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This evening Wales take on France in a must-win game in this year’s RBS 6 Nations. Lose at home tonight, and Wales will be facing mid-table mediocrity rather than trying to retain the 6 Nations title for a record third consecutive year. The big news from the team announcement on Wednesday is that Gatland has dropped Lions’ scrum half Mike Phillips to the bench, bringing in Rhys Webb of the Ospreys in his place.



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After Wales’ appalling display against Ireland in Dublin two weeks ago, where they were thrashed 26-3, we have a chance to get our 2014 6 Nations campaign back on track. But we are facing a France who have won 2 from 2, with a thrilling last-minute win over England in their opening game, and then a comfortable win over Italy in the 2nd weekend.

Wales haven’t become a bad team overnight, but the way in which they were dismantled by Ireland up-front has been a big worry for Welsh rugby fans and for the Wales coaching team. Alun Wyn Jones, the Wales second row who captained the Lions in their 3rd Test rout of Australia back in July, vows that Wales will not allow themselves to be outmuscled up-front by France as they were by Ireland.

We shall have to wait and see, but all I can say is that this game is massive for Wales. Win it and our confidence will hopefully come back, which is so vital to the way Wales play rugby. But, if we lose, I fear we will have a poor 2014 and go into next year’s World Cup year not firing in the way we were just 11 months ago when we thrashed England in Cardiff. Fingers crossed!

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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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Wales win in Paris

Wales defeated France in Paris on Saturday (9th of February) to register their first win at the Stade de France since 2005. Given Wales’ recent run of form (8 defeats in a row), it was a stunning and unexpected result. The score was 3-3 at halftime, and even with some 15 minutes to go was 6-6. Then, Wales broke the deadlock with a try by George North that really came from nowhere.


Wales win in Paris

Wales win in Paris for the first time since 2005


It was not a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination. Wales showed a steel and determination which has been absent in their last several games and they looked more like the Grand Slam winning team of last season. When they went 10 points up with some 8 minutes to go I was pleased to see them keeping to a tight game, not trying to throw the ball around and play some entertaining rugby. We’ve lost too many tight games in the last 8 months by not shutting down the game when ahead with only minutes left on the clock.


George North

George North going over for the only try of the match


One of the great fascinations of sport is how much of it is mental. The margins between the top teams are so narrow that winning can often come down to self belief. Wales were playnig with their confidence sky high this time last year, but with 8 straight defeats going in to this match in Paris it was natural that the expectations were low. Hopefully for Welsh fans this unexpected win will now see the team’s confidence come back, and we can go to Rome in two weeks and put in a good display against Italy and maybe come away with a win. If we manage that the whole nature of our 2013 6 Nations could turn around.

With Ireland playhing England later today, currently all 6 countries lie on two points. Assuming there isn’t a draw in Dublin today, we shall go into the 3rd weekend of the 6 Nations in two weeks’ time with 5 of the 6 countries on 2 points and one country on 4 points. Will it be Ireland or England who top the table? Whoever is top by the end of today will be the only country able to do the Grand Slam this year.

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On Saturday Wales take on France at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris. Paris has not been a happy hunting ground for Welsh rugby, we have only won three times in Paris since 1975. The last time we were victorious there was in 2005, during the first of Wales’ three recent Grand Slam years.

In addition, with our loss against Ireland 22-30 last Saturday in the opening match of the 2013 6 Nations, Wales go in to Saturday’s game on the back of eight successive defeats. These defeats have seen Wales slide from 4th in the World rankings back in March of last year to 10th, one place below Italy. If ever an indicator of the decline in Welsh rugby fortunes in the last 10 months were needed, this provides it.

The news was announced yesterday (Thursday) that Wales’ captain Sam Warburton will miss the match through injury.


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One of the few positives Wales can cling to is the return from injury of Ryan Jones. He is a former Wales captain, and almost never fails to turn in a good performance for Wales. Possibly the only other positive Wales have is our display in the second half against Ireland.


The Stade de France in the Saint Denis suburb of Paris.

The Stade de France in the Saint Denis suburb of Paris.


France also go into Saturday’s match needing a win. In probably the shock result of the opening weekend of 6 Nation matches, France lost to Italy in Rome last Sunday. The French rugby public are notorious for giving their team a hard time. If France are playing badly against Wales on Saturday the crowd is likely to turn on them and start booing.


The Welsh team training ahead of Saturday's game against France.

The Welsh team training ahead of Saturday’s game against France.


Two defeats in the first two games of the 6 Nations is a start from which few teams can recover, so a win is vital for both sides on Saturday. One team will surely be disappointed come the final whistle. Thankfully (or sadly, depending on your point of view), rugby trips to Paris ain’t like they were in the 1970s.



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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.


Wales win 2012 6 Nations

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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This Sunday morning saw the final of the Rugby World Cup, between New Zealand and France. My son needed to be in Barry by 8:30am, so I decided to go for a run along the Heritage Coast from Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major – how did the name “Illtud” become “twit” to the English??). I watched the game later via the internet on ITV’s “catchup” service.

My run was very different from last week’s Cardiff half marathon, where I ran with more than 12,000 others. I saw barely a soul during my 10 mile run, and only had the sound of the sea off the coast for audio company. Meanwhile, in Eden Park Auckland, 60,000 odd rugby fans were watching the New Zealand v France final unfold. France had gone into the final as heavy underdogs, having just beaten Wales 9-8 in the Semi Final match last weekend, whereas NZ had looked impressive in all their matches.

To say that France raised their game for the final would be an understatement. For most of the game they were by far the better team, and it ended in an 8-7 victory for NZ. I would imagine most Kiwis had bitten their nails down to the bone in the last 15 minutes, as France were very much in the ascendency. But, NZ clung on, and so won their 2nd rugby World Cup, having won the inaugural one in 1987 against the same finalists.

Closer to home, Manchester to be precise, was the scene for another sporting contest, the Manchester football derby. Manchester United have dominated English football for the last 20 years, in fact last season saw them overtake Liverpool to become the club which has won the most league titles in English football. But, a few years ago Man City were bought by an investment group from Abu Dhabi, which has led to their having basically unlimited financial resources and many World-class signings. Yesterday’s derby was at Old Trafford, Man U’s fortress where they rarely lose, and had not lost for 18 months.

The final score was 1-6 to Man City. Yes, six-one to Man City! This is, apparently, Man U’s heaviest home defeat in several decades, their largest since the English Premiership came into being in 1992. Alex Ferguson, Man U’s manager, described it as an embarrassment and the worst result in his playing or coaching career. To say Man U were thrashed would be an understatement, they were annihilated.

As a Chelsea fan, this is all very interesting. Unfortunately Chelsea lost too over the weekend, to QPR, but surely Man U’s confidence must be in tatters after such a defeat. With Chelsea in 3rd, only 1 point behind Man U, surely 2nd place beckons for the Blues.

The weekend just shows that one can never predict sport, which is one of the reasons I find it so compelling. I only hope Wales manage to outscore Australia by a factor or 6 when we play them in Cardiff on the 3rd of Decemeber!

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