The drama of the Six Nations is an almost guaranteed pub crowd-puller but with a World Cup to follow later in the year, there will be even more attention than usual on the annual event.

Something that will no doubt please Guinness, the new headline sponsor of the event - now known as the Guinness Six Nations.

With the Northern Hemisphere sides having enjoyed a successful autumn against the likes of the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia, whoever comes out top of the European pile will head to Japan in September with genuine aspirations of winning the William Webb Ellis cup.

As it stands, Ireland, Wales and England line up in that order behind the All Blacks in the world rankings, which points towards a very tight Six Nations – and some drama-packed sessions in the pub.

 

 

The opening weekend sees England travel to Ireland in a match that could set the tone for the tournament. Wales will be hoping to ruin St Patrick's celebrations when the Irish visit Cardiff on the final Six Nations matchday on March 16.

Iris McBride, owner of McBrides on the Square in Comber, Northern Ireland, recalls how the tournament finished last time around, with Ireland sealing the Grand Slam at Twickenham on March 17.

She says: "The Six Nations is always very big for us. It is probably the biggest sporting event of the year. On that Saturday when Ireland played England, we had people queuing up outside the pub.

"We do lots on beer sales, mainly Guinness. We get a really mixed crowd in. Lots of men but lots of couples too."

Drawing a rugby crowd with stacks of Guinness and Ireland going for a Grand Slam may sound simple enough but McBrides has been building a rugby fan base for years.

The pub offers an Ulster Rugby Package to help supporters get to and from home games at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, around 10 miles down the road.

For around £25 each, customers get a ticket to the game, a coach trip to and from the match, plus a burger in the pub before and a pint back there afterwards. It ensures that even customers who to go to live games spend at least some of their matchday in the pub.

Iris adds: "We have a regular crowd and a lot of them will come in to watch Ireland play as well."

 

 

Winning line-up

Steve Williams will be hoping that his pub in Newport, The St Julian Inn, will be full of jubilant Welsh rugby fans in February and March. "After winning all of the autumn international games and being ranked so high, things are looking good for Wales so it is an exciting time for the Six Nations," he says.

"We will be busy for every Wales game but especially when we face our old enemy England. We are the best of friends and the worst of enemies at the same time and we have had some memorable nights in here, such as in 2013 when we beat England 30-3 to win the title and stop them winning the Grand Slam."

The tournament provides Steve with a general trading uplift, but especially on drinks. "We are very much a cask ale house and a lot of the hoppy ones do well for us at this time of year. I'll be getting some in from Dark Star and Tiny Rebel. We also sell a lot of Guinness and also lagers such as Carling do well."

Steve also makes sure his customers have some food to keep them going.

"It feels very much like a rugby club in here on match days. We cook a huge curry for half-time and 70 or 80 people walk through the kitchen to get their dollop of curry with some bread and chips."

Wales and Ireland fans will not be the only ones looking forward to a rugby feast. England, Scotland, France and Italy will also have their eye on the prize — and many of their fans will be on the lookout for a great pub in which to enjoy the action.

 

SIX NATIONS FIXTURES

 

Friday February 1

France v Wales 8pm

 

Saturday February 2

Scotland v Italy 2.15pm
Ireland v England 4.45pm

 

Saturday February 9

Scotland v Ireland 2.15pm
Italy v Wales 4.45pm

 

Sunday February 10

England v France 3pm

 

Saturday February 23

France v Scotland 2.15pm
Wales v England 4.45pm

 

Sunday February 24

Italy v Ireland 3pm

 

Saturday March 9

Scotland v Wales 2.15pm
England v Italy 4.45pm

 

Sunday March 10

Ireland v France 3pm

 

Saturday March 16

Italy v France 12.30pm
Wales v Ireland 2.45pm
England v Scotland 5pm

All games live on BBC or ITV