Wales national rugby union team

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Wru logo.png
Union Welsh Rugby Union
Emblem(s) The Prince of Wales's feathers
Ground(s) Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Coach(es) Warren Gatland
Captain(s) Sam Warburton
Most caps Gethin Jenkins (114)
Top scorer Neil Jenkins (1,049)
Most tries Shane Williams (58)
Team kit
Change kit
First international
 England 8 – 0 Wales 
(19 February 1881)
Largest win
 Wales 98 – 0 Japan 
(26 November 2004)
Largest defeat
 South Africa 96 – 13 Wales 
(27 June 1998)
World Cup
Appearances 8/8 (First in 1987)
Best result Third, 1987

The Wales national rugby union team (Welsh: Tîm rygbi'r undeb cenedlaethol Cymru) represent Wales in international rugby union. 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.

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 two World Wars, but experienced a second 'golden age' between 1969 and 1980 when they won eight Five Nations Championships.

Wales played in the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 where they achieved their best ever result of third. Following the sport allowing professionalism in 1995, Wales hosted the 1999 World Cup and, in 2005, won their first-ever Six Nations Grand Slam. That was the first Grand Slam won by a team playing most of the matches away from home. Wales won two more Grand Slams in 2008 and in 2012, and in 2011 came fourth in the Rugby World Cup. Wales didn't make it past the Quarter Finals at the 2015 World Cup.

Their home ground is the Millennium Stadium, completed in 1999 to replace the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park. Eight former Welsh players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, and ten into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.


Early years (1881–1892)[edit]

Three rows of rugby players wearing their playing uniforms and caps
The 1895 Wales team before playing England in the Home Nations Championship

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.[1] 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).[2][3] On 12 March 1881, the Welsh Rugby Union was formed at The Castle Hotel, Neath.[2] Two years later, the Home Nation Championship – now the Six Nations Championship – was first played and Wales did not register a win.[4][5][6] 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.[7]

First 'golden age' (1893–1913)[edit]

Several rows of players and officials wearing their playing uniform.
Wales' 1905 team that defeated New Zealand

With the "four three-quarter" formation Wales became Home International Champions for the first time in 1893; in the process winning the Triple Crown.[7] Wales next won the Championship in 1900, heralding the first "golden age" of Welsh rugby which was to last until 1911.[8] They won two more Triple Crowns in 1902 and 1905,[9] and were runners up in 1901, 1903 and 1904.[6]

A mass of players compete for the ball in a scrum.
A scrum in the Wales victory over New Zealand's Original All Blacks in 1905

When Wales faced New Zealand's All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park in late 1905 they had not lost at home since 1899.[10] This New Zealand team  – now referred to as the Original All Blacks – was the first of the southern hemisphere national teams to visit the British Isles,[11] and were undefeated on their tour up until that point; their victories included prior defeats of England, Ireland and Scotland.[12][a] Before the match, the All Blacks performed a haka (a Māori 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.[13] Wales' wing Teddy Morgan scored a try 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 try-line before the referee arrived. The referee ruled a scrum to Wales and the score did not change; Wales winning 3–0.[14] The loss was the All Blacks' only loss on their 35-match tour.[15]

In 1906, Wales again won the Home Championship,[9][b] and later that year played the South African national side, the Springboks for the first time. Wales were favourites to win the match,[16] but instead South Africa dominated in the forwards and eventually won 11–0.[17][18] Two years later, on 12 December 1908, Wales played the touring Australians, the Wallabies, who they defeated 9–6.[19]

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 Five Nations Grand Slam by winning all their matches in the Five Nations;[9][c]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.[9] 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.[20] The Great War came in 1914 and rugby was suspended for the duration.

Post-war years (1920–1968)[edit]

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.[21] Half-a-million people emigrated from Wales to find work elsewhere during the depression;[22] this included many Welsh rugby union internationals who moved to the professional code of rugby league.[23] 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.[24] 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.[21]

A rugby match with players from both teams bearing down on a loose ball
Wales playing France during the 1922 Five Nations Championship

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.[25] Then, in 1933, captained by Watcyn Thomas, Wales defeated England at Twickenham.[26] 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[d] Wales did play a Red Cross charity match against England at Cardiff in 1940, which Wales lost 18–9.[28]

Following the Second World War, Wales played a New Zealand Army team (the Kiwis) in 1946, which Wales lost 11–3.[29] 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,[30] they won their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1911 in 1950.[9] The next year, they lost to the touring South Africans 6–3 despite dominating in the line-outs.[31] They achieved another Grand Slam in 1952,[9] followed by a 13–8 win over the All Blacks in 1953.[32] 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.[33] In 1956, Wales again won the Five Nations, but they did not regain the title until 1964 and did not win it outright until 1965.[9]

Wales conducted their first overseas tour in 1964, playing several games and one Test in South Africa.[34] They lost the Test against South Africa in Durban 24–3, their biggest defeat in 40 years.[35] 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".[34] 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.[36] 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.[37] 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.[38]

Second 'golden age' (1969–1979)[edit]

Wales enjoyed a second "golden age" in the 1970s,[39][40][41] with world-class players such as Gareth Edwards,[41] J. P. R. Williams, Gerald Davies,[41] Barry John,[39] and Mervyn Davies,[42] in their side. Wales dominated Northern Hemisphere rugby between 1969 and 1979, and attained an incredible winning record, losing only seven times during that period.[39] Wales toured New Zealand for the first time in 1969, but were defeated in both Tests. As well as losing the first Test 19–0, and the second 33–12,[43] they also conceded 24 points to the All Blacks' fullback Fergie McCormick in the second Test; a record at the time.[44]

In 1970, Wales shared the Five Nations with France, and recorded a 6–6 draw against South Africa in Cardiff.[45] The following year Wales recorded their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1952. Using only 16 players in four games,[46] the 1971 side achieved their most notable win of the tournament in their victory over Scotland;[47] after a last minute try by Gerald Davies that reduced 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.[48] 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.[49]

In the 1972 Five Nations Championship, Wales and Scotland refused to travel to Ireland at the height of the Troubles after receiving threats, purportedly from the Irish Republican Army.[50] 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.[51]

Wales next won the Five Nations outright in 1975, and 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.[52] They repeated the feat in 1978 and, in the process, became the first team to win three consecutive Triple Crowns.[53] Following their final Five Nations match of 1978, both Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards retired from rugby.[41]

Wales hosted the All Blacks at Cardiff Arms Park in November 1979, losing 13–12 after a late penalty goal by the replacement All Black fullback, Brian McKechnie.[54] 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 later admitted that he and Frank Oliver had pre-agreed this tactic should the All Blacks find themselves in difficulties.[55][56] Referee Roger Quittenton was roasted by the press for failing to notice the dive, but he later stated he had the penalty was in for Welsh lock Geoff Wheel for jumping off the shoulder of Frank Oliver.[57] Quittenton later said, "Haden's perception is that his dive secured the penalty. That is a load of rubbish".[56] The All Blacks went on to secure their first Home Nations Grand Slam.[58][e] Wales then went on to win the 1979 Five Nations with a Triple Crown.[9]

Barren years (1980–2003)[edit]

Head shot of a middle-aged man
New Zealander Graham Henry coached Wales to their first ever Test win over South Africa in 1999.

In 1980, the WRU's centenary year,[59] Wales lost to the All Blacks in Cardiff by 23–3 after the All Blacks scored four tries to nil.[60] Wales won two matches in each Five Nations of 1980 and 1981,[61] and in 1983 were nearly upset by Japan; winning 29–24 at Cardiff.[62] In 1984, Australia defeated Wales 28–9 at Cardiff Arms Park and in the process scored a push-over try. Australia went on to win their first Home Nations Grand Slam.[19]

Wales achieved only one win in 1987's Five Nations before contesting the inaugural Rugby World Cup.[61] Wales defeated Ireland in their crucial pool fixture,[63] before defeating England in the quarter-finals.[64] They then faced hosts the All Blacks who won 49–6, but beat Australia in the third place play-off game to claim third.[65] 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 several converted to rugby league.[59]

Welsh rugby reached a nadir when Wales suffered their first Five Nations championship whitewash; they had upset England in 1989 to avoid losing all their Championship matches that season,[66] but in 1990 Wales were defeated in all four Five Nations' matches for the first time.[67] The 1991 World Cup saw further frustration when Wales were upset by Manu Samoa in their opening match.[68] A second group-stage loss, by 38–3 to Australia, eliminated the Wales from the tournament.[69]

After winning two Five Nations games in 1992, and one in 1993,[70] Wales won the Championship in 1994 on points difference.[9] But without defeating one of Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, during the inter-World Cup period, Wales was not considered a major tournament contender.[69][71] At the 1995 World Cup, after beating Argentina 23–18, Wales comprehensively beat Japan and lost to New Zealand; this meant that they needed to defeat Ireland to qualify for the quarter-finals. Wales lost 24–23 and so failed to progress beyond the pool stage for the second time,[72] and later that year Kevin Bowring replaced replaced Alex Evans to become Wales' first full-time coach.[73]

Record defeats, 51–0 to France, and 96–13 to South Africa, prompted the WRU to appoint New Zealander Graham Henry as coach in 1998.[74][75] Henry had early success as coach, leading Wales to a ten-match winning streak; this included Wales' first ever victory over South Africa, by 29–19.[74] Henry was consequently nicknamed "the great redeemer" by the Welsh media and fans.[75][76] 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.[77] A lack of success in the Five and Six Nations (Italy joined the tournament in 2000), and especially a number of heavy losses to Ireland, led to Henry's resignation in February 2002; his assistant Steve Hansen took over.[74][75]

During Hansen's tenure, the WRU implemented a significant change in the structure of the game domestically. Regional teams were introduced as a tier above the traditional club-based structures in 2003, and the five (then four) regional sides became the top level of domestic professional rugby in the principality.[f][78][79] At the 2003 World Cup, Wales scored four tries in their 53–37 loss to New Zealand,[80] and also lost to the eventual tournament winners, England, in their quarter-final, despite outscoring them by three tries to one.[81]

Revival (2004–present)[edit]

 A Welsh player grasping the ball while being held in the air by his team-mates following a line-out
Michael Owen takes a line-out.

Coached by Mike Ruddock, Wales won their first Grand Slam since 1978 and their first ever Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005. A late long range penalty from Gavin Henson gave them a victory over England at Cardiff for the first time in 12 years,[82] and after victories over Italy, France, Scotland, they faced Ireland in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium where Wales' 32–20 victory gave them their first Championship since 1994.[83] Later that year they suffered a record home loss, 41–3 to New Zealand.[84]

Mike Ruddock resigned as the head coach of Wales mid-way through the 2006 Six Nations,[85] where Wales finished fifth, and Gareth Jenkins was eventually appointed as his replacement.[86] Jenkins led Wales through the 2007 World Cup, where they failed to advance beyond the pool stage following a loss to Fiji.[87] Jenkins subsequently lost his job,[88][89] and Warren Gatland, a New Zealander, was appointed as his successor.[90]

Wales faced England at Twickenham for Gatland's inaugural match as coach and their first match of the 2008 Six Nations. They had not defeated England there since 1988, and went on to win 26–19. They eventually won all their Championship matches, conceding only two tries in the process, to claim another Grand Slam.[91] Later that year Wales defeated Australia 21–18 in Cardiff, but then started a six-year, twenty-three-game win-less streak against the southern hemisphere nations of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.[92]

At the 2011 World Cup, Wales reached the tournament semi-finals for the first time since 1987 where they lost 9–8 to France after a red card for captain Sam Warburton.[93] The two teams met again in March 2012, where Wales needed a win to claim their third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight years, which they did with a 16–9 victory.[94] This was followed immediately by an eight-match losing streak, which was eventually broken during the 2013 Six Nations,[95] where Wales retained the Championship for the first time since 1979 wins.[96] Wales reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup at the expense of hosts England, then lost 23–19 to South Africa.[97]


Wales play in red jerseys, white shorts and red socks. For the 2015–16 season, the design of the Jersey incorporated gold for the first time. The jerseys are embroidered with the Prince of Wales's feathers, which were chosen in the 19th century by the WRU over another Welsh symbol, the leek, to demonstrate the nation's loyalty to Britain.[98] 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.[99]

Wales change strip – also known as the alternative strip – is black jerseys, shorts and socks.[100] although there have been various different coloured strips in the past Former change strips worn by Wales have included a green, navy, white or grey jersey.[101] Wales previously 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.[101] Since the 2008 end-of-year Tests, the strip is made by Under Armour. They replaced Reebok who supplied the Wales strip between late 1996 and the 2008 mid-year-Tests.[102] The shirt sponsor is Cardiff based Insurance firm, Admiral.[103][g]

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
1991–1996 Cotton Traders No shirt sponsor
1997–2000 Reebok[105]
2000–2002 Redstone Telecom[106]
2002–2004 Rockport[107]
2004–2008 Brains Brewery
2008–2010 Under Armour[108]
2010–present Admiral[109]


Main article: Rugby union in Wales

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".[110] Welsh rugby's first 'golden age' (1900–1911) coincided with the country's zenith during the 20th century,[111] and rugby was important in building Wales' modern identity.[112] There is a long tradition of Welsh supporters singing before and during matches. The choral tradition developed in Wales during the nineteenth-century alongside the rise of nonconformity, and has extended to singing at rugby matches.[113] Commonly sung songs include the hymn Bread of Heaven,[113] Tom Jones' Delilah,[114] and Max Boyce's Hymns and Arias.[115]


Exterior view of a stadium from across a river
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, where Wales play their home games

Wales' first home international was played at St Helen's ground, Swansea in 1882.[116] In the 1880s and 1890s, home Welsh internationals were played at Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Llanelli.[117] Swansea continued to be used as an international venue until 1954, when Cardiff Arms Park became Wales' primary home venue.[118][119] Cardiff Arms Park first had a stand erected in 1881, and continued to expand its seating that decade.[120] Crowds continued to grow and in 1902 in Wales' match against Scotland a world record 40,000 spectators paid to see the match.[121] In 1911, the owners of the Arms Park, the Marquess of Bute's family,[122] confirmed Wales' tenure and the 1920s and 1930s, Wales gradually gained increasing control.[123] A new stand was built at the park in the 1933–34 season, which increased the grounds capacity to 56,000.[124]

Exterior view of a stadium from across a river
The National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park

By 1958, the WRU had concluded that a new national ground was needed due to flooding that often plagued Arms Park.[125] 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.[126] The National Stadium, as it was known, was officially opened in 1970.[127]

Currently, Wales play all their home matches at the 74,500 capacity Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, which is also Wales' national stadium.[128] 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.[129] 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.[130] While the new ground was being built, Wales used the old Wembley Stadium for their home matches[131] – a deal reciprocated during construction of the new Wembley, when FA Cup finals were held at the Millennium Stadium.[132]


Six Nations[edit]

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.[4][7] Wales have won the tournament outright 26 times, and shared eleven other victories.[133] Their longest wait between championships was 11 years (1994–2005). Wales first won a Grand Slam in 1908 – although France did not officially join the Five Nations until 1910 – and their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005.[4][83] 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.

World Cup[edit]

Two packs of players crouched before commencing a scrum
A scrum between Wales and Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup

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.[65] In the next two tournaments in 1991 and 1995, Wales failed to progress beyond the pool stage, winning just one match in each tournament.[69][72] 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.[77][134] In 2003, they finished second in their pool behind the All Blacks,[80] and faced England in their quarter-final. They lost to England, the eventual champions, 28–17. Wales' did conceded 17 penalties, and their lack of discipline proved costly.[81] 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.[87] 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.[88] At 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 overshadowed by the 18th-minute sending off of Wales' captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous tackle against Vincent Clerc.[93]


Top 25 rankings as on 23 November 2015[135]
Rank Change* Team Points
1 Steady  New Zealand 96.10
2 Steady  Australia 89.33
3 Steady  South Africa 87.66
4 Steady  Wales 83.49
5 Steady  Argentina 82.59
6 Steady  Ireland 81.17
7 Steady  France 79.77
8 Steady  England 79.77
9 Steady  Scotland 77.94
10 Steady  Japan 77.05
11 Steady  Fiji 76.96
12 Steady  Italy 72.74
13 Steady  Tonga 71.60
14 Steady  Georgia 71.45
15 Steady  Samoa 70.36
16 Steady  United States 68.66
17 Steady  Romania 66.59
18 Increase3  Russia 63.54
19 Decrease1  Canada 62.65
20 Decrease1  Uruguay 62.11
21 Increase1  Spain 61.96
22 Decrease2  Namibia 61.75
23 Steady  Hong Kong 57.17
24 Steady  Chile 56.92
25 Steady  South Korea 56.70
*Change from the previous week
Wales's Historical Rankings
Wales IRB World Rankings.png
Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 1 November 2015[135]

When the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003, Wales were ranked 8th.[h] They rose to 7th in June 2004, before falling back to 8th in November that year. Following a Grand Slam win in the 2005 Six Nations, 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 second Six Nations' Grand Slam in 2008 propelled them to 6th in the rankings, but following losses to South Africa in the mid-year and end-of-year internationals Wales slipped to 7th. Wales climbed to 4th after a win over Scotland in their first match of the 2009 Six Nations. They slumped to 9th in 2010 but rose back to 4th after their fourth place in the 2011 World Cup.[136] Since then – notwithstanding a nine-game slump in 2012–13 where they fell to 9th – Wales have ranked consistently in the top six teams. They reached their highest ranking of 2nd during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.[137]

Wales have won 352 of their 681 Test matches for a 51.69% winning record.[138][139] Their biggest Test defeat was 96–13 loss to South Africa in 1998, and their largest victory a 98–0 defeat of Japan in 2004. Their record for most tries in a match is 16, scored against Portugal in 1994 – they also scored 102 points in this match, more than in any other Test. Wales' record for consecutive Test wins is eleven, and for consecutive losses is ten.[139]

Below is table summary of Wales Test matches up until 17 October 2015.[138][139]

Opponent Played Won Lost Drawn Win % For Aga Diff
 Argentina 15 10 5 0 66.67% 428 350 +78
 Australia 39 10 28 1 25.64% 596 912 −316
Barbarians 4 2 2 0 50.00% 113 93 +20
 Canada 12 11 1 0 91.67% 460 207 +253
 England 127 57 58 12 44.88% 1484 1621 −137
 Fiji 11 9 1 1 81.82% 329 145 +184
 France 93 47 43 3 50.54% 1384 1338 +46
 Ireland 123 67 50 6 54.47% 1461 1365 +96
 Italy 23 20 2 1 86.96% 748 386 +362
 Japan 9 8 1 0 88.89% 493 129 +364
 Namibia 4 4 0 0 100.00% 171 69 +102
 New Zealand 30 3 27 0 10.00% 307 916 −609
 New Zealand Natives 1 1 0 0 100.00% 1G 0G +1G
 New Zealand Services 1 0 1 0 0.00% 3 6 −3
 Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 100.00% 38 20 +18
 Portugal 1 1 0 0 100.00% 102 11 +91
 Romania 8 6 2 0 75.00% 342 96 +246
 Samoa 9 5 4 0 55.56% 216 163 +53
 Scotland 120 69 48 3 57.50% 1584 1211 +373
 South Africa 31 2 28 1 6.45% 459 837 −378
 Spain 1 1 0 0 100.00% 54 0 +54
 Tonga 7 7 0 0 100.00% 203 78 +125
 United States 7 7 0 0 100.00% 305 86 +219
 Uruguay 1 1 0 0 100.00% 54 9 +45
 Zimbabwe 3 3 0 0 100.00% 126 38 +88
Total 681 352 301 28 51.69% 11460 10086 +1374


Current squad[edit]

The WRU contacts some players under "dual contracts" that are 60% funded by the national union, and 40% by the player's regional side. The contracts restrict the number of domestic matches the player can play each season while guaranteeing their availability for Wales.[140][141] As of March 2015 there are twelve players with dual contracts.[142]

On 31 August 2015, Wales named a 31-man squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup,[143] After injuries to Rhys Webb and Leigh Halfpenny during Wales' warm-up match against Italy, they were replaced in the Welsh squad by Mike Philips and Eli Walker.[144] On 14 September, Eli Walker was released from the squad following injury and was replaced with Ross Moriarty.[145] On 21 September, Cory Allen was released from the squad following injury and was replaced with Tyler Morgan. On 28 September, Hallam Amos and Scott Williams were released from the squad following injury and were replaced with Gareth Anscombe and James Hook. On 11 October, Liam Williams were released from the squad following injury and two days later Eli Walker was recalled to the squad to replace him.

‡ – Denotes dual contracted players.[142]

  • Caps and clubs updated 17 October 2015.
Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province
Scott Baldwin Hooker (1988-07-12) 12 July 1988 (age 27) 15 Wales Ospreys
Ken Owens Hooker (1987-01-03) 3 January 1987 (age 28) 34 Wales Scarlets
Tomas Francis Prop (1992-04-27) 27 April 1992 (age 23) 7 England Exeter Chiefs
Paul James Prop (1982-05-13) 13 May 1982 (age 33) 65 Wales Ospreys
Aaron Jarvis Prop (1986-05-20) 20 May 1986 (age 29) 16 Wales Ospreys
Gethin Jenkins Prop (1980-11-17) 17 November 1980 (age 35) 119 Wales Cardiff Blues
Samson Lee Prop (1992-11-30) 30 November 1992 (age 23) 17 Wales Scarlets
Jake Ball Lock (1991-06-21) 21 June 1991 (age 24) 15 Wales Scarlets
Luke Charteris Lock (1983-03-09) 9 March 1983 (age 32) 62 France Racing 92
Bradley Davies Lock (1987-01-09) 9 January 1987 (age 28) 49 England Wasps
Dominic Day Lock (1985-08-22) 22 August 1985 (age 30) 3 England Bath
Alun Wyn Jones Lock (1985-09-19) 19 September 1985 (age 30) 94 Wales Ospreys
James King Flanker (1990-07-24) 24 July 1990 (age 25) 7 Wales Ospreys
Dan Lydiate Flanker (1987-12-18) 18 December 1987 (age 27) 51 Wales Ospreys
Justin Tipuric Flanker (1989-08-06) 6 August 1989 (age 26) 38 Wales Ospreys
Ross Moriarty Flanker (1994-04-18) 18 April 1994 (age 21) 4 England Gloucester
Sam Warburton (c) ‡ Flanker (1988-10-05) 5 October 1988 (age 27) 60 Wales Cardiff Blues
Taulupe Faletau Number 8 (1990-11-12) 12 November 1990 (age 25) 52 Wales Newport Gwent Dragons
Gareth Davies Scrum-half (1990-08-18) 18 August 1990 (age 25) 9 Wales Scarlets
Mike Phillips Scrum-half (1982-08-29) 29 August 1982 (age 33) 94 France Racing 92
Lloyd Williams Scrum-half (1989-11-30) 30 November 1989 (age 26) 24 Wales Cardiff Blues
Dan Biggar Fly-half (1989-10-16) 16 October 1989 (age 26) 39 Wales Ospreys
Rhys Priestland Fly-half (1987-01-09) 9 January 1987 (age 28) 40 England Bath
Jamie Roberts Centre (1986-11-08) 8 November 1986 (age 29) 74 England Harlequins
James Hook Centre (1985-06-27) 27 June 1985 (age 30) 81 England Gloucester
Tyler Morgan Centre (1995-09-11) 11 September 1995 (age 20) 3 Wales Newport Gwent Dragons
Alex Cuthbert Wing (1990-04-05) 5 April 1990 (age 25) 40 Wales Cardiff Blues
George North Wing (1992-04-13) 13 April 1992 (age 23) 55 England Northampton Saints
Eli Walker Wing (1992-03-28) 28 March 1992 (age 23) 1 Wales Ospreys
Matthew Morgan Fullback (1992-04-23) 23 April 1992 (age 23) 5 England Bristol
Gareth Anscombe Fullback (1991-05-10) 10 May 1991 (age 24) 3 Wales Cardiff Blues

National dual contracted players[edit]

The WRU contacts some players under "dual contracts" that are 60% funded by the national union, and 40% by the player's regional side. The contracts restrict the number of domestic matches the player can play each season while guaranteeing their availability for Wales.[140][141]

Player Position Date of Birth (Age) Caps Club/province Date signed
Sam Warburton Flanker (1988-10-05) 5 October 1988 (age 27) 53 Cardiff Blues 25 January 2014[146]
Dan Lydiate Flanker (1987-12-18) 18 December 1987 (age 27) 45 Ospreys 9 December 2014[147]
Hallam Amos Wing (1994-09-24) 24 September 1994 (age 21) 1 Newport Gwent Dragons 26 December 2014[148]
Rhodri Jones Prop (1991-12-23) 23 December 1991 (age 23) 13 Scarlets 26 December 2014
Tyler Morgan Centre (1995-09-11) 11 September 1995 (age 20) 0 Newport Gwent Dragons 26 December 2014
Jake Ball Lock (1991-06-21) 21 June 1991 (age 24) 11 Scarlets 2 January 2015[149]
Samson Lee Prop (1992-11-30) 30 November 1992 (age 23) 12 Scarlets 11 January 2015[150]
Rhys Webb Scrum-half (1988-12-09) 9 December 1988 (age 26) 13 Ospreys 17 March 2015[151]
Alun Wyn Jones Lock (1985-09-19) 19 September 1985 (age 30) 88 Ospreys 18 March 2015[152]
Dan Biggar Fly-half (1989-10-16) 16 October 1989 (age 26) 32 Ospreys 18 March 2015[152]
Scott Williams Centre (1990-10-10) 10 October 1990 (age 25) 28 Scarlets 18 March 2015[152]
Gareth Anscombe Fly-half (1991-05-10) 10 May 1991 (age 24) 0 Cardiff Blues 18 March 2015[152]
Scott Baldwin Hooker (1988-07-12) 12 July 1988 (age 27) 15 Ospreys 5 November 2015[153]
James King Flanker (1990-07-24) 24 July 1990 (age 25) 7 Ospreys 5 November 2015[153]
Dan Baker Number 8 (1992-07-05) 5 July 1992 (age 23) 2 Ospreys 6 November 2015[154]
Rory Thornton Lock (1995-03-16) 16 March 1995 (age 20) 0 Ospreys 6 November 2015[154]

Notable players[edit]

See also List of Wales national rugby union team captains, List of Wales national rugby union players and British and Irish Lions rugby union players from Wales
Portrait of Nicholls wearing his Wales top, which includes the Prince of Wales feathers on the left breast
International Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Gwyn Nicholls played 24 Tests for Wales between 1896 and 1906.

Ten former Welsh internationals have been inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame,[155] while eight have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.[156] One Welsh player, Shane Williams in 2008, has been awarded World Rugby Player of the Year (formerly known as the International Rugby Board Player of the Year).[157]

Somerset-born Frank Hancock, a 2011 inductee into the World Rugby Hall of Fame, changed the game of rugby when he was played as a fourth three-quarter for Cardiff. When given the captaincy of Wales in 1886 he trialed the system against Scotland, the very first international match to see four three-quarters 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.[158]

Known as the "Prince of three-quarters", Gwyn Nicholls played 24 Tests for Wales at centre between 1896 and 1906.[159] 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.[160][161] On 26 December 1949, gates bearing his name at Cardiff Arms Park were officially opened.[159]

Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews, both centres who were inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2013, were called by World Rugby "a uniquely complementary and successful partnership at club, national team and Lions levels after the Second World War".[162] 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.[162]

Named the greatest Welsh player of the 1950s by the WRU, Cliff Morgan played 29 Tests for Wales,[163] and four for the British Lions between 1951 and 1958.[164] Morgan played at fly-half and was one of the sport's biggest crowd-pullers during his career.[165] He played during Wales' Five Nations Grand Slam of 1952, and their victory over the All Blacks in 1953,[166] but he is most famous for captaining the British Lions in South Africa in 1955.[164] One of Morgan's great friends was Carwyn James.[167] 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.[168] He also coached Welsh club Llanelli, and the Barbarians side that defeated the All Blacks in 1973. Despite this, he never coached Wales.[169] Morgan, inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997,[165] was further honoured with induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2009.[170]

When Wales faced Australia on 3 December 1966, two future Rugby Hall of Fame members made their Test debuts; Gerald Davies and Barry John.[171] 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,[172] 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.[173] Barry John was also selected for the 1968 Lions' tour of South Africa.[174] Playing at fly-half, he 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.[175]

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.[42][176] 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.[177] 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.[178] In 2003, Edwards was voted the greatest player of all time by Rugby World magazine.[42][179] In 2007, Edwards earned an additional honour with his induction into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.[180]

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.[181] Mervyn Davies was known as "Merve the Swerve" and played 38 consecutive Tests for Wales between 1969 and 1976, losing only eight of them.[182] After captaining Wales in his last nine appearances, Davies was forced to retire due to a brain haemorrhage.[183] JPR Williams played 55 Tests for Wales between 1969 and 1981.[184] Playing at fullback, he won three Five Nations Grand Slams with Wales in the 1970s, and captained Wales in 1979.[184][185] He also toured with the British Lions in 1971 and 1974, and in 2008 a readers poll in The Telegraph voted him the greatest Lions' fullback of all time.[186]

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.[187] As well as that, he was awarded seven Lions caps from the 1989, 1993 and 1997 tours.[188][189]

In November 2008, Shane Williams and Ryan Jones became the first Welsh players to be nominated in a group of five players for the World Player of the Year award, first awarded in 2001. Shane Williams was duly selected as the 2008 World Rugby Player of the Year.[190]

Individual records[edit]

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
Two Wales' players falling onto a grounded ball while three England players approach their position.
Former Wales forward Colin Charvis scored 22 tries for his country, the most ever by a forward.

Neil Jenkins was the first rugby player to surpass 1000 Test points. He holds several Welsh records, including the most points scored for Wales with 1049, the most successful penalty kicks for Wales with 248, and the Welsh record for most points in a single Test match with 30.[191][192] The record for drop-goals for Wales is held by Jonathan Davies with 13.[193]

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.[194] 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.[195]

Gethin Jenkins is the nation's most capped player with 119 Welsh caps. Three other players have earned 100 caps or more: Stephen Jones with 104, and Gareth Thomas and Martyn Williams with 100.[196] The record for most Tests as captain is held by Sam Warburton with 41.[197] 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.[191] Edwards is also Wales' youngest ever captain at the age of 20.[42]

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.[198][199] 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.[200] 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.[201]

Welsh Sports Hall of Fame[edit]

The following Welsh players have been inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame:


Photo of a man's head
Wales coach Warren Gatland was appointed in 2007, and coached Wales to Six Nations Grand Slams in 2008, 2012 and 2013.[202]

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.[36] The appointing of a coach for the team coincided with Wales' success in the Five Nations during the 1970s.[203]

Wales' head coaches[204]
Name Nationality Years Tests Won Drew Lost Win %
David Nash  Wales 1967 5 1 1 3 20
Clive Rowlands  Wales 1968–74 29 18 4 7 62
John Dawes  Wales 1974–79 24 18 0 6 75
John Lloyd  Wales 1980–82 14 6 0 8 43
John Bevan  Wales 1982–85 15 7 1 7 47
Tony Gray  Wales 1985–88 18 9 0 9 50
John Ryan  Wales 1988–90 9 2 0 7 22
Ron Waldron  Wales 1990–91 10 2 1 7 20
Alan Davies  Wales 1991–95 35 18 0 17 51
Alex Evans  Australia 1995 (caretaker coach) 4 1 0 3 25
Kevin Bowring  Wales 1995–98 29 15 0 14 52
Dennis John  Wales 1998 (caretaker coach) 2 1 0 1 50
Graham Henry  New Zealand 1998–2002 34 20 1 13 59
Lynn Howells  Wales 2001 (caretaker coach) 2 2 0 0 100
Steve Hansen  New Zealand 2002–04 29 10 0 19 35
Mike Ruddock  Wales 2004–06 20 13 0 7 65
Scott Johnson  Australia 2006 (caretaker coach) 3 0 1 2 0
Gareth Jenkins[205]  Wales 2006–07 20 6 1 13 30
Nigel Davies  Wales 2007 (caretaker coach) 1 0 0 1 0
Warren Gatland[202]  New Zealand 2007–present 67 33 1 33 49
Robin McBryde[206]  Wales 2009, 2013 (caretaker coach) 4 3 0 1 75
Rob Howley[207]  Wales 2012–13 (caretaker coach) 11 5 0 6 46

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wales was the 28th match of New Zealand's tour, and at that point the tourists had scored 801 points and conceded only 22.[12]
  2. ^ Shared with Ireland.[9]
  3. ^ Wales defeated France in 1908 and 1909 to win Grand Slams in those seasons also even though France did not join the Championship until 1910.[9]
  4. ^ France was readmitted into international rugby union following the Home Nations Championship in 1939; France had been expelled in 1931.[27]
  5. ^ This is victory over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales all on the same tour.[58]
  6. ^ For more information see Introduction of regional rugby union teams in Wales.
  7. ^ For the Rugby World Cup the jersey is not allowed any sponsors on it – only the national union's emblem, the Rugby World Cup logo, and the logo of the jersey's manufacturer.[104]
  8. ^ Ranking archives can be found at the World Rugby website.[136]


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External links[edit]

Preceded by
Wales David Broome
BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
Wales Richard Meade