Wales In The 2020s Have Plenty To Live Up To

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Run for it!

The first Wales international matches of the new decade are fast approaching, with Wayne Pivac’s opening Six Nations game against Italy on February 1. But can the next 10 years come close to the decade just gone? And how good was it when placed in historical perspective? Rob Cole sifts through the stats.

The past decade has seen Wales notch many famous rugby wins, and reach the top of the World Rugby rankings for the first time, but just how good were Warren Gatland’s teams between 2010-2019?

The recently departed head coach led Wales to Grand Slams and Triple Crowns in 2012 and 2019 and to two World Cup semi-finals.

There were also five successive wins over the French, a first win against South Africa outside Wales and a first triumph over Australia away from Cardiff since 1987 and, of course, that immense win over England at Twickenham at the 2015 World Cup.

Gatland wasn’t the only man who took charge of the Wales team during the decade. Rob Howley stepped into the breach for 20 of the 129 games, steering Wales to another Six Nations title in 2013, and Robin McBryde was head coach for two summer tours that involved four other matches.

It was the greatest decade in the professional era of the game, but only the sixth best in terms of win percentage.

The teams from the first Golden Era, in the first two decades of the last century, still lead the way with their collective records of 60 wins and four draws in 81 matches.

There were three Grand Slams, six Triple Crowns, six outright Championship titles, a seventh shared with the Irish and victories over New Zealand and Australia to savour in the 14 years before WW1.

The Seventies also saw three Grand Slams and five Triple Crowns, as well as a draw with South Africa and two wins over Australia. There were also five outright Five Nations title wins and two further shares of the championship.

 

The Fifties were also a highly successful period, with two Grand Slams, two triple Crowns, two further shares of the Five Nations title and wins over New Zealand and Australia.

The Thirties featured two shared championships and a win over the All Blacks.

THE GREATEST WELSH DECADES

 

DECADE                P             W            D             L              WIN %  PTS F     PTS A     DIFF

1900-1909            35           28           1              6              81.42     480         179         301

1970-1979            46           32           3              11           72.82     798         467         331

1910-1919            22           15           0              7              68.18     319         143         176

1950-1959            43           29           2              12           69.76     375         251         124

1930-1939            34           18           3              13           57.35     287         201         86

2010-2019            129         71           2              56           55.81     2965       2490       475

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DECADE

2010

Has there ever been a more dramatic finish to a Welsh international than the final few minutes of the Six Nations clash at Principality Stadium against the Scots?

The visitors led by 10 points, 24-14, going into the final seven minutes. Then they lost Scott Lawson to a yellow card and Wales smelt blood.

Leigh Halfpenny was worked over for a try that Stephen Jones converted with three to go. Then the Scots lost a second player to the bin, Phil Godman, and Jones levelled matters with a penalty in the 80th minute.

There was one play left and Scotland had to kick-off to their hosts. Wales kept the ball alive until Jones kicked downfield and Halfpenny regathered. They made it up to the line and then Ricky Rees was able to pass to Shane Williams who scored at the posts to win the game with 81 min, 29 sec on the clock. Wow!

2011

Rugby World Cup year and, after the ignominy of crashing out in the pool stages four years earlier, Wales came second in their pool before comfortably beating Ireland in the quarter-final.

hat set-up a semi-final clash with France at Eden Park. Incredibly, there were more people packed into the Millennium Stadium to watch the game on the big screens (62,000) than there were at the game in Auckland.

Wales captain Sam Warburton was sent-off in the 19th minute for a tip-tackle on Vincent Clerc, while his side were leading 3-0 and in complete control of the game. They went on to lose 9-8 and missed out on a World Cup final.

2012

A third Grand Slam in eight years was the highlight of the year, with Leigh Halfpenny leading the way.

Firstly, he kicked a 79th minute goal to win the game at the death against Ireland in Dublin. Then, he scored 22 points against the Scots, put in a miraculous tackle to save the day at Twickenham, and also helped himself to 14 points.

There were 11 points each against Italy and France to make it 66 points for the campaign.

He wasn’t the only hero. Dan Lydiate was named as Player of the Tournament, Alex Cuthbert scored three tries and who could ever forget Scott Williams ripping the ball out of the arms of Courtney Lawes and sprinting away to score the only try at Twickenham?

2013

Having opened their Six Nations title defence with a home defeat against Ireland, the champions were immediately on the back foot.

A hat-trick of away wins in France, Italy and Scotland then put Wales back on track.

The 16-6 win in Paris featured a corner try from George North followed by the spectacle of his dad running onto the pitch to congratulate him.

Those wins meant the title was up for grabs at the Millennium Stadium on the final day of the tournament.

 

England came chasing a first Grand Slam in Cardiff, while Wales had to win by seven points or more to make it back-to-back titles.

It was 9-3 to the home side at the break before a tight tussle turned into a rout. Alex Cuthbert scored twice and the boots of Leigh Halfpenny (12 points) and Dan Biggar (5 points) did the rest.

It ended up as England’s heaviest margin of defeat (27 points) in 132 years of matches between the two rivals.

2014

The golden boot of Leigh Halfpenny kicked Wales to a 12-6 home win over South Africa to end a run of 16 successive defeats to the Springboks and notch only the second win against them.

The Scots were put to the sword in the Six Nations in Cardiff, where seven tries flowed in a 51-3 victory in which Stuart Hogg was sent-off after 22 minutes. There was also a record Six Nations win over France, 27-6, as Wales finished third.

2015

Victory over World Cup host nation England in their own back yard at Twickenham was the highlight of the year.

Gareth Davies crossed for the crucial try and man of the match Dan Biggar kicked 23 points to secure a 28-25 win that effectively dumped the English out of their own tournament in the pool stages.

Twickenham wasn’t so kind, however, in the games against Australia and South Africa. The Wallabies won the pool game 15-6, despite being down to 13 men for a period, and then the Springboks came out on top, 23-19, in the quarter-final.

2016

Wales finished in second place in the Six Nations behind England and scored a record nine tries in a 67-14 home win over Italy.

A three Test summer tour of New Zealand saw Wales lose all three games, but earn the respect of their hosts. The year then ended on a high with a record 27-13 home win over South Africa.

2017

Not a vintage year. The team slipped to fifth in the Six Nations table, but beat both Tonga and Samoa on a summer tour that coincided with the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

Once again the year ended on a high with another win over the Springboks.

2018

Second place in the Six Nations once again as the Irish secured another Grand Slam.

Defeat in Paris, 20-18, was hard to take, coming in the 101st minute after some scrum shenanigans.

There were a few concerns in the same area in the 13-6 home win over Georgia, but there was a third successive home win over South Africa to savour, 24-22, at the end of the year.

There were nine successive victories after defeats in England and Ireland in the Six Nations. It was the start of a record run and the nine games included victories over South Africa in Washington DC and Cardiff.

There was also a 9-6 home win over Australia to end a run of 13 successive defeats against the Wallabies.

2019

The winning streak surpassed the record from the professional era of 10 games in 1999 with an 11th success in Rome in Round 2 of the Six Nations.

Warren Gatland had said that if his side could win their opening game in Paris then a third and final Grand Slam was on for him. How right he was.

England were beaten at home, Scotland away, and then it came down to a shoot-out with the Irish in a rain-soaked Welsh capital.

Joe Schmidt insisted on having the Principality Stadium roof wide open and his side failed to come to terms with the conditions.

Wales powered their way to the title, scoring a try in the first minute and leading 25-0 up to the 80th minute before the Irish finally broke their scoring duck.

The Grand Slam success took the record run to 14 games, thus exceeding the previous best by a Welsh team of 11 between 1907-10.

The World Cup campaign in Japan saw Wales go unbeaten through the pool stages for the first time since 1987. That included a first win over Australia outside Wales since the inaugural tournament 32 years earlier.

A quarter-final win over France set-up a semi-final shoot-out with the Springboks, a team Wales had beaten in five of their previous six meetings. They went down 19-16 in the end before falling to New Zealand in the Bronze Final.

And then, there was also . . .

2010

Cardiff Blues overcame Toulon 28-21 in Marseille to become the first Welsh side to win a European title as they captured the Challenge Cup.

The Ospreys kicked-off the decade by winning the Celtic League title against Leinster in Dublin, 17-12.

2011

George North scored two tries against Nambia at the Rugby World Cup to become the youngest tryscorer in the tournament’s history, aged 19 years and 166 days.

2012

The Ospreys won the PRO 12 final once again in Dublin, beating Leinster 31-30.

Wales U20 finished third at the World Junior Championships in South Africa with a Bronze Final win over Argentina. They beat New Zealand for the first time in the pool stages, 9-6.

2013

Leigh Halfpenny was runner-up to Andy Murray in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and carried off the BBC Wales title for his part in guiding Wales to back-to-back Six Nations titles and steering the British & Irish lions to a series win in Australia.

Wales reached the final of the World Rugby U20 tournament, losing to England in the end. Sam Davies was named as the World Junior Player of the year.

2014

Wales Women notched their first win over a southern hemisphere side at the Women’s World Cup with a 35-3 victory over South Africa in France.

2015

Nigel Owens refereed the World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham and was named as World Rugby’s ‘Referee of the Year’.

Wales Women beat reigning world champions England for only the second time in their history, triumphing 13-0 in Swansea.

2016

Shane Williams was joined by John Dawes and Arthur Gould in being inducted into the World Rugby’s Hall of Fame.

2017

Scarlets hammered Munster in the PRO14 final at the Aviva Stadium to win the title for the second time in their history.

Jonathan Davies was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year having been made Lions Player of the Series in the draw with New Zealand.

Liza Burgess became the first Welsh woman to be inducted into the World Rugby hall of Fame.

2018

Cardiff Blues won the Challenge Cup for the second time with a dramatic 31-30 win over Gloucester in Bilbao.

2019

Alun Wyn Jones overtook Gethin Jenkins as Wales’ most capped player as he reached 134. That took him to 143 overall with his nine Tests for the British & Irish Lions, leaving him five short of Richie McCaw’s world record mark of 148.

He was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year and was shortlisted for the BBC national award.

Liza Burgess became the first woman to be elected by the clubs onto the Welsh Rugby Union.

The post Wales In The 2020s Have Plenty To Live Up To appeared first on Dai Sport.


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Graham is a well known sports writer in Wales. He shares with the Eye stories on his other blog at http://www.dai-sport.com