Posts Tagged ‘Millennium Stadium’

Scotland v Wales

This match was ruined by the referee. I think I heard that it set a new 6 Nations record for the number of penalties awarded. It seemed to be a succession of penalty infringements punctuated by some rugby here and there. I really don’t see why the referee didn’t send one or two players to the sin-bin if he was so concerned about the number of infringements. Wales scored the only try of the match, and so for the 3rd game in a row stopped the opposition from crossing the try line. It is also Wales’ 3rd win on the road, after their loss to Ireland at home in the opening weekend of the 6 Nations.


Ireland v France

France came very close to losing this game, they only managed to salvage a draw in the last 10 minutes. It has been the worst 6 Nations ever for France, and you would probably have to go back several decades to the last time they did this poorly in the old 5 Nations. Ireland too have performed much below their usual consistent standard, and go to Rome next weekend with Italy feeling they have every chance of beating them.


England v Italy

This turned out not to be the stroll in the park that England expected. Maybe they were thinking too much of their match against Wales next weekend, but they only just scraped a victory against Italy. In fact, in the second half, Italy were much the better team.


The final weekend

Next Saturday (16th of March) will be the final weekend of the 2013 6 Nations. All eyes will be on the second game of the day, Wales v England in Cardiff. Sadly I will not even be in Cardiff, as I am going to Liverpool to give a talk on the Friday and am staying up in the city for the weekend. I will have to find a nice Welsh-friendly pub in Liverpool in which to watch the game.


Because England only won by 7 points against Italy, it means that Wales can not only derail England’s Grand Slam hopes by beating them next Saturday, but we can also win the Championships ourselves if we win by 8 points. This is not too high a mountain to climb. If we win by 7 points we can still win the Championships, as long as England do not score two more tries than us in the game.

Obviously I am very biased in these matters (but not wholly so, I have been as critical of Wales as anyone when we have played badly), but I really think Wales will go into next Saturday’s game really believing we can beat England and beat them by 8 points. Wales’ confidence is sky high after 3 wins on the road, whereas England were very poor against Italy, and will not be anything like as confident. So much of modern test rugby is down to confidence these days, and I think with our confidence high and 75,000 Welsh supporters baying for English blood, that we can spoil their party and rain on their parade in a major way.

We shall see!

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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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On Saturday (2nd of June) the 2012 grand Slam champions Wales will play the Barbarians. This is an annual tradition, and it will be Wales’ warm up match before they embark on a tour of Australia, during which they will play 3 Test matches against the Wallabies.

Banner on the Millennium Stadium advertising the upcoming game between the 2012 Grand Slam Champions and the Barbarians on the 2nd of June.

Although the Barbarians have not announced their team yet, it will almost surely include Shane Williams, who retired from playing for Wales in the game against Australia last December, and who played his last game for his club The Ospreys on Saturday when he helped them win the Pro-12 league by scoring two tries. He is Wales’ record try scorer, and the words “elusive runner” barely begin to describe him. Shane Williams first burst onto the international scene in the sensational Wales v New Zealand match in the 2003 World Cup. You can watch highlights of that match here, or if you want to watch the entire game it is here.

The Barbarians team badge

The Barbarians are an invitational team, and by tradition only get together a few days before a match to train.

Gareth Edwards playing for the Barbarians against New Zealand in 1973

The most memorable game of rugby I have ever seen was the famous match between the Barbarians and the All Blacks (New Zealand) of January 1973. I was lucky enough to be at this game. I will have to ask my father if it was my first trip to Cardiff Arms Park, but I distinctly remember taking our seats in the South stand in the first few minutes (we must have been late arriving), only for everyone around us to get on their feet as Gareth Edwards scored one of the greatest tries the game of rugby has ever seen.

(this video has had nearly 2.5 million views on YouTube!!). The whole game was played in an amazing spirit, both sides deciding to run the ball from everywhere. The full match is also available on YouTube, you can watch it below.

I will be on my way to the Gobi desert to observe the Transit of Venus next week when this match is played on Saturday. I will, unfortunately, not only miss this game but also Wales’ first test match against Australia in Brisbane the following Saturday. I will be back in Wales in time to see the 2nd and 3rd tests of our 3-match series down under, and as I have said before, if wales win 1 or 2 matches in this series then expectations that we are seeing the dawn of a new “Golden Era” in Welsh rugby will be sky high.

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The Cardiff half marathon on Sunday seemed to be a big success. It was a beautiful sunny day. In fact, a little too warm for my liking; even though the race started at 9am on a mid-October day, by 10am it was feeling quite warm.

As it was a “club championship” race for the Penarth and Dinas running club, there were several of us from the club doing the race. The start and finish were just next to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.

The Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay

Even with 15,000 or so people running, I was pleasantly surprised by how little congestion there was in the first few miles. Congratulations to Phil Cook the race course director (of Les Croupiers running club) on this. The course took in the Cardiff Civic Centre, the castle, the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff City stadium and the Leckwith athletics stadium.

Unfortunately I got my pacing completely wrong. I will put it down to not having done a half marathon in some 25 years, but I went off too quickly and paid for it. At just past 2 miles I passed Lisa Cleary and Andrea Hurman of P&D, and caught a brief glimpse of our club’s “super vet” Malcolm Bradley in the distance. Up to 6 miles I was feeling really good, but I should have realised when I passed Lisa and Andrea that I had gone off too fast.

Miles 6 to 8 weren’t too bad, even though I slowed a bit. But from miles 8 to 12 I felt like I was going backwards. My pace dropped badly, and my legs felt like mush. I managed to find something for the last mile and a bit, but annoyingly I missed my target time by 1 minute and 20 seconds.

To add insult to injury, Andrea and Lisa passed me between miles 8 and 9; and I even got beaten by a giraffe.

A giraffe running the Cardiff Half Marathon

At least I now have a target time for next year, so hopefully I will pace myself better. I hope the race organisers keep the course the same, I think it was ideal for such a large field of runners.

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Tomorrow is the big game, the semi-final of the rugby World cup between Wales and France. To say Wales is approaching fever pitch would be an understatement. If we win and get to the final I can only begin to imagine what it is going to be like in a week’s time! The Western Mail’s front page for today (Friday) looks like this:


(Sam Warburton is the 23-year old captain of the Welsh team).

Unlike most rugby playing countries, with the exception of New Zealand, rugby is Wales’ national game, far more popular than football (soccer). Also, in contrast to pretty much every other rugby playing country apart from NZ, rugby in Wales has traditionally been played by ordinary, working class men, rather than the privately educated upper middle class who have traditionally played it in England, Scotland and Ireland. As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago, Wales have waited a long time for success. In the 1970s we were toe dominant northern hemisphere team, but throughout the 1980s and 1990s our successes were few and far between.

In 2005 and 2008 we won the 6 Nations Grand Slam. The atmosphere for tomorrow will, I expect, be something like the atmosphere the day we beat Ireland in March 2005 to win our first Grand Slam since 1979. On that gloriously warm early spring day, 75,000 people were in the Millennium Stadium willing our boys to glory, and about another 200,000 is the streets and pubs of the city. The City council even erected a large screen in front of City Hall, and this is where I and probably about 50,000 others watched the events unfold.

Tomorrow the game is 12,000 miles away at Eden Park, Auckland. But, the Welsh Rugby Union have opened up the Millennium Stadium and will be showing the match live on two massive screens, and the 50,000 free tickets to go along and watch it there have all be snapped up within 48 hours (including by yours truly). In fact, on e-Bay earlier today tickets for tomorrow’s screening were going for ¬£40-50 each! With 50,000 in the Millennium Stadium (they cannot use the full capacity because of the large screens there will place in the middle of the pitch), there will actually be about the same number watching it live in Cardiff as are watching it at Eden Park itself, which has a capacity of 50,000.

The Western Mail has devoted what seems like almost all its 50+ pages to coverage of tomorrow’s game. In addition to the cover, the 2nd page of the paper has the following editorial:


In the sports section a full 10 pages are devoted to talking about the game, talking about the Welsh camp, the French camp, talking to the last Welshman to captain Wales to a semi-final place in 1987, Richard Moriarty. Talking to just about anyone who has anything to say about the game.


The Welsh coach, Kiwi Warren Gatland, has said that his team will play its usual brand of entertaining, attacking rugby. Should the unthinkable happen and Wales lose, and New Zealand beat Australia in Sunday’s other semi-finat, then both the 3rd place play-off and the final will be exact repeats of the nations who contested them in the inaugural World cup of 1987.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s game, Wales can feel proud that, for such a small nation, we have once again punched above our weight. We have played the best rugby of the tournament so far, showing a level of control to match our always present flair. But, like most Wales supporters, if we have to grind out a win against the French tomorrow and win by a solitary point in a dire match, I won’t be complaining.

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