Attacking play to be rewarded in Six Nations with bonus points system trial
Six Nations chiefs say they want to reward "try-scoring and an attacking style of play" after introducing bonus points for this season's flagship tournament.
The Six Nations Council announced that a bonus points system will be trialled in the 2017 RBS-sponsored championship, plus the women's and Under-20 competitions, before it is reviewed.
Among those welcoming the move was 2015 World Cup final referee, Welshman Nigel Owens, who tweeted: "Great idea. Have been a supporter of bringing it in for a while. Well done Six Nations."
The system will use a tried and tested formula operated in other major rugby union events like the World Cup, Rugby Championship, European tournaments, Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO12.
Four match points will be awarded to a winning team, with an extra point if they score four tries or more, while losing teams will be awarded no points but can collect a bonus point for scoring four tries or more or losing by a margin of seven points or less.
A drawn game will see countries awarded two points each, with an additional point for scoring four tries or more.
Additionally, a country that wins all five matches and achieves a Six Nations Grand Slam will be awarded a further three match points.
The three extra points awarded for winning all five games removes the unlikely possibility of a country having a 100 per cent record and still not being crowned champions.
It could have happened in the improbable event of a team claiming five victories and finishing on 20 points, while another team could win four matches - each with a maximum five-point haul - and then collect one or two bonuses in the game they lost for a maximum of 21 or 22 points.
Under the trialled system, though, five wins of four points each - plus three for achieving the Grand Slam - would make an unassailable total of 23 points.
The opening weekend of this season's competition sees Scotland hosting Ireland, followed by reigning champions England entertaining France on February 4, with Wales tackling Italy in Rome 24 hours later.
Six Nations chief executive John Feehan added: "The drama and excitement of the last weekend of the RBS 6 Nations Championship is unique, and is, more often than not, driven by a number of teams on equal Championship points all competing for first place on the table.
"It is important for us to ensure that any bonus point system which is implemented would not, in any way, take away from this unique dynamic.
"At the same time, we are also conscious that we must reward try-scoring and an attacking style of play that will deliver more tries and greater rewards for fans and players alike.
"We are very excited about the potential that this new development will bring to the Championships, and we look forward to trialling it next February and March."
The Six Nations began in 2000 when Italy joined the established countries of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and France.
England and France have each won the title five times, with Wales claiming four titles and Ireland three.
Had bonus points been awarded in last season's Six Nations, the finishing order would have been exactly the same - England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France, Italy.
Six Nations chairman Pat Whelan added: "We have been looking at the feasibility of a bonus point system for a while and examining what kind of bonus point system would work best, given the unique properties and format of our Championships.
"We needed to ensure that whatever bonus point system we selected would work with the already proven structure of the Championships, and would serve to materially improve what is already there.
"We are happy that the system that we have decided to trial is the one best-suited to our Championships, and we are delighted to be going ahead with this new development.
"We believe that the initiative will enhance our competitions for fans, teams, broadcasters and all of those for whom the Championship means so much."