A is for Anthems It may or may not be more meaningful than the dire confection known as "Flower of Scotland", but poor old "God Save the Queen" doesn't really cut it; not when set against "La Marseillaise", with the tears running down the cheeks of some pug-ugly French prop with a face like a corkscrew, or the "Soldier's Song", always sung passionately by the Irish before home games in Dublin. That great Welsh song, "Hen Wlad fy Nhadau", is another spinetingler, as is "Il Canto degli Italiani", the Azzurri anthem.
B is for Blanco The most bewitching individual ever to grace the championship, the great French full-back Serge Blanco played in every tournament between 1981 and 1991.
C is for Cholley The paratrooper, potato farmer, chauffeur and sometime prize fighter, Gerard Cholley was undoubtedly the beast of the Five Nations. Once he laid out four Scots in a single game. Scary? You could say.
D is for Dismissal For much of rugby's history, Hannibal Lecter himself would have been allowed to remain on the field, such was the leniency of officials. So when the referee Norman Sanson sent off Welsh lock Geoff Wheel and Irish No 8 Willie Duggan for fighting during the 1977 match in Cardiff, the shock to the system was considerable. Only 10 players have copped it since the Wheel-Duggan affray.
E is for Edinburgh A quintessential Six Nations city, even though the current all-seater stadium at Murrayfield is nowhere near as evocative as the old towering-terrace version.
F is for Five Nations Tie It has happened only once, in 1973: an equal win-loss split across the piece, with all the contenders winning twice at home and losing twice away.
G is for Grand Slam Beat all the others and you have yourselves a Slam. Since Italy joined the party in 2000, turning Five Nations into Six, France and Wales have two modern clean sweeps to their name.
H is for Hancock Once in a while, a ho-hum player earns himself a place in rugby lore by virtue of a single stunning act. Andy Hancock, a Northampton wing of no great pace, ran the length of the field in the boggy 1965 Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham to draw the game for England.
I is for Italy They don't win often and until they find half-backs as good as Alessandro Troncon and Diego Dominguez, the good moments will remain rare. But no one wants to lose them. The Roman stroll towards Stadio Flaminio from Piazza del Popolo is as close to bliss as rugby gets.
J is for Jarrett The Boy Wonder. At 18, Keith Jarrett was still at school in Monmouth when an injury-hit Wales picked him to play full-back against England in Cardiff in 1967. He contributed 19 points – a try, five conversions, two penalties – to his country's 34-21 victory.
K is for Kicker If forwards decide who wins matches, it is the marksmen who usually carry out their bidding. As you would expect, a chap called Wilkinson figures in most "best of" tables, kicking more championship conversions than anyone else (81).
L is for Lowe As in Cyril Lowe of Cambridge University and Blackheath, who scored eight tries for England in the 1914 tournament, a tally equalled by Ian Smith of Scotland 11 years later but never surpassed. Lowe had the dubious honour of being immortalised in verse by P G Wodehouse, in these terms: "There he stood, poor little chappie, looking lonely and unhappy..."
M is for Mias Perhaps the principal architect of French rugby. Lucien "Dr Pack" Mias was recalled to the Tricolore side in the late 1950s and set about transforming their forward play, with great results. In 1958, he led France to a series win in South Africa. A year later, he was instrumental in securing a first ever outright Five Nations title.
N is for Not Completed The tournament had its wings clipped several times in the pioneering days of the 19th century, but only once since 1898 has it been left unfinished. The level of terrorist activity across the Irish Sea in 1972 was enough to persuade both Scotland and Wales to stay home. It hurt the Irish team badly, for having won in both London and Paris, they clearly had a side capable of going through the card.
O is for O'Gara Frail little Ronan from Munster has scored more points in championship rugby – 499, to be precise – than anyone in history. Will he reach the magic 500?
P is for Pullin A farmer on the banks of the Severn just outside Bristol, the hooker John Pullin remains one of the most revered figures in the English game. When the bullets were flying in Ireland in the 1970s, he and his team fulfilled their championship commitments by playing in Dublin.
Q is for Quins There are many who believe the England side who achieved the Grand Slam in 1992 to have been the most dominant of them all. Which club was at the heart of the matter? Not Bath, not Leicester, but Harlequins.
R is for Ringer Match Played against a background of rampant Thatcherism and grisly industrial relations, the England-Wales match in 1980 was as close as sport gets to class war. A deeply unpleasant affair, marred by outbreaks of stamping and head-kicking, turned against the Welsh when their flanker, Paul Ringer, was sent off for a late tackle. Even though the visitors played most of the game with 14 men, England still needed a late penalty from Dusty Hare to win 9-8.
S is for Slow Walk England recovered from the Ringer experience to secure a first Grand Slam in 23 years. They thought they were set fair for another at Murrayfield in 1990 until David Sole, the Scotland captain, set a blood-curdling tone by leading his side into the arena at a pedestrian pace never before seen in international rugby. They duly won 13-7 and seized the Slam themselves.
T is for Trophy The Six Nations trophy is a 15-sided sterling silver pot worth more than £50,000.
U is for Unbelievable Of all the great championship tries down the years, the mind's eye always falls on the "try from nowhere", scored by French wing Philippe Saint-André on Grand Slam day in 1991.
V is for Victories Anyone for a quick run down the honours board? England, the biggest union, are also the most successful: most outright titles (25), most Triple Crowns (23) and most Grand Slams (12).
W is for Wooden Spoon A verbal description, this is the prize for a side losing all five of their matches and therefore being whitewashed.
X is for X-rated If the "Ringer match" was brutal, the 1992 France-England game at Parc des Princes was off the scale. Two of the home front-rowers, Gregoire Lascube and a semi-crazed Vincent Moscato, were sent off.
Y is for Yawn By and large, England do not play the most exciting brand of rugby.
Z is for Zillions The RFU tried to secure more money for itself in 1996 by withdrawing from the joint committee of the Home Unions and unilaterally flogging broadcasting rights to what was then known as BSkyB for £87.5m. Ireland, Scotland and Wales reacted by expelling England from the championship. A month later, the RFU-satellite deal was dead and buried and the BBC were back in business with their terrestrial coverage.Reuse content