Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

The annual 6 Nations rugby tournament starts this Saturday, and Wales are in a position to make rugby history. They could become the first country in over 100 years to win 3 championships in a row, having won in 2012 and 2013. Not even the celebrated Welsh side of the 1970s achieved this feat, despite their many accomplishments.

Wales start their campaign with a home game against Italy, who since joining the Championships in 2000 have consistently been the weakest team. Having Italy first is not a bad thing for Wales, as we notoriously start the Championships slowly. The Wales fixture list for the 2014 6 Nations is as follows

  • Wales v Italy (in Cardiff) – Saturday 1st of February at 14:30
  • Ireland v Wales (in Dublin) – Saturday 8th of February at 14:30
  • Wales v France (in Cardiff) – Friday 21st of February at 20:00
  • England v Wales (in London) – Sunday 9th of March at 15:00
  • Wales v Scotland (in Cardiff) – Saturday 15th of March at 14:45

So, as can be seen from the fixture list, Wales have 3 home games and 2 away games. Although I very much hope Wales can make it 3 Championships in a row, I have a fear that it will be England’s year, and I am not just saying that to agree with 1970s rugby legend Barry John.


England looked very good in their Autumn tests, even in their defeat to New Zealand. Wales, on the other hand, had a mixed Autumn series with two wins, a narrow defeat to Australia and a 9-point defeat to South Africa. Warren Gatland has named a squad which includes 8 players who are still injured. However, one of those injured players, Jamie Roberts, it named for Saturday’s game so is hopefully over his injury. Apart from changes forced by injury, Gatland’s team against Italy is what everyone expected, and shows how settled a team the Wales side has become.

As always, expectation is high in Wales. BBC Wales runs advertisements for the 6 Nations in the lead up to the competition, and currently the advertisement they are running is below. It features their campaign to get Welsh fans to know the words to one of the hymns sung at the Wales games – the hymn Calon lân, which means “A pure heart”.

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Tomorrow is the third weekend of the 2013 6 Nations. There has been a fortnight’s break since the last round of matches, two weeks in which the Welsh squad have hopefully been able to build on their fantastic win against France in Paris so that they can go to Rome and get a victory against Italy.

On Tuesday (19th of February) Wales announced their team for Saturday. The surprise is that Sam Warburton, who is fit again after his shoulder injury, is not starting but is on the bench. This means that Ryan Jones will captain Wales for the second time this 6 Nations, despite Sam Warburton starting the 6 Nations as captain. I heard Rob Howley, the interim Welsh coach, on Tuesday describe Ryan Jones as a natural leader, and I think I am right in saying he has now captained Wales more times than anyone else in history. One of our other main players Alun Wyn Jones is also back fit after a long layoff and surgery, he too starts on the bench.


On the plus side, Wales have now put together 120 minutes of good rugby, the second half against Ireland and the whole match against France. But, we must not take Italy for granted. Although Italy disappointed against Scotland two weeks ago, they were just as good against France three weeks ago as Wales were two weeks ago. We have lost to Italy before in Rome, and if we lose tomorrow our 6 Nations will go completely off the rails.

If, however, Wales can win tomorrow, then I am optimistic that we can go to Scotland in two weeks’ time and win there. if we manage that, who knows what we can achieve in our final game against England at home in Cardiff in the last game of the 6 Nations.

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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.


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!


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!


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.

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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