Wales national rugby union team
|Union||Welsh Rugby Union|
|Nickname(s)||The Red Dragons|
|Emblem(s)||The Prince of Wales's feathers|
|Ground(s)||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff|
|Most caps||Gethin Jenkins (107)|
|Top scorer||Neil Jenkins (1,049)|
|Most tries||Shane Williams (58)|
| England 8 – 0 Wales
(19 February 1881)
| Wales 98 – 0 Japan
(26 November 2004)
| South Africa 96 – 13 Wales
(27 June 1998)
|Appearances||7/7 (First in 1987)|
|Best result||Third, 1987|
They compete annually in the Six Nations Championship with England, France, Ireland, Italy and Scotland. Wales have won the Six Nations and its predecessors 26 times outright, joint-first with England. Wales' most recent championship win came in 2013. They also compete in the Rugby World Cup every four years. The International Rugby Board (IRB) regards Wales as a Tier One rugby nation.
The governing body, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), was established in 1881, the same year that Wales played their first international against England. Wales' performances in the Home Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) continued to improve, experiencing their first 'golden age' between 1900 and 1911. They first played New Zealand, known as the All Blacks, in 1905, when they defeated them 3–0 in a famous match at Cardiff Arms Park. Welsh rugby struggled between the first and second World Wars, but experienced a second 'golden age' between 1969 and 1980 when they won eight Five Nations Championships (including 3 shared wins).
They played in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 where they achieved their best ever result of third. Following the professionalisation of rugby in 1995, Wales hosted the 1999 World Cup and, in 2005, won their first Grand Slam since 1978 (and their first since the tournament became the Six Nations). This was followed by two more Grand Slams, in 2008 and in 2012, their eleventh in total. Their 2005 Grand Slam is notable for being the first team ever to gain the accolade playing more matches away from home. The 2012 Grand Slam was Wales' third in 7 years, emulating the legendary 1970s teams who won three between 1971 and 1978. Wales also came fourth in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Their home ground is the Millennium Stadium, completed in 1999 to replace the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park. Ten former Welsh players have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame, and five are inductees of the IRB Hall of Fame.
- 1 History
- 2 Strip
- 3 Support
- 4 Grounds
- 5 Record
- 6 Players
- 7 Coaches
- 8 See also
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Rugby union took root in Wales in 1850, when Reverend Rowland Williams became Vice-Principal at St David's College, Lampeter, where he introduced the sport. The first Welsh club, Neath was formed in 1871.
Early years (1881–1892)
Wales played their first international on 19 February 1881; organised by Newport's Richard Mullock, Wales played against England, losing by seven goals, one drop goal and six tries to nil (8–0). On 12 March 1881, the Welsh Rugby Union was formed at The Castle Hotel, Neath. Two years later, the Home Nation Championship (later known as the Six Nations Championship) was first played and Wales did not register a win. However, rugby in Wales developed and, by the 1890s, the Welsh had developed the four three-quarters formation. This formation – with seven backs and eight forwards, instead of six backs and nine forwards – revolutionised the sport and was eventually adopted almost universally at international and club level.
First 'golden age' (1893–1913)
With the "four three-quarter" formation Wales became Home International Champions for the first time in 1893; in the process winning the Triple Crown. Wales next won the Championship in 1900, heralding the first 'golden age' of Welsh rugby which was to last until 1911. They won two more Triple Crowns in 1902 and 1905, and were runners up in 1901, 1903 and 1904.
In late 1905 Wales faced New Zealand's All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park. New Zealand (later referred to as the Originals) were undefeated on their tour of the British Isles, having already defeated England, Ireland and Scotland in three Tests before facing Wales. Before the match, the All Blacks performed the haka (a Maori posture dance); the 47,000-strong crowd responded with the Welsh national anthem – Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau ("Land of Our Fathers") – the first time a national anthem had been sung before a sporting fixture. Wales' winger Teddy Morgan scored first to give Wales a 3–0 lead, but later in the match All Black Bob Deans claimed to have scored a try, only to be dragged behind the line before the referee could arrive. The referee ruled a scrum to Wales and the score did not change; Wales winning 3–0. The loss was the All Blacks' only loss on their 35-match tour.
In 1906, Wales again won the Home Championship, later that year playing the South African national side, the Springboks for the first time. Wales were expected to defeat the South Africans but instead South Africa dominated in the forwards and eventually won 11–0. Two years later, on 12 December 1908, Wales played her first match against Australia's national side, the Wallabies, defeating them 9–6.
In 1909, Wales won the Home Championship and then, in 1910 – with the inclusion of France – the first-ever Five Nations. In 1911, Wales took the first official Grand Slam by winning all their matches in the Five Nations; France were heavily defeated by Wales at St Helens in 1910 (49–14) and Ivor Morgan scored two tries in the match. It would be nearly forty years before they achieved a Grand Slam again. England's defeat of Wales at Cardiff in 1913 was Wales' first home loss to one of the Home Nations since 1899, and their first home loss to England since 1895. The Great War came in 1914 and rugby was suspended for the duration.
Post-war years (1920–1968)
The post-First World War years marked a decline in Welsh rugby. An industrial recession struck the principality, and hurt South Wales in particular. Welsh international results in the 1920s mirrored the performance of the economy: of their 42 matches they won only 17, with three drawn. Half-a-million people emigrated from Wales to find work elsewhere during the depression; this included many Welsh rugby union internationals who moved to the professional code of rugby league. Between 1923 and 1928, Wales managed only seven victories – five of them against France. However, even France managed to defeat Wales that decade; achieving their first victory over Wales in 1928. Welsh selection policy reflected the upheavals of the mid-1920s. In 1924, 35 different players were selected for Wales' four matches, with a different captain for each; and only Edward Watkins in the backs and Charlie Pugh in the forwards, playing in all four matches.
A resurgence of both economy and rugby union followed in the 1930s and, in 1931, Wales won their first championship for nine years. That year, for the first time since the First World War, Wales retained the same side for two consecutive Tests when they faced England and Scotland. Then, in 1933, captained by Watcyn Thomas, Wales defeated England at Twickenham. In 1935, Wales beat the touring All Blacks by 13–12, with Haydn Tanner making his first appearance. Although the Five Nations Championship was suspended during the Second World War, Wales did play a Red Cross charity match against England at Cardiff in 1940, which Wales lost 18–9
Following the Second World War, Wales played a New Zealand Army team (the Kiwis) in 1946, which Wales lost 11–3. The Five Nations (suspended during the war) resumed in 1947 when Wales shared the title with England. Although Wales suffered their first home defeat to France in 1948, they won their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1911 in 1950. The next year, they lost to the touring South Africans 6–3 despite dominating in the line-outs. They achieved another Grand Slam in 1952, followed by a 13–8 win over the All Blacks in 1953. In 1954, St Helens in Swansea (a Welsh international venue since 1882) hosted its last international and Cardiff Arms Park officially became the home of the Welsh team. In 1956, Wales again won the Five Nations, but they would not regain the title until 1964 and would not win it outright until 1965.
Wales conducted their first overseas tour in 1964, playing several games and one Test in South Africa. They lost the Test against South Africa in Durban 24–3, their biggest defeat in 40 years. At the WRU annual general meeting that year, the outgoing WRU President D. Ewart Davies declared that "it was evident from the experience of the South African Tour that a much more positive attitude to the game was required in Wales ... Players must be prepared to learn, and indeed re-learn, to the absolute point of mastery, the basic principles of Rugby Union football." This started the coaching revolution. The WRU Coaching Committee – set up in the late 1950s – was given the task of improving the quality of coaching and, in January 1967, Ray Williams was appointed Coaching Organiser. The first national coach, David Nash, was appointed in 1967 to coach Wales for the season, but resigned when the WRU refused to allow him to accompany Wales on their 1968 tour of Argentina. Eventually, the WRU reversed their decision, appointing Clive Rowlands to tour as coach. Of the six matches, Wales won three, drew two and lost one.
Second 'golden age' (1969–1979)
The Welsh team of 1969–79 were and still are considered to be one of the greatest rugby teams of all time. With world-class players such as Gareth Edwards, J.P.R. Williams, Gerald Davies, Barry John, and Mervyn Davies, Wales would, over the next decade, dominate Northern Hemisphere rugby, and attain an incredible winning record, losing only five times in the Five Nations Championship. When Wales defeated England in the 1969 Five Nations to win the Triple Crown and the championship, it ushered in the second 'golden age'. Wales toured New Zealand for the first time that year, but were defeated in both Tests. As well as losing the first Test 19–0, and the second 33–12, they also conceded 24 points to the All Blacks' fullback Fergie McCormick in the second Test; a record at the time.
In 1970, Wales shared the Five Nations with France, and recorded a 6–6 draw against South Africa in Cardiff. In 1971, Wales recorded their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1952. Using only 16 players in four games, the 1971 side is considered one of the greatest in Welsh rugby history. Their most notable victory of the tournament was their victory over Scotland. After a last minute try by Gerald Davies to reduce Scotland's lead to 18–17, flanker John Taylor kicked a conversion from the sideline described as "the greatest conversion since St Paul" to give Wales a 19–18 win. Wales contributed more players than any other team to the British and Irish Lions that toured New Zealand that year. Those Lions became the only to win a series over the All Blacks.
In the 1972 Five Nations Championship, Wales and Scotland refused to travel to Dublin at the height of the Troubles after receiving threats, purportedly from the IRA. The Championship remained unresolved with Wales and Ireland unbeaten. Although the Five Nations was a five way tie in 1973, the Welsh did defeat Australia 24–0 in Cardiff.
Wales next won the Five Nations outright in 1975, after sharing it with the four other countries in 1973. In 1976, Wales won their second Grand slam of the decade. Just like the first in 1971, they only used 16 players over their four matches. They repeated the feat in 1978 and, in the process, became the first team to win three consecutive Triple Crowns. Following their final Five Nations match of 1978, both Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards retired from rugby. Later that year, Wales played the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park, losing 13–12 after a late penalty goal by the replacement All Black fullback, Brian McKechnie. The penalty was controversial because All Black lock Andy Haden had dived out of a line-out in an attempt to earn a penalty. Haden admitted in November 1989 – on the eve of that year's Wales match against New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park – that he and Frank Oliver had pre-agreed this foul tactic should the All Blacks find themselves in difficulties. Although the incident looks obvious from the videotape (and referee Roger Quittenton was roasted by the press for failing to notice it), at the time the only journalist to comment was Clem Thomas. Visibility was not ideal but Quittenton later claimed (with mixed success) that he had actually given the penalty against Welsh lock Geoff Wheel for jumping off the shoulder of Frank Oliver. Whom one believes tends to reflect whom one supports though Welsh fans claim a moral victory that day. Haden later admitted that he was both surprised and delighted that his ploy worked. The All Blacks went on to secure their first Home Nations Grand Slam. Wales won the 1979 Five Nations with a Triple Crown. 
Barren years (1980–2003)
In 1980, the WRU's centenary year, Wales lost to the All Blacks in Cardiff by 23–3 after the All Blacks scored four tries to nil. Wales won two matches in each Five Nations championship between 1980 and 1986, and in 1983 were nearly upset by Japan; winning 29–24 at Cardiff. In 1984, Australia defeated Wales 28–9 at Cardiff Arms Park. This was the most points scored against Wales at Cardiff by a team from outside the Five Nations, and the first time they conceded a push-over try there; Australia went on to win their first Grand Slam.
Despite just one win in that year's Five Nations, Wales were still respected by the time of the first official Rugby World Cup in 1987. After defeating England in the quarter-finals, Wales faced hosts the All Blacks. Although the All Blacks won 49–6, Wales beat Australia in the third place play-off game to claim third. The next year Wales won the Triple Crown for the first time since 1979, but heavy defeats on tour to New Zealand later that year saw the end of a number of Welsh players' careers, as many converted to rugby league.
In 1990, Wales suffered their first Five Nations championship whitewash and, in 1991 narrowly avoided the same fate by earning one point for a draw with Ireland at Cardiff Arms Park. In the 1991 World Cup, Wales lost their first group phase game against Manu Samoa. They subsequently beat Argentina but lost heavily to eventual champions Australia and were thus knocked out prior to the quarter-finals. After winning two Five Nations games in 1992, and one in 1993, Wales won the Championship in 1994 on points difference over England.
In the 1995 World Cup, after beating Argentina 23–18, Wales comprehensively beat Japan and lost to New Zealand, this meant that they had to beat Ireland to make the quarter-finals. Wales lost 24–23 and so failed to qualify for the second time, and this resulted in Kevin Bowring becoming Wales' first professional coach when he replaced Alex Evans that year.
Wales' performances improved with the appointment of coach Graham Henry in 1998, and the return of several internationals from rugby league. Henry coached Wales to a record run of ten consecutive victories, including Wales' first ever victory over the then-world champions, South Africa, by 29–19 in the opening match of the Millennium Stadium, and was nicknamed "the great redeemer" by the Welsh media. Hosting the 1999 World Cup, Wales qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1987, but lost 9–24 to eventual champions Australia. Defeats to Argentina and Ireland in 2001 and 2002 led to Henry's resignation in February 2002; his assistant Steve Hansen took over. Further defeats led to perhaps Wales' biggest ever shake-up in 2003. At the 2003 World Cup, Wales scored four tries in their 53–37 loss to New Zealand and also lost (28–17) to the eventual tournament winners, England, in their quarter-final, despite outscoring them by three tries to one.
Coached by Mike Ruddock, Wales won their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005. They opened with an 11–9 win over England at the Millennium Stadium, thanks to a late long range penalty from Gavin Henson. After a 38–8 win over Italy, Wales faced France, and were losing 15–6 at half-time. Wales fought back in the second half to win 24–18, and the game was arguably one of the most exciting of that year's tournament. Wales beat Scotland away (46–22) and then, in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium, played their final game against Ireland. Wales' 32–20 victory gave them their first championship title since 1994 and their first Grand Slam since 1978. The 41–3 loss to the All Blacks at the Millennium Stadium later that year was their biggest loss on Welsh soil. This was followed by a single-point win over Fiji, then a loss to South Africa, and lastly a win over Australia.
On 14 February 2006, midway through the Six Nations, Mike Ruddock resigned as the head coach of Wales, for family reasons. Scott Johnson took over as caretaker coach for the remaining games, and Wales eventually finished fifth in the 2006 Championship before Gareth Jenkins was appointed as head coach on 27 April. On 10 May 2007, Wales and Australia decided to celebrate 100 years of Test rugby between the two countries with the establishment of the James Bevan Trophy. It is named after the Australian-born Welsh-raised man who was Welsh team's first captain; Australia won the series 2–0.
The revival stuttered at the 2007 World Cup, as Wales failed to advance beyond the pool stage following a loss to Fiji. Coach Gareth Jenkins subsequently lost his job, and Warren Gatland, a New Zealander and former All Black, was appointed as Wales' new head coach on 9 November 2007. He had previously coached New Zealand province Waikato – leading them to success in the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup. His inaugural match as coach was Wales' first match of the 2008 Six Nations Championship, against England at Twickenham. England were favourites and led by 13 points at half-time, before Wales fought back to win a 26–19 – their first at Twickenham since 1988. Wales went unbeaten throughout the tournament, and won their second Grand Slam in four Championships after defeating France 29–12 at the Millennium Stadium. Wales conceded only two tries in the entire tournament, halving the previous record of four tries conceded by England in both 2002 and 2003.
In the 2008 end-of-year Tests Wales were defeated by both New Zealand and South Africa, but claimed wins over Canada and Australia. Wales' 21–18 victory made them the only Northern Hemisphere nation to defeat a Tri-Nations country in 2008, and sent them up to fifth in the world rankings and later fourth. Wales failed to retain their Six Nations Championship in 2009 after losing 17–15 to Ireland on the last day. The defeat gave Ireland the Grand Slam, and left Wales fourth on points difference despite their three wins.
At the 2011 World Cup, Wales defeated Fiji, Namibia and Samoa, only narrowly losing to South Africa at the pool stages. In the quarterfinals, they faced Ireland, beating them 22–10, hence reaching the semi-finals for the first time since 1987. It was at the semi-final stage that Wales came up short by the narrowest of margins, losing 9–8 to France after a red card for captain Sam Warburton in the 18th minute.
On 17 March 2012, Wales completed their third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight years, with a 16–9 victory over France at the Millennium Stadium in the 2012 Six Nations Championship. The victory over France was seen, by many, as the ultimate revenge for their narrow world cup semi-final defeat. After the 2012 Grand Slam Wales suffered 8 consecutive defeats (4 versus Australia), including a record run of 5 home defeats. The losing streak was broken in round 2 of the 2013 Six Nations Championship with Wales beating France 16–6 in Paris. On 9 March 2013 versus Scotland, Wales achieved a record fifth consecutive away win in the Six Nations. Wales retained the Six Nations Championship after beating England in their final match by a record winning margin 30–3. This was the first time Wales had retained the Championship since their 1978/1979 championship wins.
Wales play in red jerseys (embroidered with the Prince of Wales's feathers), red shorts and red socks. Their change strip – also known as alternative strip – is grey jerseys, shorts and socks although there have been various different coloured strips in the past. In international rugby union, the home team traditionally wears their change strip if there is a colour clash; hence the name change strip rather than away strip. The strip is currently made by Under Armour. The shirt sponsor is Cardiff based Insurance firm, Admiral. For the Rugby World Cup, however, the jersey is only allowed the national union's emblem, the Rugby World Cup logo, and the logo of the jersey's manufacturer on it.
The Prince of Wales' feathers were chosen in the 19th century by the WRU over another Welsh symbol, the leek, to demonstrate the nation's loyalty to Britain. In 1991, to enable the device to be trademarked, the original generic motif was replaced with a more stylised version. The original motto beneath the feathers was Ich dien (German for "I serve") but was replaced with WRU in the new version. Wales wore black jerseys as part of celebrations for the WRU's 125th anniversary in 2005. The jersey was worn against Fiji and then Australia that year; the Australia match was the first time Wales had not played in their red jersey against one of their traditional rivals. Former change strips worn by Wales have included a green or white jersey.
Rugby union and Wales' national team hold an important place in Welsh culture and society. Sport historian John Bale has stated that "rugby is characteristically Welsh", and David Andrew said that "To the popular consciousness, rugby is as Welsh as coal mining, male voice choirs, 'How Green Was My Valley,' Dylan Thomas, and Tom Jones". Welsh rugby's first 'golden age' (1900–1911) coincided with the country's zenith during the 20th century, and rugby was important in building Wales' modern identity.
The 2004–05 season saw record attendances for Welsh home internationals. For Wales' 2005 Six Nations match against Scotland in Edinburgh, 40,000 Welsh fans travelled to see the game. The home attendance record was bettered the next year when over 500,000 fans attended Wales' seven home matches. The Millennium Stadium regularly sells out all of its 74,500 seats.
Wales' first home international was played at St Helen's ground, Swansea in 1882. In the 1880s and 1890s, home Welsh internationals were played at Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Llanelli. Swansea continued to be used as an international venue until 1954, when Cardiff Arms Park became Wales' primary home venue. Cardiff Arms Park first had a stand erected in 1881, and continued to expand its seating that decade. Crowds continued to grow and in 1902 in Wales' match against Scotland a world record 40,000 spectators paid to see the match. In 1911, the owners of the Arms Park, the Marquess of Bute's family, confirmed Wales' tenure and the 1920s and 1930s, Wales gradually gained increasing control. A new stand was built at the park in the 1933–34 season, which increased the grounds capacity to 56,000.
By 1958, the WRU had concluded that a new national ground was needed due to flooding that often plagued Arms Park. After debate and disputes between the WRU and various other parties, including Cardiff RFC, in the 1960s, it was decided that a new national stadium would be built with a new ground for the Cardiff club backing onto it. The National Stadium, as it was known, was officially opened in 1970.
Currently, Wales play all their home matches at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, which is also Wales' national stadium. The Millennium Stadium has a capacity of 74,500, and is the largest stadium in Wales, as well as the fourth-most capacious in the entire United Kingdom, behind Wembley, Twickenham and Old Trafford. The Millennium Stadium was first conceived in 1994, when a group redevelopment committee was set up. It was decided to replace the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park after a review found it was out of date; new legislation also required stadia to be all seated. Construction began in September 1997, and was completed by June 1999, in time for the Rugby World Cup. The construction cost the WRU £126 million, which was funded by private investment, £46 million of public funds from the National Lottery, the sale of debentures to supporters (which offered guaranteed tickets in exchange for an interest-free loan), and loans. While the new ground was being built, Wales used the old Wembley Stadium for their home matches – a deal reciprocated during construction of the new Wembley, when FA Cup finals were held at the Millennium Stadium.
Wales compete annually in the Six Nations Championship, which is played against five other European nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, and Scotland. The Six Nations started as the Home Nations Championship in 1883, as a contest between the four component nations of the United Kingdom. Wales first won it in 1893, when they achieved a Triple Crown. Wales have won the tournament outright 26 times, and shared eleven other victories. Their longest wait between championships was 11 years (1994–2005). Wales first won a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1911, and their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005. Their latest Grand Slam was won against France on 17 March 2012, and they claimed their most recent Triple Crown on 25 February 2012 against England.
Wales have contested every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. The 1987 tournament was Wales' most successful; they won all three pool matches and their quarter-final, before losing to the All Blacks in the semi-finals. They then faced Australia in the third place play-off match, which they won 22–21. In the next two tournaments in 1991 and 1995, Wales failed to progress beyond the pool stage, winning just one match in each tournament. Both the 1999 and 2003 tournaments were more successful, with Wales qualifying for the quarter-finals both times. Wales hosted the event in 1999 and topped their pool only to lose to eventual winners Australia in the quarter-finals. In 2003, they finished second in their pool behind the All Blacks, and faced England in their quarter-final. They lost to England, the eventual champions, 28–17 despite scoring three tries to one. Wales' did conceded 17 penalties, and their lack of discipline proved costly. In the 2007 World Cup, Wales again failed to progress from the pool stage. After a loss to Australia, and two wins against Japan and Canada, they faced Fiji for a place in the quarter-finals. The game started poorly for Wales who were behind 25–3 at half-time. They fought back to lead by three points with six minutes remaining, but Fiji then scored a try to win 38–34 and eliminate Wales from the tournament. In the 2011 World Cup, Wales reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1987. Playing the semi-finals against France, Wales lost 9–8, in a game conditioned by the controversial red card given to Wales' captain Sam Warburton after a dangerous tackle against Vincent Clerc, after just 18 minutes of play.
|Top 25 Rankings as 14 July 2014|
|*Change from the previous week|
|Wales's Historical Rankings|
|Source: IRB - Graph updated to 20 May 2013|
Wales have won 341 of their 663 Test matches, 51% (see table).
When the IRB World Rankings were introduced in October 2003, Wales were ranked 8th. They rose to 7th in June 2004, before falling back to 8th in November that year. Following a Grand Slam win of the 2005 Six Nations Championship, they rose to a ranking position of 5th. They fell to 9th by June 2006, and, after rising back to 8th by September, fell to 10th after the 2007 World Cup. A 2nd Grand Slam in 2008 Six Nations Championship promoted them to 6th in the IRB World Rankings, following 3 successive losses to South Africa in the June tour and the first of the 2008 Autumn Internationals Wales slipped to 7th. Victories over Canada and Australia, coupled with losses for England against the Tri-Nations teams resulted in Wales gaining 5th position in the rankings, followed by a further climb to 4th position after a win over Scotland in their first match of the 2009 Six Nations Championship, going on to win a grand slam. They slumped to 9th in 2010 but rose back to 4th after achieving that position in the 2011 World Cup. After winning a grand slam in the 2012 Six Nations, Wales dropped to 10th by early 2013 after a long losing streak, but rallied back to 5th in winning the 2013 Six Nations.
Their Test record against all nations, updated 14 June 2014:
|New Zealand Natives||1||1||0||0||100%|
|New Zealand Services||1||0||1||0||0%|
- Caps updated: 21 June 2014
- See also Wales rugby union captains, List of Wales national rugby union players and British and Irish Lions rugby union players from Wales
Somerset-born Frank Hancock, a 2011 inductee into the IRB Hall, changed the game of rugby when he was played as a fourth threequarter for Cardiff. When given the captaincy of Wales in 1886 he trialed the system against Scotland, the very first international match to see four threequarters play. Although the system was abandoned during the match, it was readopted by Wales in 1888 and was quickly absorbed by the other Home Nation countries. It is now the standard formation in world rugby.
Known as the Prince of three-quarters, Gwyn Nicholls played 24 Tests for Wales at centre between 1896 and 1906. He was the only Welsh player in the British Isles team of 1899, and was the star for Wales during their first golden era. Not only did he captain Wales to three Triple Crowns, but also led them to their famous victory over the All Blacks in 1905. On 26 December 1949, gates bearing his name at Cardiff Arms Park were officially opened.
Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews, both centres who were inducted posthumously into the IRB Hall in 2013, were called by the IRB "a uniquely complementary and successful partnership at club, national team and Lions levels after the Second World War." Both captained Cardiff and Wales, made their international debuts in 1947, and were on the Lions squad that toured Australia and New Zealand in 1950. Williams, nicknamed the "Prince of Centres", earned 22 caps for Wales and five for the Lions in an eight-year Test career. Wales won all five Tests in which he served as captain; at the time of his induction, he was the only Wales captain with a 100% winning record. Williams went on to become a prominent rugby commentator. Matthews, renowned for his strong tackling, earned 17 caps for Wales and six for the Lions, calling time on his Test career in 1951. After his playing career, he became the Lions' first team doctor, serving in that role during the 1980 tour to South Africa.
Named the greatest Welsh player of the 1950s by the WRU, Cliff Morgan played 29 Tests for Wales, and four for the British Lions between 1951 and 1958. Morgan played at fly-half and was one of the sport's biggest crowd-pullers during his career. He played during Wales' Five Nations Grand Slam of 1952, and their victory over the All Blacks in 1953, but he is most famous for captaining the British Lions in South Africa in 1955. One of Morgan's great friends was Carwyn James. Although most notable for his coaching record, James appeared for Wales in two Tests in 1958. He coached the British Lions to their only series victory over New Zealand in 1971, with a team including many Welsh players. He also coached Welsh club Llanelli, and the Barbarians side that defeated the All Blacks in 1973. Despite this, he never coached Wales. Morgan, inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997, was further honoured with induction into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2009.
When Wales faced Australia on 3 December 1966, two future Rugby Hall of Fame members made their Test debuts; Gerald Davies and Barry John. Davies played 46 Tests for Wales between 1966 and 1978. Although he started out playing in the centre, he was moved to the wing during Wales' 1969 tour of New Zealand and Australia, and eventually scored 20 Test tries for Wales. Davies also played for the Lions during their 1968 tour of South Africa and 1971 tour of New Zealand. Barry John first played for Wales in 1966, and was selected for the 1968 Lions' tour of South Africa. Playing at fly-half, John helped Wales to a Five Nations Grand Slam in 1971, and then the Lions to their one and only series win over the All Blacks that same year. His exploits on the Lions tour of 1971 were rewarded with the nickname of The King by the New Zealand press, though the pressure of expectation and fame saw him quit rugby the following year.
Widely regarded as the greatest rugby union player of all time, Gareth Edwards played 53 Tests for Wales at scrum-half between 1967 and 1978. Edwards was never dropped from the team and played all 53 of his Tests consecutively. He also played in three Lions tours; including the series victories in New Zealand in 1971, and the unbeaten tour of South Africa in 1974. Edwards won five Triple Crowns with Wales and three Five Nations Grand Slams. He also scored a try for the Barbarians against the All Blacks in 1973, remembered as that try and considered one of the sport's greatest. In 2003, Edwards was voted the greatest player of all time by Rugby World magazine. In 2007, Edwards earned an additional honour with his induction into the IRB Hall of Fame.
In 1969, three Hall of Fame members debuted for Wales; Phil Bennett, Mervyn Davies, and JPR Williams. Bennett played 29 Tests for Wales. He started out playing at fullback, but after Barry John retired, he was moved to fly-half. As well as representing Wales, he played eight Tests for the Lions and captained them on their 1977 tour of New Zealand. Mervyn Davies was known as Merve the Swerve and played 38 consecutive Tests for Wales between 1969 and 1976, losing only eight of them. After captaining Wales in his last nine appearances, Davies was forced to retire due to a brain haemorrhage. JPR Williams played 55 Tests for Wales between 1969 and 1981. Whilst doing so, he won six Triple Crowns, three Five Nations Grand Slams, and captained Wales for five Tests in 1979. Playing at full-back, he also toured with the Lions in 1971 and 1974, before retiring temporarily in 1980. He made a brief comeback, however, in 1981, when he played his final match, against Scotland.
Ieuan Evans played for Wales between 1987 and 1998, and in the process earned 72 Welsh caps whilst Wales was transcending the amateur and professional eras. Playing mainly on the wing, Evans scored 33 tries for Wales, a record until surpassed by Gareth Thomas in 2004. As well as that, he was awarded seven Lions caps from the 1989, 1993 and 1997 tours.
In November 2008, Shane Williams and Ryan Jones became the first Welsh players to be nominated in a group of five players for the IRB International Player of the Year award, first awarded in 2001. Shane Williams was duly selected as the 2008 International Player of the Year. In November 2013 Leigh Halfpenny was named in a shortlist of five players for the IRB International Player of the Year award.
- See List of Wales national rugby union team records; and List of Wales national rugby union players for a sortable list containing player caps and tries
Neil Jenkins was the first rugby player to surpass 1000 Test points. He holds several records for the Wales team, including the most points scored for Wales with 1049, the most successful penalty kicks for Wales with 248, and the Wales record for most points in a single Test match with 30. The record for drop-goals for Wales is held by Jonathan Davies with 13.
Shane Williams is Wales' record try-scorer with 58 tries. Williams is also Wales' record try-scorer in Six Nations Championships with 22 and the Rugby World Cups with 10. Colin Charvis' 22 tries is the all-time Welsh record for a forward, and was the world record for tries by a forward until 2011.
Gethin Jenkins is the nation's most capped player with 107 Welsh caps. Three other players have earned 100 caps or more: Stephen Jones with 104, and Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams with 100. The record for most Tests as captain is held by Ryan Jones with 33. The record for the most consecutive appearances is held by Gareth Edwards who played all 53 of his Tests for Wales consecutively between 1967 and 1978. Edwards is also Wales' youngest ever captain at the age of 20.
The youngest player ever capped for Wales is Tom Prydie, who made his debut in Wales' 2010 Six Nations finale against Italy at age 18 years, 25 days, beating the record set by Norman Biggs in 1888. Prydie is also Wales' youngest try-scorer, scored against South Africa in June 2010, overtaking the record that Tom Pearson set on his debut in 1891. Winger George North, aged 18 years 214 days, overtook Pearson's record as the youngest Wales player to score a try on debut in November 2010.
Paul Thorburn holds the world record for the longest successful kick in an international test match. He gained the record during the 1986 Five Nations Championship at Cardiff Arms Park with a penalty kick measuring exactly 70 yards 8 and a half inches (64.2 metres) against Scotland.
Welsh Sports Hall of Fame
The following Welsh players have been inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame:
- 1990 Ken Jones
- 1991 Cliff Jones, Cliff Morgan
- 1992 Gerald Davies
- 1994 J.P.R. Williams
- 1997 Bleddyn Williams
- 1998 Gareth Edwards, Lewis Jones
- 1999 Carwyn James, Barry John
- 2000 David Watkins
- 2001 Mervyn Davies
- 2002 Gwyn Nicholls
- 2003 Jonathan Davies, Willie Davies, John Dawes
- 2005 John Gwilliam
- 2007 Arthur Gould, Phil Bennett
- 2008 Billy Trew
- 2009 J.J. Williams
- 2012 Bryn Meredith
- 2013 Clive Rowlands
Following the unsuccessful tour to South Africa in 1964, the WRU set up a working party on coaching. The party recommended that Welsh clubs accept the principle of coaching. David Nash was appointed as the national team's first coach in 1967, but for the 1968 tour of Argentina, the WRU initially planned not to have a coach tour with the team. Following pressure from the Welsh clubs at the WRU's annual general meeting, the decision was reversed and Clive Rowlands was appointed as coach for the tour. The appointing of a coach for the team coincided with Wales' success in the Five Nations during the 1970s.
|Alex Evans||1995 (caretaker coach)||4||1||0||3||25.0|
|Dennis John||1998 (caretaker coach)||2||1||0||1||50.0|
|Lynn Howells||2001 (caretaker coach)||2||2||0||0||100.0|
|Scott Johnson||2006 (caretaker coach)||3||0||1||2||0.0|
|Nigel Davies||2007 (caretaker coach)||1||0||0||1||0.0|
|Robin McBryde||2009, 2013 (caretaker coach)||4||3||0||1||75.0|
|Rob Howley||2012–13 (caretaker coach)||11||5||0||6||45.5|
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