[Principality Stadium on match day, Image ©WRU ]
Sure it’s no secret that here in Wales we are pretty passionate about Rugby Union, our national sport. There’s no sound like a full Principality Stadium singing the Welsh National Anthem and traditional hymns at the rugby.
Whether it’s regional Rugby Union courtesy of the Ospreys, Newport Gwent Dragons, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues, Under the Armour series in the internationals with top class Southern Hemisphere sides or the RBS Six Nations in the spring, when it comes to Rugby Union we’ve got it covered. We also have a growing interest in Rugby League with two professional teams, the North Wales Crusaders and the West Wales Raiders. Our National Rugby League team won the 2015 European Cup.
Wales and rugby are, to many people, synonymous thanks to our proud history of the game; players like Gareth Edwards, widely regarded as the greatest Rugby Union player of all time, JPR Williams, Phil Bennett and Cliff Morgan created a vision of Wales that prevails today and in the women's game legend Non Evans remains the record points scorer.
- Wales Rugby Union women took on the world last year in Ireland and finished 7th overall, defeating the hosts amongst others. It was their best placing ever finish which earned automatic qualification for the next World Cup.
- Our Men's Rugby League team recently reached the Australia Rugby League World Cup but did not progress to the finals.
- In 2019 the Men's Rugby Union side will once again battle it out in Japan for the ultimate international prize. In the last two World Cups Wales have come agonisingly close to the final, narrowly missing out to France in the 2011 semi final 9-8 and to South Africa in the 2015 quarter finals, losing 23-19. The latter was despite a long list of injuries and making it out of the ‘pool of death’ defeating England.
We’re still producing world class talent on the field. In the past 10 years, Wales have won the RBS 6 Nations Championship 3 times. In fact, the only team to have won more tournaments and Grand Slams (defeating every opponent in the tournament) is the old rival and neighbour England. In 2018 Wales finished second behind the Grand Slam winners Ireland.
[George North and Leigh Halfpenny]
British and Irish Lions
Notably the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia was dominated by Wales. Not only were they captained by the Welsh captain Sam Warburton, but the leading points scorer and player of the series was Welshman Leigh Halfpenny. Furthermore, 15 of the original touring party were Welsh, more than any other nationality in the squad. The Lions went on to record an historical 2-1 series victory. The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand featured 16 players from Wales, including Sam Warbuton who captained once again and centre Jonathan Davies who was voted man of the series for his heroics in all three tests. The Lions tied the series 1-1-1.
Officials, Venues and International
Welsh officials are also highly respected in the game; Nigel Owens is one of the best Rugby Union referees in the world, often called for duty in the Southern Hemisphere where rugby is also taken very seriously!
Wales has high quality venues for both training and hosting games. 8 matches during England's 2015 Rugby World Cup were played at Principality Stadium, not to mention the Swansea University's International Sports Village which was also used as a training base for Canada, Fiji and New Zealand national teams.
Welsh players have contributed to rugby teams all over the world. Mike Philips, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts played for Parisian team Racing Metro. Leigh Halfpenny played for French team Toulon and Shane Williams also played a few seasons in Japan.