What is the Centenary Quaich trophy?

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The destination of the Guinness Six Nations trophy may not be finalised this weekend, but there is still an impressive piece of silverware up for grabs when Scotland locks horns with Ireland at BT Murrayfield – the Centenary Quaich trophy.

The build-up to the match

Ireland is set go into the match with spirits high after bouncing back from defeats in the opening matches with a comfortable win over Italy. Its campaign under coach Andy Farrell started in disappointing fashion when it was edged out by Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, the cause not helped by playing most of the match a man short after a red card with only 14 minutes on the clock. Despite that handicap, Farrell’s men suffered a defeat by only five points.

The arrival of France at the Aviva stadium offered Ireland a chance to make amends, but another frustrating afternoon saw a further narrow loss, this time by only two points. However, a six try win in Rome offered a confidence boost ahead of the trip to Edinburgh.

Scotland has also endured mixed fortunes so far. A scintillating victory over England at Twickenham on the opening day raised hopes that Gregor Townsend’s side might be title contenders. However, in a match that had echoes of Ireland’s clash with Wales, Scotland had a man sent off against the Welsh, and then lost by a single point, quelling its optimism. There was also the on-off saga of the trip to face France – a match that was eventually postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the French camp.

What is the Centenary Quaich?

With Ireland’s prospects of lifting the overall title gone, and Scotland’s hopes in the balance, the focus this weekend is on the Centenary Quaich, which has been contested by these sides since 1989. The fixture dates back to 1877, when the Ormeau Cricket Ground in Belfast was the venue, but the trophy is a fairly recent addition. The quaich – a two-handled drinking cup that takes its name from the Gaelic term “cuach” – originated in Scotland, but the strong connection between the two nations makes it the perfect prize for a contest between the pair.

Historically, a quaich would have been carved from wood into a shape said to have been inspired by flat-shaped bowls used in England and the Netherlands. Over time, its appearance was enhanced by adding a band of silver around the top. That embellishment also evolved, and the silver was decorated and added to the handles and the base, creating the type of trophy at stake this weekend.

Although Ireland has won nine of the past 10 encounters, the fixture is traditionally a hard-fought affair, and the outcome of this year’s clash is equally difficult to predict given recent form. Honours are even, with the countries having met 137 times on international duty – each has chalked up 66 victories and there have been five draws.

An intriguing encounter is in store before we learn whether it will be Scotland or Ireland that will drink from the Centenary Quaich.

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