Six Nations: Best opening weekends matches

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Italy 34 Scotland 20, February 5 2000

Diego Dominguez inspired Italy to victory in their first ever Six Nations match. David Rawcliffe/EMPICS Sport

Italy were the newcomers and Scotland the reigning champions, but it was the debutants who came out on top as the Five Nations became Six. Talismanic fly-half Diego Dominguez booted 29 points to seal a famous victory for the Azzurri, giving Italian rugby a welcome boost after the ignominy of conceding a century to the All Blacks just a few months earlier at the 1999 World Cup.

Ireland 54-10 Wales, February 3 2002

David Humphreys put in a man-of-the-match performance at Lansdowne Road. Phil Walter/EMPICS Sport

Eddie O’Sullivan enjoyed a dream start to his Ireland reign as his men thrashed Wales by a record score at Lansdowne Road. Ireland ran in six tries, with man-of-the-match David Humphreys adding two conversions and six penalties, but it was an abject display from the Welsh — one that led to under-fire Graham Henry’s departure as head coach just three days later.

Wales 11-9 England, February 5 2005

Gavin Henson gave Mathew Tait a brutal introduction to Test rugby. Stu Forster/Getty Images

It was the day Gavin Henson had the last laugh. Still drowning in the darkest days of the post-World Cup fallout, England looked as though they might escape Cardiff with an ill-deserved win when they took an 8-9 lead with 10 minutes to go. A tricky penalty on the right touchline provided Wales with one shot at victory. After an evening spent very publicly dismantling England debutant Mathew Tait, up stepped Henson to kick the winner and crown his most famous appearance in a Wales jersey.

Scotland 20-16 France, February 5 2006

Sean Lamont scored either side of half-time to power Scotland to victory. Jeff Mitchell/Getty Images

Scotland ushered in the Frank Hadden-era with an historic win over France at Murrayfield. Not since 1999 had the Dark Blues beaten the French, but two Sean Lamont tries either side of half-time and a committed defensive effort at the death sealed victory in Edinburgh. France would go on to be crowned 2006 champions, but Scotland added victories over England and Italy for their best Six Nations showing to date.

England 19-26 Wales, February 2 2008

Lee Byrne finished off an excellent move to spark a Wales comeback. Stu Forster/Getty Images

Warren Gatland’s first match in charge brought to an end 20 years of pain for Wales at England’s headquarters. Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that Welsh changing room at half-time after the hosts had taken control via the boot of Jonny Wilkinson and a try from Toby Flood. Coming back out for the second half 16-6 down, the Welsh touched down via Lee Byrne and Mike Phillips to chalk up a dramatic first victory in what proved to be a Grand Slam-winning campaign.

Ireland 21-23 Wales, February 5 2012

Leigh Halfpenny kicked the winning penalty as Wales stunned Ireland. David Rogers/Getty Images

Another opening day, another stunning comeback by Wales. The lead changed hands five times in Dublin, with Ireland’s Rory Best cancelling out Jonathan Davies’ first try for Wales, and Tommy Bowe matching his second. Victory was Ireland’s until George North barged through Bowe and Gordon D’Arcy for a late try. Leigh Halfpenny, usually so deadly with the boot, pushed the conversion wide as the green shirts descended on him. Moments later, however, he was given a second chance when Stephen Ferris was sin-binned for a tip tackle. This time Halfpenny made no mistake, sparking wild Welsh celebrations to kick off another Grand Slam year.

Wales 16-21 England, February 6 2015

Jonathan Joseph touched down shortly after half-time to give England hope. GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images

Friday night, under the roof in Cardiff — these are the occasions England players have come to fear. Humiliated 30-3 two years previously in the Welsh cauldron, Stuart Lancaster’s men got off to the worst possible start in the 2015 clash. Injury-ravaged, they shipped 10 points before they had time to draw breath, with a grinning Rhys Webb rubbing salt into fresh English wounds. Down 16-8 at half-time, the alarm bells were ringing for the visitors, but a brilliant fightback – led by barnstorming performances from Jonathan Joseph and James Haskell — saw them score 13 unanswered points to silence the home hoards. England’s World Cup year was up-and-running. The less said about its conclusion, the better.

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Six Nations: Best opening weekends matches
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