Home | Inspirations | Rugby, and the Six Nations in Wales

Rugby, and the Six Nations in Wales

Published on 29 Jan 2023 by Amy Greenwood

Passion for rugby runs deep in Wales, and the Six Nations competition is perhaps when it is at its most intense. It is our favourite international sporting tournament of them all.

The Six Nations is almost upon us! It’s when the top talent in Europe – Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy – comes together in the middle of the gloomy winter to battle it out on a muddy field.  And what a spectacular hard-fought battle it always is.

This year’s tournament kicks off on Saturday, February 4, when Wales host Ireland before England play Scotland at Twickenham. The competition will run until ‘Super Saturday’, when all three fixtures in round five take place on the same day – Saturday, March 18.

As the excitement builds and we countdown to kick off, we thought we’d bring you a quick guide to the history of rugby in Wales, and try to explain why this game generates an atmosphere here like nothing else on earth.

Rugby, and the Six Nations in Wales

A brief history of rugby in Wales

There’s no denying that rugby has a long tradition in Wales. Whether you trace its roots back to the handball games played by the Romans at forts like Segontium (Caernarfon), or the ‘Cnappan’ battles found in Pembrokeshire in the 17th century, it is a vital ingredient in the life-blood of the Welsh nation.

The game as we know it today was introduced to Wales at Lampeter College in the mid-nineteenth century using the Rugby School rules. In September, 1875 the South Wales Football Union was created in Brecon, ‘with the intention of playing matches with the principal clubs in the West of England and the neighbourhood’. From that point on, the ‘rugby rules’ became the adopted code.

But it was the selection of the first official Welsh team by the remarkable Richard Mullock to face England at Mr Richardson’s Field, Blackheath on 19th February 1881, that hastened the formation of what we now know as the Welsh Rugby Union.

The game was a complete miss-match and England romped to victory by seven goals, one dropped goal, and six tries to nil (we won’t dwell on that though). 

Less than a month later, on 12 March 1881, the WFU was formed at the Castle Hotel in Neath, and Mullock became its first Secretary. The new committee picked their first team to face Ireland in Dublin on 28 January 1882, and that game ended up being Welsh rugby’s first international victory. The team won by two goals and two tries to nil. 

But why do the Welsh love it so much?

There are a few theories as to why the game evokes such passion in Wales. It may just be that the game of rugby gave Wales – a relatively small nation – the chance to shine against far more populous foes.

It’s also a good dismantling of the old class structure. A game that came from the elitist English public school system became the obsession of the Welsh working class, with crowds of 30,000 – 40,000 travelling to watch games as early as the 1890s. Over the past 130 years, rugby has arguably shaped Welsh identity like no other sport. 

Today, there are more than 300 rugby clubs in Wales, and a flourishing women’s game too: around 10,000 girls play rugby at school. The top men play for the four Welsh rugby regions – Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons

Watching the game whilst you’re here

If you’re lucky enough to be holidaying in Wales during the 2023 Six Nations competition, we recommend that you head out to a local pub to experience the unique match day atmosphere of watching a game. 

Wherever you’re staying – no matter how remote – you won’t have to look far to find somewhere that is screening the game. You should plan to arrive early if you want to secure a corner – never mind a seat – with a decent view of the TV. 

Then you just need to get a round of drinks in, and sit back to enjoy the thrill of the game while you soak up the friendly, raucous, atmosphere. If you need some inspiration for some great local pubs in North Wales, check out our guide, here.

A final word about our Anthem

It’s a highlight of every game. Prepare to get misty eyed (or at least watch those around you get misty eyed) as we sing our hearts out to our beautiful national anthem; Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. 

The title translates as ‘Land of My Fathers’, and the lyrics celebrate our rich heritage and culture: language, poetry, music, and our beautiful Welsh landscape. Whatever your allegiance on the field, the passion of the fans and players means that it is always truly spine-tingling. We hope you enjoy it.

This website uses cookies
This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. We use necessary cookies to make sure that our website works. We’d also like to set analytics cookies that help us make improvements by measuring how you use the site. By clicking “Allow All”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
These cookies are required for basic functionalities such as accessing secure areas of the website, remembering previous actions and facilitating the proper display of the website. Necessary cookies are often exempt from requiring user consent as they do not collect personal data and are crucial for the website to perform its core functions.
A “preferences” cookie is used to remember user preferences and settings on a website. These cookies enhance the user experience by allowing the website to remember choices such as language preferences, font size, layout customization, and other similar settings. Preference cookies are not strictly necessary for the basic functioning of the website but contribute to a more personalised and convenient browsing experience for users.
A “statistics” cookie typically refers to cookies that are used to collect anonymous data about how visitors interact with a website. These cookies help website owners understand how users navigate their site, which pages are most frequently visited, how long users spend on each page, and similar metrics. The data collected by statistics cookies is aggregated and anonymized, meaning it does not contain personally identifiable information (PII).
Marketing cookies are used to track user behaviour across websites, allowing advertisers to deliver targeted advertisements based on the user’s interests and preferences. These cookies collect data such as browsing history and interactions with ads to create user profiles. While essential for effective online advertising, obtaining user consent is crucial to comply with privacy regulations.