How you divide time up is one of those debates loved by some historians, so this view of the statistics thrown up by the last 10 seasons of Six Nations rugby must be seen in that context. Not everyone would accept that Saturday's England-Scotland epic was the last match of the current decade, arguing that it actually started in 2011 and continues next year. And 10 years is in any case a pretty arbitrary period, in statistical terms favouring players whose careers start early in the period.
That said, it is also a decent amount of rugby -- 150 Six Nations matches, or 50 for each team -- so the numbers should have something to say about the way the game has been over the last 10 seasons...
0 wins for Italy against England or Wales in this period, completing consecutive decades of futility against the English. The contrast is offered by Ireland, who were involved in all three of the era's tightest rivalries, splitting 5-5 with England, losing out 4-5-1 to Wales and edging France 5-3-2, with the points difference for each over the whole period in single figures.
0 points were scored by 364 players during the decade, of whom Dylan Hartley (44 matches) and Alun Wyn Jones (40) played most and Gordon D'Arcy, a fine, creative centre (21) is perhaps the most surprising.
1 team in the entire history of the tournament has trailed by 24 points and not lost -- Scotland against England on Saturday. Only 14 in its entire history have been so far behind at the break, and the others went down by an average of 37 points, with none recovering to within single figures -- Ireland's revival to 43-31 after trailing 29-3 in Paris in 2006 was the closest. And of course even that slightly understates Scotland's achievement, since they were 31 points down immediately before the break. If you dig a little deeper to look at the 53 teams in tournament history with a half-time deficit of 17 points or more, their record before Saturday was 0-52, with an average defeat of 29 points, and only two getting within a single score.
2 teams during the decade both scored the most tries and conceded the fewest in a single campaign, but neither was among the five teams who won Grand Slams. Wales in 2013 and Ireland the following year did both win the title with their four victories, although Wales would have been squeezed out by England had the modern points system applied.
3 red cards were issued, all in 2014. Replacement props Rabah Slimani and Michele Rizzo left Jaco Peyper little option late in the France vs. Italy match by exchanging butts, and Stuart Hogg's challenge on Dan Biggar was too much for Jerome Garces early in the Wales vs. Scotland match on the last weekend, turning a potentially exciting match into a procession for Wales.
4.03 was the average number of tries scored per match, 604 in 150, down from the record 4.47 in the 2000s. The previous highest was 4.01 in the 1920s, leaving us to wonder whether this is the product of brighter rugby or of the defensive struggles of a team still to find its way competitively -- in the 1920s, France.
5 draws suggests a result making something of a comeback after two apiece in the 1990s and 2000s, although not yet remotely to the point of the 1960s when 15 percent of matches ended level.
6 drop goals by Dan Parks in the first three years of the decade left him still well ahead in this category, and slightly obscured the extent of its decline, an average of just under 0.23 per match not hugely behind the numbers for the 1950s, when the average was 0.27. But the last four seasons have seen only 7 drop goals, with a lowest of one in 2016, or an average of 0.12 across 60 matches. If not extinct, it remains an endangered species, until some smart coach spots an advantage in reviving it in the same way that Llanelli and Australia in the 1990s started contesting line-outs which had become as predictable in their outcome as scrums.
6 four-win seasons for England, a level of consistent achievement that might in an era less fixated on Grand Slams have earned a little more appreciation, although it did not help that only two of them, in 2011 and 2017, led to championships.
6 wins for Italy, the same as in the 2000s, but with more than a hint of regression. Their dispiriting sequence of four consecutive whitewashes with which they ended the decade is a tournament record and can only be welcomed by Scots pleased to see their miserable run from the 1950s erased from the record books.
7 tries for Yoann Huget, first in a series of French numbers which illustrate their weakness this decade, his try against Italy on Saturday bringing him level across the decade with Wesley Fofana. It was also the most by a forward, Ireland's Jamie Heaslip.
8 wins from behind at half-time by Wales, squeezing ahead of England's seven and further building on a long historic lead: Wales have come from behind to win 53 tournament matches, against Scotland's 38, France's 32, Ireland's 30, England's 29 and Italy's four.
10 tries from Jonny May have brought him equal with Jonathan Joseph as England's highest scorer, his six this season -- an impressive effort by any standards, even if eclipsed by Jacob Stockdale's truly extraordinary eight in his debut season last year -- completing a run of 10 in nine Six Nations matches following a start in which he failed to score in any of his first 11.
12 tries made by Stuart Hogg, Scotland's leading scorer of a decade in which he was also their most frequent starter (35) and winner (also 12).
12 yellow cards for France, the fewest by any team and perhaps the only positive category in which they led. Scotland received the most with 24, followed by Wales with 22 -- including the most memorable of the 102 issued during the decade, prop Sam Lee getting carded by Wayne Barnes with time already up in Paris in 2017, but being able to return and play several more minutes as additional time went on, and on, and...
14 wins for Scotland, the same as in the 2000s, but with two draws compared to one then, edging their success ratio up to 30 percent, but completing the worst back-to-back decades in their history and arguably the worst full stop.
15 points by Romain Ntamack in his first season included all four possible means of scoring -- try, drop goal, penalty, conversion -- a single penalty up on the minimum of 12 needed for the feat and making him the ninth to achieve it across the entire decade.
16 winning captain's press conferences made the affable Chris Robshaw the most successful captain of the decade. No surprise, unfortunately, in the man most on the receiving end -- Sergio Parisse -- whose grace and calm in being asked to explain 34 defeats was almost as remarkable as his contribution to trying to avert them.
16-0 was France's lead over Wales at half-time on the opening night of the 2019 tournament, requiring an all-time tournament record turnaround to enable all that followed.
19 straight defeats for Andrea Lovotti make him the most ill-starred player in tournament history.
19 tries make George North the leading scorer of the decade, ahead of Hogg and Keith Earls, both on 12, but just short of the record for a single decade, Brian O'Driscoll's 21 in the 2000s and the Five Nations era mark of 20, set by Ian Smith of Scotland in 18 games in the 1920s.
39 defeats for Leonardo Ghiraldini, that fine hooker who departed on Saturday with the best 'warrior carried out on his shield' impersonation since Paul O'Connell at Cardiff in the 2015 World Cup. His final service to his nation is to ensure that there's at least one losing category not topped by the magnificent Parisse (36). Ross Ford tops the non-Italians with 29.
44 matches made Dylan Hartley the player who appeared most without receiving a yellow or red card, a just rebuke to anyone who nominated him as England's likeliest sin-ban inhabitant in consecutive tournament previews. Followed by Alun Wyn Jones on 40.
48 appearances made Rory Best the most-capped player of the decade ahead of Dan Cole (45), Ghiraldini, Hartley and Cian Healy (44) and Johnny Sexton, the most-capped back with 43. John Hayes' 49 in the 2000s remains the record, although JPR Williams, who played 38 of Wales' 39 matches in the 1970s, also went through a decade missing only one match. There were no Frenchmen in the top 25, with Guirado's 32 appearances making him their most-capped and Yoann Maestri (27) the only player to start more than half of their matches.
74 percent success, from 36 wins and 2 draws, made England the champions of the decade, with Wales (69) second and Ireland (63) third. Following on from their best ever 80 percent in the 1990s and 66 percent in the 2000s, England are arguably in the strongest period of sustained success in their history.
75.3 percent of conversions, 455 out of 604, were kicked during the past decade, eclipsing the previous record of 73.5 percent in the 2000s and continuing a steady upward progression from 64 percent in the 1990s and 43.2 percent in the 1950s. Wales, with 81.3 percent (87 out of 107) had the highest success rate for the second decade running.
81.08 percent success, with 29 wins, made Ben Youngs arguably the most successful Six Nations player of the decade, with nobody who played more than 20 matches topping that percentage. Jeremy Guscott achieved 84.44 percent with 28 wins in the 1990s, while JPR loomed over the 70s tournament with an 81.57 per centrate from an all-but ever-present decade.
402 points make Owen Farrell the highest scorer of the decade, staying ahead of Johnny Sexton (380) on a final day neither can have much enjoyed. Leigh Halfpenny's absence left him on 375 and meant that the three-way race that seemed possible before the season did not happen. Greig Laidlaw was next on 290 and Morgan Parra, the highest-scoring Frenchman, managed only 147. Tommaso Allan topped 100 for Italy on the final day.
616 players won Six Nations caps in the 2010s, with Ireland calling upon the fewest (90), None of the four home unions reached 100 and France's debilitating lack of community is evident in their tally of 127. While one might debate whose decade this was -- England's lead is hardly as conclusive as their own in the 90s, France's in the 80s or Wales' in the 70s -- the one thing it most emphatically was not was the Decade of the French. Blip, or longer-term decline? It'll take at least another 10 years before we can come up with definitive answers.