The Welsh Rugby Team

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Wales, along with the home nations, have a long history and tradition of rugby. In 1850, Rev. Williams introduced the sport into St Davids College and it was played amongst the students until the first club, Neath, was formed in 1871. Ten years later, Wales played their first international against England, losing the game 8-0, but this was based on archaic scoring.

The growth of the game came from the school system and fed into the international representation. This allowed for the Welsh team to improve and they experienced their first golden age between 1893-1911. In this time the famously beat the touring All Blacks in 1905 and won the then Six Nations, known as the Triple Crown, 3 times. They also revolutionized the game by playing a 8 forwards and 7 backs formation as opposed to the accepted 9 forwards and 6 backs. This different formation gave them a winning formula and was soon adopted by the international community. We still play with this formation today.

Between World War One and World War Two, Wales had lost their definitive edge and slipped off the winner’s podium. This was due to migration of people and poor economy within the country and players went elsewhere to search for money, be it from jobs in other parts of the British Isles or competing professional sporting leagues. Wales struggled to win games and only managed 17 wins from 42 matches.

It took a long time before Wales reinvigorated themselves and their second golden age came in 1969. During this era, they achieved success by dominating the Northern Hemisphere rugby, but still couldn’t defeat the All Blacks on tour. They put together 36 victories from 53 games and won a number of Five Nations titles. Many consider the 1971 Wales team to be the greatest ever and a number of players from that team were selected in the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand where they won the series, the only team to do so at the time.

Wales appointed their first coach in 1967, David Nash, but his record was unsuccessful with one win in 5 tests. His successor, Clive Rowlands coached Wales to 18 victories in 29 tests and was replaced in 1974. The time between the 1980s and 2003 is considered the Barren Years and Wales were left to a near empty trophy cabinet. Even though they finished well in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987, finishing third, they never won a major tournament. Then coach, Graham Henry, took Wales on a ten match winning streak but losses to Argentina and Ireland lead to his resignation. Henry later took up the role coaching the All Blacks.

After 2003, Wales found their form and have been a strong competitor in the world of rugby and have taken big scalps in the past 10 years. They have had just below 50% winning percentage in the professional era but are capable of beating any team on the day.

Their home ground used to be Cardiff Arms park until 1999 when the National Stadium, known as the Millennium Stadium was completed. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff seats 74,500 spectators and is home to the Welsh Rugby Team.

Wales play in their red strip with red shorts and have the Prince of Wales’ feathers embroidered on the chest. This symbol was chosen in the early 20th Century to symbolise Wales commitment to Britain and has been updated since then, but the player still wear it on their jerseys. Recently the alternative strip is a grey jersey worn when colours clash with the opposition.

Some of the greatest rugby players have worn the jersey, some of which have been inducted into the hall of fame. These players include Frank Hancock, Gwyn Nicholls, Bleddyn Williams, Jack Matthews, Cliff Morgan, Gerald Davies and Barry John. Some current and recent great players include Gareth Thomas, Sam Warburton, Stephen Jones, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Neil Jenkins. But I believe that one player is the embodiment of the Welsh team. He fought against all the detractors and nay-sayers and went up against giants to lay everything on the field. He put his body on the line every time he stepped out onto the field and was a master in his position.

Shane Williams wasn’t a big man by any means. For a rugby player, he was made to feel small and was told that he would never achieve success. He stands 1.70 meters tall and weighs 80kg. That is a small man compared to the behemoths that we see today. He retired from international rugby in 2011 after eleven years playing for Wales and accrued 87 caps and 270 points for his country. While playing for Wales he was selected as a British and Irish Lions representative in 2005, 2009 and 2013, earning 4 caps and 10 points. He retired from all forms of rugby at the beginning of 2015 after a stint in Japan and has now flown back to his home to engage in some relaxing activities like marathon running. During his time at top flight rugby, he was one of the most elusive wingers in the game and had pace to burn and could beat almost anyone on the outside, given the chance.

Watch the WRU official youtube video highlighting Williams’ achievements:

 

Wales play a very direct game of rugby and don’t play away from an orthodox game. They use set pieces to release a backline that has the likes of George North and Leigh Halfpenny. If a team gives up a penalty, they have the educated boot of Halfpenny that can slot kicks from almost any angle.

They may have finished third in the Six Nations this year, but they can compete with the best nations and might pull a few upsets come World Cup time.