DUBLIN (AP) — The Six Nations is introducing bonus points next year on a trial basis.
The tournament finally comes into line with other major events in rewarding attacking play; the Rugby Championship has used bonus points since 1996, and the Rugby World Cup since 2003.
Until now, Six Nations winners earned two points, draws earned one each, and there was nothing for losers.
Next year, winners earn four points, a draw earns two, and teams receive bonus points for scoring four tries or more, or losing within a seven-point margin.
Also, a team which wins all five of its matches for a grand slam is awarded three extra points. That's to prevent a situation like in 2002, when in a bonus-points situation, England would have finished with the same points as France, which achieved a grand slam.
Six Nations chief executive John Feehan said in a statement they wanted to retain the chance of a dramatic final weekend to the championship with better play overall.
"We are 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," Feehan said.
England won this year with a round to spare, its first championship since 2011.
But if bonus points applied, England would have won in 2013 instead of Wales. Wales beat England 30-3 in the final round to win the title on points difference, but in a bonus-points system, Wales' failure to earn any during the championship would have cost it. England's win over Scotland would have earned it a four-try bonus point, and been the difference.
The tournament opens on Feb. 4 with Scotland vs. Ireland, and England vs. France. Italy plays Wales the next day.