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Posts Tagged ‘2016 6 Nations’

Despite a stutter with about 20 minutes to go, England succeeded in beating France and winning the Grand Slam. Wales thrashed Italy, and Ireland beat a resurgent Scotland in the final weekend of the 2016 6 Nations.

Wales v Italy

Wales needed to make amends for their terrible first half performance against England in Twickenham last week, and in many respects they did. They beat Italy 67-14, running in nine tries and scoring their highest ever points tally in a 6 Nations match. Whereas it took Wales 60 minutes to wake up last week, against Italy they were dominant from the start and showed the kind of attacking flair which fans are so desperate to see in other matches.

Why Wales cannot move the ball wide with such skill and speed against better opposition is something I don’t fully understand. Each time they went wide they looked dangerous, and yet against better opposition Wales play a narrow game and the wingers rarely see the ball. With a daunting three-test tour of New Zealand coming up in June, and a “friendly” against England at Twickenham at the end of May, surely this next few months is the time to try and add some variety to the Warren-ball game plan which has become all too predictable. I fully expect Wales will be taught a rugby-playing lesson by the All Blacks in June, which will once again show the massive gulf between us and the best in the World. So, why not try something different and see if we can move the ball wide as much as possible; we have nothing to lose as we are going to lose anyway!

Ireland v Scotland

Scotland continue their revival by giving Ireland a run for their money in Dublin. Although Ireland won 35-25, Scotland were more than decent opposition and had their chances to have made this match even closer. Until Scotland had a player sin-binned deep into the second half, they genuinely looked like they could win this pulsating match. I am so pleased to see this long-awaited revival of Scottish fortunes, it has been too long since they were a decent team and hopefully they are on their way back to where they were 20-odd years ago.

France v England

You never know where you are with France, and this match proved that cliché as much as any I’ve seen. After looking abject throughout most of this 6 Nations, France put in a performance which rattled England. In fact, if they had not had so many of their line outs stolen, France could have won this match. Going in to the last quarter England were 25-21 up and France looked the better team. But, thanks to some superb line out work by England’s two second rows, les Bleus lost too much vital possession and field position, and England held on to win their first Grand Slam since 2003.

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England held off a second half surge from France to win the Grand Slam for the first time since 2003

Although I was hoping for an upset in Paris, as of course I wanted to see England fail at the final hurdle as they have done 5 times in the last 20 years, I do have to say that they thoroughly deserved to win this year’s 6 Nations. True, Wales could have beaten them if the game had continued another 5 minutes, but had we done so it would not have been a fair reflection of England’s dominance in the match. Yesterday’s match in Paris was, in fact, a much closer affair, despite what the scoreline says. At no point did England look particularly dominant, and a more confident France could well have given the upset so many of us non-English wanted to see.

The summer tours

As has now become customary, the Northern Hemisphere countries will now trek south in June to take on the Southern Hemisphere countries. Wales go to New Zealand, England to Australia and Ireland to South Africa. Scotland go to Japan, which is not the easy tour that it used to be.

I fully expect Wales to lose 3-0 in their test series; which is not being pessimistic, just realistic. England could well give Australia a tough series; they have certainly been the team who have improved most since their terrible display in the World Cup. Ireland have been strange; two decent performances, a reasonable performance against Wales, but two terrible performances against England and France. It will be interesting to see how they get on in South Africa.

Most teams seem to now look upon the period after a World Cup as a time to rebuild, and I sincerely hope that Wales’ rebuilding includes adopting a more adventurous game plan, we certainly need it. We have gone backwards in the last 3 years; it is time for a rethink amongst the Welsh management.

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Today I thought I would suspend my usual Friday post of the countdown of the 100 greatest songwriters as determined by Rolling Stone Magazine and post, instead, a poem by one of my favourite Welsh-language poets – Waldo Williams. The poem I have chosen has been in the news a bit this week as BBC Wales have used an English translation of it in their trailer for tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) big rugby showdown between England and Wales.

As anyone who knows anything about Wales will tell you, we are big on rugby. It has become our religion. We get pretty excited about any rugby international, but when it is against England (the old enemy), and by beating England we can both scupper their chances of a Grand Slam and put us in a position to win the 6 Nations Championship, then the excitement goes into overdrive.

But, more about the rugby later in this blogpost, first Waldo Williams and the poem.

Who was Waldo Williams?

I feel a bit of a connection with Waldo Williams as he was born in Haverfordwest where I grew up. Then, at 7 years of age, he moved with his family to Mynachlog Ddu in the Preseli mountains, a place where some of my ancestors on my paternal grandfather’s side of the family also lived. He spoke only English before he moved to Mynachlog Ddu; his father was a Welsh speaker but his mother spoke only English. As Mynachlog Ddu was (and still is) a Welsh-speaking community he quickly became fluent in Welsh; but apparently always spoke to his sister in English as that is the language in which they had started their relationship.

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Waldo Williams (1904-1971) was a Welsh poet, anti-war campaigner and political activist who grew up in Mynachlog Ddu, Pembrokeshire

After graduating in English from the University College of of Wales, Aberystwyth (now Aberystwyth University) he became a teacher, and went on to become headmaster of the local school in Maenclochog (near Mynachlog Ddu). He became a Quaker in the 1950s, and during the Korean War he refused to pay his taxes as a protest against the war. For this refusal, he was sent to prison several times.

As a teenager I  had a poster of one of Waldo’s poems on my bedroom wall, a beautiful poem called Cofio, which I will have to blog about in the future. I also included two lines from his poem Preseli at the beginning of my PhD thesis back in 1992. These lines are

Mur fy mebyd, Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy, Tal Fynydd

Wrth fy nghefn ym mhob annibyniaeth barn

which I translated as

The Wall of my youth, Bare Three Cairns, Saddle Cairn, Tall Mountain,

Behind me in all my independence of opinion

(Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy and Tal Fynydd are three mountains one can see from Mynachlog Ddu). The same words are on the memorial stone to Waldo, which stands overlooking these three mountains of his youth. I quoted these lines at the start of my Thesis as it summed up, for me, what growing up in the rugged countryside of Pembrokeshire engenders in its people; an independence of opinion and a preparedness to choose the path less followed.

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The memorial stone to Waldo, which stands overlooking the three mountains mentioned in the lines of his poem

Pa Beth yw Dyn?

Pa Beth yw Dyn? was published in Waldo’s only book of poetry, Dail Pren (The Leaves of the Tree), which came out in 1956.

Beth yw byw? Cael neuadd fawr
Rhwng cyfyng furiau
Beth yw adnabod? Cael un gwraidd
Dan y canghennau.

Beth yw credu? Gwarchod tref
Nes dyfod derbyn.
Beth yw maddau? Cael ffordd trwy’r drain
At ochr hen elyn.

Beth yw canu? Cael o’r creu
Ei hen athrylith.
Beth yw gweithio ond gwneud cân
O’r coed a’r gwenith?

Beth yw trefnu teyrnas? Crefft
Sydd eto’n cropian
A’i harfogi? Rhoi’r cyllyll
Yn llaw’r baban.

Beth yw bod yn genedl? Dawn
Yn nwfn y galon.
Beth yw gwladgarwch? Cadw ty
Mewn cwmwl tystion.

Beth yw’r byd i’r nerthol mawr?
Cylch yn treiglo.
Beth yw’r byd i blant y llawr?
Crud yn siglo.

Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has done a translation of this poem, and it is his translation which is used in the BBC Wales trailer for tomorrow’s match. His translation reads

What is living? The broad hall found
between narrow walls.
What is acknowledging? Finding the one root
under the branches’ tangle.

What is believing? Watching at home
till the time arrives for welcome.
What is forgiving? Pushing your way through thorns
to stand alongside your old enemy.

What is singing? The ancient gifted breath
drawn in creating.
What is labour but making songs
from the wood and the wheat?

What is it to govern kingdoms? A skill
still crawling on all fours.
And arming kingdoms? A knife placed
in a baby’s fist.

What is it to be a people? A gift
lodged in the heart’s deep folds.
What is love of country? Keeping house
among a cloud of witnesses.

What is the world to the wealthy and strong? A wheel,
turning and turning.
What is the world to earth’s little ones? A cradle,
rocking and rocking.

This is an alternative translation by Tony Conran

To live, what is it? It’s having
A great hall between cramped walls.
To know another, what’s that? Having
The same root under the branches

To believe, what is it? Guarding a town
Until acceptance comes.
Forgiveness, what’s that? A way through thorns
To an old enemy’s side.

Singing, what is that? The ancient
Genius of the creation.
What’s work but making a song
Of the trees and the wheat?

To rule a kingdom, what’s that? A craft
That is crawling still.
And to arm it? You put a knife
In a baby’s hand.

Being a nation, what is it? A gift
In the depths of the heart.
Patriotism, what’s that? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What’s the world to the strong?
Hoop a-rolling.
To the children of earth, what is it?
A cradle rocking.

The England v Wales BBC Trailer

Now, finally, tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) big rugby match between England and Wales. It is the fourth weekend of the 2016 6 Nations, and as things stand England and Wales are the only two undefeated sides. England have 3 wins from 3, and Wales have 2 wins and a draw from 3. The winner at Twickenham tomorrow is almost certainly going to win the 2016 Championship, so the stakes could not be higher.

Wales and England have played each other 127 times. Remarkably, both sides are incredibly even; England have won 58 times and Wales have won 57 times, with 12 matches drawn. Wales have beaten England more times since 2008, and the last time we played (at Twickenham) was when we helped dump England out of the  World Cup.

Wales v England results since 2008
Year Venue Competition Score Winner
2015 Twickenham 2015 Rugby World Cup 25-28 Wales
2015 Cardiff 2015 6 Nations 16-21 England
2014 Twickenham 2014 6 Nations 29-18 England
2013 Cardiff 2013 6 Nations 30-3 Wales
2012 Twickenham 2012 6 Nations 12-19 Wales
2011 Cardiff 2011 World Cup Warm Up Match 19-9 Wales
2011 Twickenham 2011 World Cup Warm Up Match 23-19 England
2011 Cardiff 2011 6 Nations 19-26 England
2010 Twickenham 2010 6 Nations 30-17 England
2009 Cardiff 2009 6 Nations 23-15 Wales
2008 Twickenham 2008 6 Nations 19-26 Wales

As this table shows, since 2008 Wales and England have played 11 times. Wales have won 6 times, England have won 5 times, and there have been no draws. It couldn’t be much closer!

Hopefully, with Wales having beaten England the last time they played, and it having been at Twickenham, Wales will have the edge tomorrow. I cannot wait for the match. And, to get you in the mood, here is the BBC Wales trailer, with Rowan Williams’ translation of Pa Beth Yw Dyn? read by Welsh actress Erin Richards…..

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Erin Richards reading Waldo Williams’ poem Pa Beth Yw Dyn? (What is Man?), as translated by Rowan Williams

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Going in to the 3rd weekend of the 2016 6 Nations  there were three unbeaten countries – England, France and Wales. With Wales beating France on Friday, and England beating Ireland on Saturday, the scene is now set for a showdown between England and Wales in the fourth round in a fortnight.

Wales v France

This match was the first of the weekend, being played on Friday evening in Cardiff. I am currently in Namibia (Southern Africa), but there was no problem finding a place to watch the match as all the 6 Nations games are being shown on a South African sports channel here. I watched the Wales v France game in a restaurant, but I have to say I found the contents of my plate far more interesting than the first half of this match.

Wales went in to half-time 6-3 ahead in a dour first half. Thankfully the second half was slightly better; Wales quickly opened up a 19-3 lead thanks to a try by George North and a conversion and two penalties by Dan Biggar. However, the highlight of the second half for me was the wonderful defence that Wales showed in keeping France out during a 15-or-so minute siege of their try line.

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Wales defeated France 19-10 in Cardiff on Friday evening

France did get a consolation try when the game was all but over, to leave the final score 19-10. This scoreline gives a slightly false impression of the game; a game in which France created nothing and looked even worse than a lacklustre Wales. Wales have now beaten France five times in a row, the last time we lost to them was the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup in November 2011. Additionally, Wales have now gone undefeated in seven straight 6 Nations matches; our last defeat was to England in Cardiff in the opening match of the 2015 6 Nations.

Italy v Scotland

I saw nothing of this game, but I am pleased to see that Scotland halted their abysmal run of 6 Nations defeats by finally registering a win, beating Italy 36-20 in Rome. They showed such promise in the World Cup, and I really hope they can use this win to start winning some 6 Nations matches and playing as well as they did in last year’s World Cup. The 6 Nations is better when playing against Scotland are not a guaranteed win, as it seems to have been for almost all the other countries for the last several years.

England v Ireland

I did not watch this match, but I followed it on the internet. England had a narrow 6-3 lead at half-time, and went down 10-6 through a try by Ireland scrum half Connor Murray. From what I read, in a short 10-minute period in the second half they scored two tries and went from 6-10 down to a 21-10 lead, which they never relinquished, despite having 2 players sin-binned. So far, they are the team that have most impressed me in this 6 Nations, they have found a new lease of life under the new coach Eddie Jones.

Twickenham callling

The fourth round of 6 Nations matches in a fortnight’s time, and the big match is England v Wales in Twickenham on the 12th. Thankfully I will  be back from my travelling for that match, so far I have been away for all three rounds. This game is massive for both sides. For Wales it is, of course, a chance to not only defeat the old enemy, but to win two matches in a row at Twickenham for the first time since the 1970s, and to scupper England’s chance of a Grand Slam and to leave us with the strongest chance of winning the Championships ourselves (with only Italy at home remaining).

For England, it is an opportunity to put the nightmare of their defeat by Wales and their exit from the World Cup behind them. There is absolutely no doubt that both sides will look upon it as the biggest match of the 6 Nations, and I expect a very fiery encounter. if Wales are to stand any chance of winning they will certainly have to play better than they have so far done in this 6 Nations. But, a sign of a good team is when they win and don’t play particularly well in doing so. I think this is true of this Wales team. We shall see in Twickenham!

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Wales coach Warren Gatland has announced the Wales team to face France in Cardiff tomorrow (Friday) evening a day early. He has made three changes from the team who defeated Scotland on Saturday February 13, with one of his changes being to bring winger Alex Cuthbert back into the starting fifteen. I have to say, I am surprised by this decision as Cuthbert’s form of late has been woeful, but there is no doubt that Gatland is a fan of the big winger.

The other non-enforced change is to bring Dan Lydiate back in as blind side flanker, with captain Sam Warburton moving back to his preferred position of open side flanker. I think most pundits agree that playing Warburton at blind side and having Justin Tipuric at open side in our opening two games of this year’s 6 Nations has not really worked. Being at blind side, Warburton has been slower to the breakdown than he normally is, and as a consequence Wales have not been able to turnover possession as much as they usually do. We have also, in my opinion, missed Lydiate’s chop-tackling. But, there is no doubt that it is nice to have the flexibility of either playing Warburton with Lydiate or pairing him with Tipuric, and Gatland would argue that he sets the balance of the back row depending on who the opposition is.

The third and final change is enforced by injury to Luke Charteris, so Bradley Davies comes in to replace him in the second row.

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Coach Warren Gatland has made three changes to the Wales team to face France tomorrow (Friday) evening in Cardiff. Two are tactical, one is enforced by injury

Wales go into their third game of the 2016 6 Nations undefeated, with a draw away from home against Ireland in their opening match, and a win over Scotland at home in the second round. France, however, have two wins from two, with wins over Italy and Ireland. In my opinion, France have not looked very impressive in either of these two wins, and Wales have a good chance I think of racking up their fifth win in a row over them.

The other matches this weekend are both on Saturday, Italy v Scotland followed by England v Ireland. Ireland’s chances of retaining the 6 Nations title are all but dead after their defeat against France, whereas England (like France) are two wins from two. Should Wales and England both win this weekend then it will be certainly be game-on for our clash with England; the clash between the two at Twickenham on March 12 could be the title decider. So, here’s hoping that Ireland defeat England and do us a favour this weekend!

The full 23-man squad to face France is below.

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Wales’ 23-man squad to face France tomorrow (Friday) evening

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2016 6 Nations – 2nd weekend review

The second weekend of the 2016 6 Nations is over and two countries remain undefeated. France have two wins from two, Wales have one win and one draw from two, and England have also won two from two. Saturday saw France take on Ireland at home, followed by Wales play Scotland at home. Sunday’s match was Italy against England.

France scraped a win against Ireland, winning what sounds like a very dour game by 10 points to 9. There was only one try, and although I have not seen the match the little I have read about it suggests that it is not a match worth trying to see on catch-up TV. After being absolutely hammered by New Zealand in the World Cup in November, France have started the 2016 6 Nations well under their new coach.

Wales beat Scotland in Cardiff by 27 points to 23 in what sounds like a much more entertaining match, with 5 tries being scored (Wales scoring three and Scotland scoring two). Scotland, in fact, went into half-time 13-10 ahead, but in the second half Wales exerted their dominance and scored two tries to go 27-16 ahead. A last minute consolation try by Scotland made the match appear closer than it apparently was; and this result leaves Scotland still searching for their first win over Wales since 2007. They have not won in Cardiff since 2002.

Wales beat Scotland 27-23 at home in the second weekend of the 2016 6 Nations

Sunday’s match in Rome between Italy and England saw England win convincingly 40-9. The exciting outside centre Jeffries scored a hat rick and England look to have found a new lease of life under Eddie Jones, their first ever foreign coach.

Ireland, who were chasing three 6 Nations titles in a row, now look to have no chance of defending their title with only a draw from two matches. It would seem their heavy defeat by Argentina in the quarter finals of the World cup has dented their self-confidence just as much as I thought it might.

The 6 Nations now takes a fortnight’s break before the third round of matches. The first match of the third round is on the evening of Friday the 26th of February, when Wales take on undefeated France in Cardiff. England will take on Ireland at Twickenham and Scotland will take on Italy. If Wales can defeat France (and obviously I hope that we can), it will set things up nicely for our match against England in Twickenham on March 12. The wiley Warren Gatland is already suggesting that the England v Wales match could be the title decider, and if Wales beat France and England beat Ireland in the third round of matches he could well be right.

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On Saturday (6th of February), the 2016 6 Nations begins. This year, for the first time that I can remember, the games are not all on the BBC, but rather are being split between the BBC and ITV. This is because they found that they had to work together to see off a bid from Sky Sports; and thus retain the 6 Nations on free-to-air TV.

Wales start their 6 Nations campaign with an away game on Sunday 7th February against Ireland, never an easy place to go. Because of the way the 6 Nations schedule works, the season in which we play Ireland away is also the season we play England away. But, we have 3 home games; against Scotland, France and Italy. Wales’ full 6 Nations 2016 schedule is

  • Ireland v Wales – Sunday 7th February – KO 15:00 GMT (on ITV)
  • Wales v Scotland – Saturday 13th February – KO 16:50 GMT (on BBC)
  • Wales v France – Friday 26th February – KO 20:05 GMT (on BBC)
  • England v Wales – Saturday 12th March – KO 16:00 GMT (on ITV)
  • Wales v Italy – Saturday 19th March – KO 14:30 GMT (on BBC)

 

The schedule of matches for Wales in the 2016 6 Nations

The Wales team, management and fans were not particularly happy with the performance in the World Cup. Although we were ravaged by injuries, we could and should have beaten South Africa in the quarter finals; getting to at least the semi finals as we did in 2011 was our target. Therefore, I suspect that Wales will perform very well in this upcoming 6 Nations (there goes the kiss of death!). We will be looking to win all of our home games, but unfortunately our first match is away to defending title-holders Ireland. 

Going to Dublin is never easy, but how both teams play in their opening fixture may depend on how they each react to their respective quarter final defeats. Whereas Wales were narrowly defeated by a last minute try against South Africa, Ireland were thoroughly thrashed by a rampant Argentina. How psychologically bruised Ireland are from this mauling remains to be seen. 

If we can sneak a win in Dublin in our opening game I think we will be very difficult to beat in any of the remaining matches. We get the chance also to build on the wonderful victory over England in Twickenham, beating them in this 6 Nations will make it two wins in a row away to England, and I cannot remember the last time that happened (the 1970s probably!)

 

Wales will be hoping to win their 3rd Grand Slam under Warren Gatland. They have won a Grand Slam in each year after the previous two rugby World Cups (2008 and 2012)

Wales will be hoping to win their 3rd Grand Slam under Warren Gatland. They have won a Grand Slam in each year after the previous two rugby World Cups (2008 and 2012)

Whatever the Southern Hemisphere rugby nations may say, the 6 Nations is far and away the best annual rugby tournament. It brightens up the dismalwinter days of February (as I type this I’m in sunny and warm Buenos Aires but that’s a different story!), and the travelling legions of rugby fans who go to the away games of their countries is something that New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina just cannot match.

DERE ‘MLAEN CYMRU!!!!! / COME ON WALES!!!!!

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