Auld Alliance Trophy: Two trophies at stake in the Six Nations showdown in Paris

The Guinness Six Nations Rugby tournament draws to a close this evening, with the fate of not one, but two trophies to be decided.

France defeated Grand-Slam chasing Wales on Saturday thanks to a last-gasp try in what many have described as one of the greatest Championship matches of all-time, keeping their title hopes alive. They host Scotland at the Stade de France tonight, needing a bonus-point victory and a winning margin of at least 21 points to become champions for the first time since 2010.

Scotland too have a great deal to play for, with an eight-point victory enough to secure second spot in the tournament.

To add to the excitement, there is another historic title to be decided, with both sides also playing for the Auld Alliance Trophy.

The Auld Alliance Trophy

The Auld Alliance trophy was commissioned in 2018 by Scottish Rugby and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) in tribute to the courageous rugby players from the two nations who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War, and to celebrate the historic relationship between Scotland and France.

It specifically commemorates the captains of the two nations in the last matches played before the First World War – Eric Milroy (Scotland) and Marcel Burgun (France), both of whom perished in the conflict.

It is also a tribute to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In all, 22 French and 30 Scottish internationals were killed in action, along with countless other club players from both nations.

The driving force for the creation of the trophy was Patrick Caublot from Amiens Rugby Club in France, who worked alongside David Anderson QC, a great-great nephew of Eric Milroy, in promoting the concept to both the FFR and Scottish Rugby.

The trophy is to be contested once more on Friday, 26th March at the Stade de France as Scotland take on France in the Guinness Six Nations Rugby Tournament.

The two nations first met on the rugby pitch in 1910, when the two teams played against each other in Edinburgh. Scotland won the match 27–0. Since then there have been a total of 97 games played, resulting in 56 wins for France, 38 wins for Scotland and 3 draws.

One of the most remarkable matches in the history of international rugby took place between the two sides in Paris on 1st January 1920. This was not only the first official international played after the First World War, it was also the first time back in country colours for a number of players on both sides after serving during the conflict.

French sources have christened this meeting “Le match des borgnes”, as it is believed that five of the 30 players on the field lost an eye in the war. The match was played in mud and driving rain, with Scotland winning 5-0.

Since the creation of the Auld Alliance Trophy, there have been three meetings of the two teams, with Scotland winning twice and France once, with a total of 70 points scored by each side, so expectations are high for a competitive and exciting match.

The Auld Alliance Trophy was designed and made by world-renowned trophy makers Thomas Lyte. Using traditional silversmithing and goldsmithing skills combined with leading-edge modern methods, the team at Thomas Lyte are experts in the fields of custom trophy design and manufacture, and is responsible for some of the world’s most iconic sporting trophies, including the Rugby World Cup’s Webb Ellis trophy, the Emirates FA Cup, the Davis Cup trophy and the Guinness Six Nations trophy.

The Auld Alliance Trophy in Thomas Lyte’s silver workshops

The trophy stands at an impressive 60cm in height and was hand spun from hallmarked Sterling Silver, requiring a total of 110 craft hours to create. The contemporary sweeping form of the trophy rises up in remembrance, while the clipped edge refers to lives so tragically cut short. Around the trophy is a band of poppies and cornflowers, exquisitely engraved in line form to encourage a closer look, while the bright mirror finish applied patiently to the sterling silver surface allows for personal reflection as we remember all those who fell.

“The Auld Alliance Trophy is a very significant commission for Thomas Lyte, commemorating an immensely sad time in our history, while celebrating one of rugby’s great contests” said Thomas Lyte Founder and CEO Kevin Baker.

“This trophy is a magnificent symbol of considered craft. I have no doubt the whole Thomas Lyte team will be watching with pride tonight, with the incredible opportunity to see this wonderful trophy lifted alongside perhaps one of our most famous trophy commissions, the Guinness Six Nations trophy itself”.

Read more on the Thomas Lyte website.

Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship: BBC explores the symbolism of iconic trophies as live sports continue to inspire during the pandemic

Wales still have one hand on the Guinness Six Nations trophy, but France snatched away the chance of a grand slam last weekend in dramatic fashion, keeping their own hopes of winning the tournament alive. And what a trophy it is; a six-sided objet d’art that was designed and made by none other than the Queen’s goldsmiths and silversmiths, Thomas Lyte.

“It is made from seven kilograms of Sterling silver and an enormous amount of passion and art and desire as more than 200 hours of work go into it,” said Kevin Baker, CEO, Thomas Lyte in an interview with the BBC’s World Business Report, who have explored what it takes to design and make such an iconic sporting symbol.

Makers of iconic sporting trophies such as the one on show in Paris this Friday have always been about much more than merely business, though there is obviously a money side to it all.

Trophies can cost anything from a few thousand pounds to more than a million, though a significant piece of silver such as the Six Nations trophy will cost tens of thousands of pounds to design and make, Baker explained in the interview with the BBC World Service radio, though he declined to be more specific due to client confidentiality.

“It is a significant investment,” he acknowledged, albeit an obviously important one for the sports and the tournaments, given that they play such important roles in our lives.

“It is ultimately the event symbol,” Mr Baker said, and as such a trophy will also be a symbol of hope for us all as we face difficult times due to the global Covid pandemic.

“Sport has been an enormously resilient asset that has supported all of us, or many of us, in terms of both mental health and entertainment,” Baker said.



A redesigned trophy for an expanded tournament…

The Six Nations trophy is a prime example of a powerful symbol of both inclusiveness and unity; values that are truly important during times such as these.

The six-sided trophy was made as recently as in 2016 to reflect the facts that there are now six nations playing in the championship.

“It was only the second time a trophy was made in almost 140 years since the 1883 tournament started,” said Baker.

The bespoke trophy was handmade by expert British silversmiths in Thomas Lyte’s London workshops, and was presented to the winners on 21st March, 2016. The 1993 edition of the trophy was retired as it only represented the Five Nations Championship before Italy joined the tournament.

Hand spun from hallmarked sterling silver, the 75cm high Trophy underwent the process of casting, spinning, hand engraving and polishing. Crafted from one single sheet of silver for the body and more than fifty individual pieces, the six-sided Trophy represents each competing nation with each nation’s crest engraved on the plinth.

“There are many trade secrets to it,” said Baker. “When you look at some of these iconic pieces, made from many traditional crafts techniques, some that go back to Roman times, such as hammers and chisels. But then we add in leading edge technology, such as 3D scanning and 3D printing, so there are many processes going on.”

But perhaps the most important part of a sports trophy such as this one is the way it encompasses both the distinctive history of the tournament and its exciting future.

“There’s been no crowds during matches recently, but live sports have indeed continued,” Baker said.

Listen to Thomas Lyte CEO Kevin Baker on BBC World Service Radio’s World Business Report. The interview starts at 17m20s.




The Guinness Six Nations Rugby Championship

The Guinness Six Nations Rugby Trophy