[The World famous Principality Stadium on match day]
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, Autumn internationals with top class Southern Hemisphere sides or the RBS Six nations and 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 South Wales Ironmen. Our National Rugby League team won the 2015 European Cup.
Wales took part in two World Cups this year
Wales Rugby Union Women took on the world in Ireland this year and finished 7th overall, defeating the hosts amognst others. It was their best placing ever finish which earned automatic qualification for the next World Cup. Our Men's Rugby League team reached the Australia Rugby League World Cup but did not progress to the finals.
Wales and rugby are, to many people, synonymous thanks to our proud history in 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 Womens game legend Non Evans remains their record points scorer.
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 and in recent times the Grand Slam on three occasions in 2005, 2006 and 2012. In the IRB Rugby World Cup, we made it to the semi-finals at the 2011 tournament in New Zealand and to the quarter-finals in 2015. The latter was despite a long list of injuries and being in the ‘pool of death’.
[George North and Leigh Halfpenny]
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 2013 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.
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 Swansea University's International Sports Village 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.