The previous points-scoring system was relatively basic, with teams awarded two points for a win and one for a draw.
But, in a 2017 trial that has now become a permanent format, Six Nations teams are now awarded four points for a win and two for a draw – with a bonus point available for scoring more than four tries in a match or losing by seven points or fewer.
Unlike other formats, the Six Nations committee also included a third scoring method, the awarding of three extra points to a team that wins all five matches, thus avoiding the unlikely but otherwise possible eventuality that a Grand Slam-winning side earns fewer points than a team who loses one match but wins enough bonus points to overhaul them.
Ireland were the first team ever to earn a bonus point in the competition, although it will have been scant consolation as they were beaten 27-22 by Scotland on the opening day of the 2017 tournament.
Six Nations 2018 bonus points system
Win – four points
Loss – no points
Draw – two points
Scoring four or more tries – one point
Losing by seven points or fewer – one point
Winning a Grand Slam – three points
The bonus point system is used in the majority other rugby competitions but the Six Nations had previously resisted.
However, in November 2016 Six Nations chief executive John Feehan confirmed 2017 would be a trial year for the competition to use the system to reward attacking rugby.
“The drama and excitement of the last weekend of the Six 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,” Feehan said.
“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.”