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This next Sunday (9th of March), at 15:00, England will take on Wales in their 2014 6 Nations match. It is no exaggeration to say that this is the biggest game for both teams since they played each other in the Title decider in Cardiff last March, when Wales thrashed England 30-3. This Sunday’s game is at Twickenham, and England will be out for revenge after their drubbing in Cardiff last year.



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Going into the fourth weekend of the 2014 6 Nations, there are four countries all in with a chance of winning the Title. Ireland, England, Wales and France all have 2 wins out of 3 matches. Ireland and France both play on Saturday, against relatively easy opposition in the shape of Italy and Scotland respectively. It would be a big surprise if Ireland were to lose to Italy, and as long as France are not as shambolic as they were against Wales, they should see off Scotland without too many problems. Therefore, whoever loses between England and Wales on Sunday will essentially be out of contention for the 2014 Title.

England and Wales have played each other 124 times, and amazingly the tally between them stands at 56 wins for Wales, 56 wins for England and 12 draws. They are exactly equal, remarkable considering how many times they have played each other. When I was growing up in the 1970s, when Wales were enjoying their 3rd “golden era”, we barely lost to England. But, by the late 1980s and 1990s things had swung completely the other way, England barely lost to Wales in the 1990s.

But, those decades are ancient history really. What is more relevant is how the two countries have done against each other in recent years. Warren Gatland took over as Wales coach for the 2008 6 Nations, and since he took over Wales have played England on 8 occasions, and have won 5 of them, England have won 3. These 8 matches include six 6 Nations matches (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) and two warm-up “friendlies” for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Wales have won the last 3 matches between the two countries, including 6 Nations wins in 2012 and last year, and the second of the two RWC warm-up matches. Stewart Lancaster, the current England coach, has never won a match against Wales.



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It is difficult for someone like me to know how much recent results play on the minds of the respective teams prior to a big match like this. The players and coaches will tell you different stories, even within the same team. Some Wales players are saying that the thrashing they gave England in Cardiff last March has no relevance on Sunday’s game at Twickenham, whilst others in the Welsh team say it gives them confidence because they know how to beat England. From the England camp you will get some players who will say that last year’s thrashing is of no relevance because it is one year on and the England team has many different players, but others in the England squad will say that they want revenge for their Cardiff humiliation.

All I do know is that the Welsh rugby fans are in overdrive waiting for Sunday’s showdown. The Western Mail has been running stories on the match everyday since reporting our win over France, and to a lesser extent the English newspapers realise it could be a defining game for England as they build up to hosting the Rugby World Cup in the Autumn of 2015. Personally, I cannot wait – Sunday cannot come quickly enough!

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As I blogged about here, Wales beat England in the title decider of the 2013 6 Nations. Not only did this deny England the Grand Slam, but it also won Wales the Championships because Wales won by more than 7 points. In fact, we won by 27 points! It was the biggest winning margin with which Wales have beaten England in the history of games between the two countries.


Wales beat England in Cardiff by a record margin of 30-3.

Wales beat England in Cardiff by a record margin of 30-3.


I was in Liverpool for the weekend, having given a talk to Liverpool Astronomical Society on the previous evening. I decided to watch the match in my hotel rather than risk trying to find a pub showing it, in case the pub-goers of Liverpool were tuned into some other sporting event.

Here is a video I took at various points in the match, including the singing of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau by the Welsh fans before the match. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff had the roof closed, which added to the level of noise in the Stadium. Many commentators have said that they have never experienced an atmosphere like it at a rugby game.



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Tomorrow (Saturday the 16th of March) sees Wales go head-to-head with England in the last weekend of the 2013 6 Nations to decide who wins the Championships. England are so far unbeaten, and so are going for a Grand Slam. Wales hope to not only derail England’s Grand Slam aspirations, but if we win by 7 points or more we will win the Championships ourselves.

After Wales’ abysmal start to the 2013 6 Nations, it has taken most Wales supporters by surprise to be in this position. In fact, our hopes of two back-to-back Grand Slams were dashed by our 1st half display against Ireland. By the 2nd half of that opening game, Wales were by far the better team, but we just left ourselves with too much of a deficit to make up.

With 3 away wins in a row, against France, Italy and Scotland, Wales’ confidence is on the up again. Wales, I think more than any other top 10 rugby team, depend on confidence to play well. After 8 losses in a row under interim manager Rob Howley, it does seem that the confidence which saw us win the 2012 Grand Slam and get to the semi-finals of the World Cup at the end of 2011 is coming back.

In the game last weekend against Scotland, Wales’ “squad captain” Sam Warburton had a massive game. He was named man of the match, and thoroughly deserved it. Interestingly, the Welsh management have decided to not choose him as captain for tomorrow in Ryan Jones’ absence, but rather give the captaincy to Gethin Jenkins. Personally I think this is a wise decision, although I am sure Warburton will captain Wales many times over the coming years, it does seem at the moment that the responsibility of captaincy has been affecting him negatively. Freed from these responsibilities tomorrow, he can hopefully turn in another outstanding performance.


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Wales will hopefully gain from it not only being a home game, but from the fact that most of the team have played big matches before. 12 months ago Wales were taking on France at the Millennium Stadium to win the Grand Slam, and a few months before that we faced France in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup.

The Western Mail did an article on the 10 biggest games Wales have played. The last time Wales managed to stop England winning a Grand Slam was in the Wales v England match of 1999. Because the Millennium Stadium was being built, that match was actually played at the old Wembley football stadium. Wales won 32-31, thanks to a last minute try by Scott Gibbs, which Neil Jenkins had to convert to win the match. I hope tomorrow’s game isn’t as tense, but Wales will go all out to not only beat England, but win by 7 points to clinch the Championships.

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Tomorrow (Saturday the 9th of March) Wales will take on Scotland in their penultimate match of the 2013 6 Nations. In almost a reversal of two weeks ago, when Tipuric was picked to start and Warburton was on the bench, Wales’ interim manager Rob Howley has decided to start Warburton against Scotland and leave Tipuric on the bench.


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It is an interesting decision by Howley to start with Warburton rather than Tipuric. I am sure Tipuric will come on in the latter part of the game. To my mind, Warburton is the better choice in a tight game where tackling and the breakdown are paramount, whereas Tipuric excels when the game opens up. So I think Howley’s choice is the right one, but I am sure there is a 50/50 split amongst Welsh rugby fans about this. Alun Wyn-Jones, who also started on the bench against Italy two weeks ago, is this week deemed to be fit enough to start the game against Scotland.

I think Wales go into this game as favourites, but we should not underestimate how difficult it is to win at Murrayfield. Wales have been playing Scotland since 1883, and 58 games have been played between the two countries at Murrayfield. Of those 58, Scotland have won 32 of them. In fact, Wales went many years without registering a win there; from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s. But, Wales have won 9 of the last 10 matches between the two countries, and since 2000 when the 6 Nations was created they have played 6 times at Murrayfield, winning 3, losing 2 and drawing 1. But Welsh fans need to remember that, tomorrow, Scotland too will be chasing 3 wins in a row, and so will be fired up. In addition, their new coach Scott Johnson knows the Welsh players well from his time spent coaching Wales and the Ospreys, so he will have done his homework on the Welsh team and their expected game plan.

If Wales can win tomorrow it will set up a fantastic finale against England in a week’s time. Barring disasters, England should cruise to a comfortable win against Italy at Twickenham, leaving them with only Wales to beat to win their first Grand Slam since 2003 (Wales have won three Grand Slams since then!).

Should England win by a large margin against Italy, it will mean that they are almost certain to win the 6 Nations, even if they lose to Wales in Cardiff. Although this will be a pity for we Welsh, the prospect of derailing England’s Grand Slam hopes in Cardiff will be enough to fire up the Welsh team to hopefully put in their best performance of the 6 Nations.

But first we have to beat Scotland tomorrow!

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The second weekend of the 2013 6 Nations is now over, and it was certainly a weekend of tension and even a few surprises.

Scotland v Italy

Italy went to Edinburgh with their confidence high after their superb win over France in Rome last weekend. In addition, Scotland had looked only average in their defeat to England at Twickenham. But, the form book was torn up with Scotland playing superb rugby, possibly their best display ever in the 6 Nations. They ran in 4 tries, and were comfortable winners of a match which never saw Italy play to the heights that they did against France a week before.


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France v Wales

If ever there was a match which could turn around a team’s fortunes then this was it. I have blogged about the game already here. But, just to say that Wales were determined and clinical, looking like the side that got to the 2011 World Cup semi-final and which won the 2012 6 Nations with a Grand Slam. At the end of the game one could just hear some Welsh fans singing hymns and arias, but it was hard to given given how loudly the mainly French crowd were boing the home team. If Wales can win in Ittaly in a fortnight and then in Scotland two weeks after that we will return to Cardiff to play England with 3 wins out of 4 and the game against England could end up being the championship decider. Wales fans can but dream!

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Ireland v England

This was an attritinoal match played in poor conditions. Ireland never played with the confidence or skill with which they had beaten Wales the week before, and England were clinical and desciplined. 4 penalty goals to 2 in Engalnd’s favour, and the try line never looked in danger of being breached. As Shane Howarth, who has played for New Zealand and Wales, said on Welsh TV last night, Engalnd look lke they are doing everything right, and it is a bit worrying for the rest of us!


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What does the 3rd weekend hold?

The 6 Nations now takes a break with the next set of matches being in a fortnight rather than next week. Ireland go to Scotland, with both teams having won one and lost one. France go to Twickenham, facing the unheard of prospect of losing 3 matches in a row and possibly finishing the 6 Nations bottom of the table. And as I have mentioned above, Wales go to Rome with the chance of getting their 2013 campaign back on track if we can win there. Several teams have everything to play for. I can’t wait!

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The opening weekend of the 2013 6 Nations rugby championships is over, and it was quite a weekend of matches.

Wales v Ireland

Wales opened their defence of their 2012 Grand Slam with a home game against Ireland. Ireland came out of the blocks with all cylinders firing, and by the 11th minute had scored a try. Wales repeatedly lost possession at the breakdown, and Ireland went into half-time with the scoreline at 3-23.

Within a few minutes of the start of the second half Ireland had extended their lead to 3-30 through a try by Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s 3rd try of the match. Wales looked like they were not only going to lose, but lose by a large margin. Then, as often happens in sport, Wales started to go into the ascendancy and the game turned around. Over the next 35 minutes, Wales completely dominated, and scored 3 tries to bring the score back to 22-30. However, Ireland must be commended for the resoluteness of their defence. With Wales camped for long periods just metres from the Irish tryline, the Irish defence withstood wave after wave of assaults and managed to keep Wales’ try tally down to 3 tries, when it could have been several more.


In the opening match of the 2013 6 Nations, Wales lost at home to Ireland 22-30.

In the opening match of the 2013 6 Nations, Wales lost at home to Ireland 22-30.


Cardiff has become a happy hunting ground for Ireland, their win on Saturday marks their 11th win in the last 14 visits to Cardiff. Wales’ chances of a back-to-back Grand Slam are now gone, and in fact based on Saturday’s display I would be surprised if Wales finish the 2013 Championships with more than 1 or 2 wins.

Wales have the difficult task next Saturday of going to Paris, a place where they have not won since 2005. Ireland welcome England in Dublin in game which will almost certainly decide who (in anyone) wins the Triple Crown this year, and may well decide who wins the 2013 6 Nations Championships.

England v Scotland

England came into the 2013 6 Nations Championships on the back of a stunning win against the All Blacks in early December. It was no surprise to see them running out comfortable winners against Scotland.


In the 2nd match of the weekend, England ran out easy winners against Scotland 38-18.

In the 2nd match of the weekend, England ran out easy winners against Scotland 38-18.


The half-time score was 19-11 to England, and to be honest they never looked in danger of losing this match. Remarkably it is now 30 years since Scotland last won at Twickenham, in 1983. England go into their next match against Ireland in Dublin with confidence high, and that match should be the pick of next weekend’s fixtures.

Italy v France

Since Italy joined the 5 Nations in 2000 to make it the 6 Nations, they have been the whipping boys of the Championships. In the 13 previous Championships in which they have played they have only registered a few wins, over Scotland, Wales and in 2011 over France. Much to most people’s surprise, Italy pulled off another win against France on Sunday, deservedly winning by 23 to 18. This is their second win in a row over France at home, having beaten them for the first time ever in 2011.


The final match of the weekend provided the biggest upset, Italy at home beating France 23-18.

The final match of the weekend provided the biggest upset, Italy at home beating France 23-18.


Next up for Italy is a trip to Murrayfield to play Scotland. They will be surely be hoping to register only their second away win in their history in the 6 Nations, and if they play like they did against France they have every chance of of doing so.

Which was your favourite moment of this weekend’s 6 Nations matches?

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In Wales, our National rugby team is either playing fantastically or playing dreadfully. In 2012 we saw both extremes. After winning the 2012 Six Nations Championships with a Grand Slam in March, Wales went on tour of Australia in June and lost all 3 tests against the Wallabies. All 3 were close, but particulary the 2nd and 3rd ones, two games Wales should really have won.


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Wales win the 2012 6 Nations Championships with a Grand Slam, beating France in the final match.


Wales went into the annual Autumn Tests series with high expectations amongst her supporters, including myself. I blogged about my hopes here. Well, the reality was very different, Wales lost all four tests, the first time this has happened in the Autumn Test Series since it started in about 2002. I guess, in hindsight, that it was not a big surprise to lose to Argentina in our opening game. Wales traditionally start the Autumn Series very badly, and so to have such a tough team as Argentina to play in our opening test was always going to be a challenge.

But, before Wales could recover from the disappointment of losing to Argentina, we lost to Samoa the following Friday. Again, Samoa are a tough team, and we have lost to them before, even in Cardiff. But coming on the back of such successes earlier in the year, it was a tough defeat for the Welsh rugby public to bear. The following week came our annual beating by the All Blacks, whom we have not defeated since 1953!

Our final match was against Australia, our 4th against them in 2012. Just like the 2nd and 3rd Tests in Australia in June, Wales were in a match winning position as the 80 minutes were up. In fact, with 80 minutes on the clock Wales were actually in the lead. But, bizarrely, we kicked possession away and Australia counter attacked, and scored a last minute try to steal victory. The narrowness of the defeat, and the nature of it happening in the dying seconds, made this the hardest defeat of the Autumn series, and maybe of the entire year.

So how will Wales get on in the impending 2013 Six Nations? My fear is – not very well. We are coming off the back of 7 (seven) straight defeats, so confidence in the squad has to be pretty low. Also, we will be without our inspirational team manager Warren Gatland, who has been appointed the Lions coach for the summer tour of Australia, and so is on sabbatical from his Wales duties.

It is also the year when we play 3 games away from home, and only 2 at home, which of course makes it a slightly tougher proposition. Our fixture list is


Wales’ 6 Nations games, 2013
Date Country Kick-off time (GMT) Home/Away Record in all competitions (Played/Win/Loss/Draw)
Saturday 2nd February Ireland 13:30 Home 118/65/47/6
Saturday 9th February France 17:00 Away 92/45/44/3
Saturday 23rd February Italy 14:30 Away 19/16/2/1
Saturday 9th March Scotland 14:30 Away 117/66/48/3
Saturday 16th March England 17:00 Home 123/55/56/12


It may surprise readers to see that the only nation in the 6 Nations that Wales have lost more than won against is England, with the games standing at 55 wins to Wales and 56 to England. The game against England in March provides an opportunity to equalise the series of games between the two countries. On the other hand, the game against France in February provides France with the opportunity to equalise the series between the two countries, currently Wales have 45 wins to France’s 44.

Of course, how players across all 4 home nations perform will determine who gets picked by Warren Gatland and his team to go on the Lions tour of Australia in June, so this year the players are playing for more than just their country.

Who do you think will win this year’s 6 Nations?


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