ball 17.2 metres at 46.8 km/h to find his winger. They say time is a healer, how will this young side react to a disappointing campaign?

The Guinness Six Nations remains the premier championship in international rugby, and the 2024 iteration brought with it as much entertainment and drama as any other. Insights provided by Sage elucidate the mechanics of teams’ progress up and down the table, season on season. With hotly anticipated tests between Northern and Southern Hemisphere teams next up in the international calendar, how will the fortunes change by the time we get to the 2025 Championship?