The home nations, refers collectively to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (countries of the United Kingdom), and in certain sports (e.g. rugby football) contexts, to England, Scotland, Wales and the whole island of Ireland. The term "Home Nations" is used in this second sense partly because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have a unified association structure in certain sports, such as the Irish Rugby Football Union. Formerly the phrase was applied in general in this same wider sense, such as the period between 1800 and 1922, before the political partition of Ireland, when the whole island was part of the United Kingdom. The term "Home Countries" (not to be confused with the "home counties") is also sometimes used, and is synonymous.
A debate took place among the football associations that govern the sport in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, over whether they would allow their members to participate in the 2012 Summer Olympics as a single UK team. The English Football Association (the only association in favour of participation), and the news media used the term Home Nations to describe the parties to the debate. In the event, a team consisting only of English and Welsh players took part (with the Football Association of Wales still opposed, but not placing sanctions on those Welsh players who chose to play).