England Team To Face Scotland

Steve Borthwick has named the England side who will take on Scotland this weekend in their Guinness Six Nations opener.

England will host Scotland at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday 4 February (4.45pm KO).

Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing.  Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is full back.

Owen Farrell will captain the side at inside centre and Joe Marchant comes in at outside centre.  Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

In the front row vice-captain Ellis Genge joins Kyle Sinckler at prop and hooker Jamie George.

Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock.  Ben Curry will make his second appearance for England at open-side flanker, alongside Lewis Ludlam.  Alex Dombrandt completes the XV at No. 8.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as substitute.  Anthony Watson could also make his first England appearance following injury since March 2021.

Dan Cole is also named as substitute and could earn his 96th Test cap.  They are joined by Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence.

Borthwick said: “There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld Enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world.

“There is no doubt that this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England v Scotland is live on ITV and BBC Radio 5 Live.

ENGLAND XV
15. Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 17 caps)
14. Max Malins (Saracens, 14 caps)
13. Joe Marchant (Harlequins, 13 caps)
12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, 101 caps) (C)
11. Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, uncapped)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 17 caps)
9. Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 7 caps)
1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 43 caps) (VC)
2. Jamie George (Saracens, 72 caps)
3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, 56 caps)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, 62 caps)
5. Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
6. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 14 caps)
7. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks,1 cap)
8. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins, 9 caps)

REPLACEMENTS
16. Jack Walker (Harlequins, uncapped)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 74 caps)
18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers, 95 caps)
19. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 8 caps)
20. Ben Earl (Saracens, 13 caps)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 121 caps)
22. Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby, 7 caps)
23. Anthony Watson (Leicester Tigers, 51 caps)

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Scotland Team To Face England

Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup. 

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Wales Team To Face Ireland

Wales senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named his team to face Ireland at a sold out Principality Stadium in the opening round of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 4 February (KO 2.15pm live on BBC and S4C).


Joe Hawkins, who won his first senior cap against Australia in the autumn, makes his Six Nations debut at inside centre. He partners Wales’ most-capped men’s international back George North in the midfield.

Props Gareth Thomas and Tomas Francis join captain Ken Owens in the Wales front row. Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Beard complete the tight five.

The back row comprises Jac Morgan at blind-side flanker, Justin Tipuric at open-side flanker and Taulupe Faletau at No. 8.

Dan Biggar, who missed the Autumn Nations Series through injury, returns to the Wales XV at fly half. Tomos Williams is at scrum half.

Full back Leigh Halfpenny is in line to make his first start for Wales since the summer of 2021 having featured as a replacement against Georgia in November. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.

Owen Williams (fly half) and Scott Baldwin (hooker) whose last appearances in a Wales jersey came in 2017 are named in the match day 23. Williams, along with fellow replacements Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell, would join Hawkins in making their Six Nations debut if appearing from the bench.

Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis provide the remaining forward cover. Alex Cuthbert and Rhys Webb, who last featured for Wales in the autumn of 2020, are the other replacement backs.

Gatland said: “We’ve picked Joe at 12. He’s a lovely footballer with some great skills. I thought for his first cap he was outstanding so we’ve given him another opportunity. There’s some real competition in the midfield at the moment, so I’m really excited about that.

“There’s a mixture in the team of some experience, some younger players. We were conscious as well picking the bench. We think we’ve got a bench that can come on and have an impact. 

“Ireland are the number one team in the world, so they’re going to be coming here with a lot of confidence. You don’t become the number one team in the world without having some pretty consistent performances. We know how good they are and we’re expecting a really tough contest. It’s important for us that we start well, but we need to be in the game at the last 20mins.


“We’ve only had a couple of weeks together but I’m confident that the guys will go out and give a good account of themselves. They’re pretty excited about playing this first game at home.”


Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 4 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on BBC and S4C:

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 97 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 43 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 109 caps)
12. Joe Hawkins (Ospreys – 1 cap)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 3 caps)
10. Dan Biggar (Toulon – 103 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 40 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 17 caps) 
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets – 86 caps) captain
3. Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 67 caps)
4. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 41 caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 155 caps)
6. Jac Morgan (Ospreys – 6 caps) 
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 89 caps) 
8. Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 95 caps)

Replacements
16. Scott Baldwin (Ospreys – 34 caps)
17. Rhys Carre (Cardiff Rugby – 17 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 45 caps)
19. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 1 cap)
20. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 4 caps)
21. Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 36 caps)
22. Owen Williams (Ospreys – 3 caps)
23. Alex Cuthbert (Ospreys – 55 caps)

Price’s Punch And The Prince Of Wales

image Brian Price

The South Wales Echo headlined “A right royal punch up” in its report of the Wales v Ireland match at Cardiff Arms Park, on 8 March 1969, a match attended by HRH the Prince of Wales.

image The Prince Of Newport & The Prince Of Wales

This match was seen as the key to the championship, that year, Ireland and Wales were both unbeaten, and the match was played at a Cardiff Arms Park, resembling a giant airfix kit, as the new North Stand was in the process of being rebuilt, and as a result, the crowd capacity was reduced from 52,000 to 29,000

The pitch appeared to be devoid of even a single blade of grass on it, and was so poor, I think that even the Horse of The Year show organisers would have deemed it unsuitable for their needs.

Ireland had received some criticism from the press as a result of their “robust” play in earlier matches, and Wales were determined to face up to their aggression.

The match began sensationally, within three minutes of introducing his team to the Prince, Brian Price floored Irish flanker, Noel Murphy with a punch that Henry Cooper would have been proud of.

image Noel Murphy takes it on the chin

Brian Price said later that he felt a pair of hands heading towards his eyes, and so he “Let him have it

Later in the first half Irish hooker Ken Kennedy was also floored, resulting in captain Tom Kiernan threatening to take his team off the field, Gareth Edwards spoke to fellow “Lion” Kiernan, but the content of that particular conversation is not suitable for print.

Kiernan then kicked Ireland into an early lead, which Barry John levelled with a drop goal.

The game was brutal, Brian Thomas was led from the field with blood pouring from his face, to be stitched on the touch-line whilst the game went on around him.

In the eighth minute of first half injury time, Wales were awarded a penalty on the Irish 25 yard line, the Irish team turned their backs, expecting an inevitable Keith Jarrett place kick, by the time they looked around, Jarrett had tapped, and fed a trundling Denzil Williams, the Ebbw Vale prop, who ran over unopposed in the corner.

Jarrett converted the try, which gave Wales an 8-6 half time lead.

After the interval Wales stepped up a gear with Newport wing Stuart Watkins, Dai Morris and John Taylor all scoring tries for the men in red.

Mike Gibson scored a consolation late length of the field try for Ireland, but which time the match was well and truly over as a contest.

Wales won 24-11, but the match will always be remembered for Brian Price’s pugalistic efforts in front of HRH.

Final Preparations For Les Bleus in Landes

Photo Credit Romain Ntamack

The Landes coast, a region with miles of golden sands, glorious sunsets over the Bay of Biscay and wonderful waves for surfing, is currently a home from home for the France national squad as they complete their final preparations for the 2023 Guinness Six Nations.

After preparing for previous campaigns in Nice, Marseilles and Cassis Les Bleus have relocated to Capbreton. The current champions may not have much time to see town’s wonderful pier and fish market or indeed the nearby foothills of the glorious Pyrenees, but the warmth of the welcome given to them in these parts has been truly astonishing.

France has relocated its preparation as it has done previously taking the team away from Paris to the people in the rugby heartlands and taken over the entire Baya Hotel on Avenue Mal de Lattre de Tassigny, in Capbreton where they will stay until the Friday before their opening Guinness Six Nations match against Italy in Rome on Sunday 5 February.

Last Wednesday, around 3 p.m at the municipal stadium in Capbreton around 3,000 people, including 2,300 children, turned up to see their heroes. The post training autograph signing and selfies took hours to complete with the fans chanting the name of Antoine Dupont with regularity.

The break from the stern environment in Marcoussis is intended to freshen things up and the ice cold baths and pools at the Baya Hotel will also help in that regard.

The Baya Hotel

Fabien Galthié and his charges will return here in August to complete their Rugby World Cup preparations.

The French team to face Italy will be announced on Friday 3 February at

Ireland v Wales The Legend Of The Terrible Eight

8 The Terrible Eight

IRELAND 3 WALES 11

13 March 1914 Balmoral Showground, Belfast

This match is remembered as ‘The Roughest Ever’ and was the day of ‘The Terrible Eight’,  the Welsh pack that won the battle against eight very strong Irish opponents.

The evening before the game the captain of Wales, The Reverend Alban Davies, decides to take his team for a quiet night out at the theatre

Davies, Alban Rev. Rev Alban Davies

Some versions of the story state that there was brawl in the theatre, and that the police had to be called,  however eye witness accounts state that Doctor William”Billy” Tyrell told Welsh forward Percy Jones: ‘It’s you and me for it tomorrow.’ Jones, a colliery foreman, smiled and answered: ‘I shall be with you, doing the best I can.’

Another Wales forward asked: ‘Can anyone join in?’ And so they did!

Players fought when the ball was not near them and some should have been sent off, but Mr.Tulloch, the referee from Scotland, took little notice.

It was one of the all-time best punch-ups and Jones said: ‘The fun just went on and on.’

But after the match Jones was told by Tyrell that he was the best Welshman he had ever come across, adding: ‘You’re the only Welshman who ever beat me.’

The pair signed each others menu-card and in 1951, the president of the IRU, now Sir William Tyrell, and retired collier and now hotelier, Percy Jones, sat together during the match in Cardiff.

Ireland led with skipper Alex Foster’s try, but Wales clawed back the lead with Bedwelty Jones scoring the equalising try. Two weeks later he signed for Oldham Rugby League club.

Selected Irish captain Dicky Lloyd was photographed before the match with his team, but strained a tendon in the warm-up and Harry Jack was called up for his second cap, playing at scrum half with Victor McNamara switching to outside half. Jack’s third cap came in 1921 and he later became president of the Fiji Rugby Union.

For the first time Wales’s pack had remained unchanged throughout the season, but the First World War now intervened and Wales did not play an official match for five years and one month.

The Rev. Alban Davies died in Los Angeles at the age of 90, while both Tyrell and Jones lived to the age of 82, dying within six months of each other.

Scorers.

Ireland – Try: Alec Foster .

Wales – Tries: Bedwelty Jones, Ivor Davies, Jack Wetter. Con: Clem Lewis.

 

Six Appeal The 2023 Guinness Six Nations

The Guinness Six Nations is the greatest annual international rugby Championship in the sport, and every year delivers truly unmissable experiences to fans all over the world. In 2022, the Championship title came down to the wire, culminating in a game for the ages, in Paris, where France claimed an historic Grand Slam.

This year, fans can look forward to another scintillating Championship, with storylines and plot twists waiting to be written by the teams and players, over five rounds of action, starting on February 4th, at the Principality in Cardiff before all roads lead to another blockbuster Super Saturday, with the final game between Ireland and England on Saint Patrick’s Day Weekend.

At the 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship launch held in London’s County Hall Ben Morel, CEO of Six Nations Rugby, commented: “The Guinness Six Nations holds an incredibly special place in the sporting landscape and with fans all over the world. The Championship offers fans the chance to experience some of the best teams and players going head-to-head, on an annual basis, in must win Test matches. Combine that with the unique heritage of the Six Nations and the rivalries that are woven into the fabric of the six nations competing, and you start to scratch the surface in explaining why the Guinness Six Nations is such an eagerly anticipated and loved moment in time, each year.

“We have a huge responsibility at Six Nations Rugby to not only respect the precious nature and heritage of its Championships but ensure their continued growth and development. There is also the unrelenting commitment to deliver truly unmissable experiences for fans. This is what drives the entire team

“This commitment is underpinned by unwavering collaboration with all Six Nations Rugby stakeholders, including each union and federation, its broadcast and commercial partners and the media, who all play a part in telling the compelling storylines to fans.

This year’s Guinness Six Nations holds a personal poignancy for me, as it will be my final one as CEO of Six Nations Rugby. My five years in the role has been a humbling and defining experience and I am filled with pride for the achievements of the organisation, alongside each of the unions and federations. It has been a privilege to be a custodian of the role, but my work is not done yet, and go into the 2023 Championships truly excited for what is in store for fans.”

In a Rugby World Cup year the Six Nations takes on added significance, and the tournament that guides us from the depths of winter to the start of Spring promises to be a cracker.

The Day Wales Fell In Love With David Duckham

As a Welshman growing up in the seventies, it was taboo to idolise any England player, fortunately at that time, England were a bit of a sorry mess so it wasn’t that difficult to hold true to those core values.

But there was one exception.

On a winters Saturday in January 1973, the Welsh nation lost their moral compass, and fell in love with David John Duckham.

The match in question, of course, was the Barbarians v New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park.

He played on the right wing that day, in his number 14 shirt, and his Coventry club socks, he entranced us with a display, that in history, has been somewhat overshadowed by THAT try, scored by a certain knight of the realm, Sir G.O Edwards.

I was in the North Enclosure that day, a fourteen year old schoolboy, as Duckham swerved, sidestepped, and wrong footed everyone, his long blonde hair flowing in the breeze, like a viking warrior,as his 6ft 1in frame, graced the field of dreams that was Cardiff Arms Park.

Now when I say he side stepped everyone ! take a look at the DVD of the match, in one move, he sends the BBC camerman the wrong way, Duckham, ball in hand dummied, the camera went to right, and David disappeared out of shot to the left.


David Duckham won 36 caps for England, his first against Ireland in 1969, and his last in 1976 against Scotland, at Murrayfield.

He scored 10 tries for England, but it was under the guidance of Carwyn James, as a British Lion, on the tour to New Zealand in 1971, that we saw the talent and the breath taking running skills that were so evident in that Barbarians match.

On the 71 Lions tour he scored eleven tries in sixteen games.

Against West Coast Buller, on 16 June 1971, he scored 6 tries, a Lions record that still stands to this day.

His form on the tour resulted in him playing in 3 Lions test v New Zealand on that famous tour, keeping Wales’ John Bevan out of the test side, which was no mean feat.

The ultimate compliment, from Wales, and its rugby fans, was bestowed on David Duckham after the Barbarians v New Zealand match, he was forever referred to, from that day onwards as “Dai” Duckham, an honour that he cherished, so much so that he titled his autobiography “Dai For England”

Dai, it was an honour, and a privilige, to watch you play.

 

 

The Six Nations A Winters Tale

The winters are dark and cold in this part of the world, the daylight is in short supply during the days following Christmas, it is a bleak time for everyone, everyone that is apart from rugby fans.

For us it is the rebirth of the sporting year, and the start of the weekly countdown to the first weekend in February when the 6 Nations tournament begins.

The tournament starts in the depths of winter, and takes us through to the weak sunshine and gentle warmth of early spring, when the tournament concludes in the middle of March.

February 14th, which is of course Valentines day, sits perfectly in the middle of the tournament, so for the romantically inclined what could be a better way to show your undying love for your partner than to take them away for a 6 nations weekend.

But I would offer a word of caution, I would suggest you inform “your other half” that rugby is involved before you travel, I have witnessed couples in Paris having a “domestic” as the non rugby partner is informed, over coffee and croissants on saturday morning, that a large part of the romantic weekend ahead in the city of light will taken up at Stade de France watching an international match.

But the 6 nations is about far more than just rugby, it’s about making and renewing friendships, it’s about the history, it’s about the fans, the wonderful memories of 6 nations weekends past, and those wonderful ones yet to come.

Memories of matches and weekends shared with family, loved ones, and friends, some of whom are sadly no longer with us, come flooding back, and their spirits are with us this at time of year, as we prepare to enjoy a winter sporting festival like no other.

The 6 nations weekend has a heartbeat, a soul, it is a living entity, that has been enjoyed and handed down from generation to generation.

Uncles, fathers, grandparents cousins, have all taken pride in guiding their offspring on their first 6 nations weekend, and those youngsters who have taken over the baton, keep the traditions alive, and when the time comes, they will take their young on a similar rite of passage, and that is why the 5 Nations, as it was, and the 6 nations as it is now, is so unique.

Only in this tournament would you find a middle-aged Englishman wearing a Roman centurion outfit sitting outside a cafe and calmly enjoying a beer in the Piazza Navona.

Each wonderful host city has its own unique atmosphere, sight, sounds and smells.

Whether it’s welsh fans dressed in dragons costumes under the Eiffel Tower, English fans masquerading as medieval knights handing out roses to the scary French riot police, or Italians meeting their ancestors at one of the plethora of Italian restaurants in Cardiff, the joy and friendliness of the tournament are plain to see ,which ever match you happen to attend.

Add to that the kilted Scots sitting around the fountains at Trafalgar Square, with their whisky filled hipflasks to keep out the cold, the Irish a sea of green in leprechaun hats clutching a pint of the black stuff, or the stylish French looking cool in their shades, whatever the weather, and whatever the venue, you begin to get a feel of what a thrill to the senses this tournament really is.

Cardiff is the only city where supporters can watch the game, celebrate, and collapse into bed all within the distance of a Leigh Halfpenny goal kick.

The Principality stadium is squeezed in between the flats, shops, houses and pubs right in the heart of the city centre, and more importantly in a country where rain is a frequent, if not permanent resident , it has a roof.

Cardiff is also the home of Brains Brewery, whose products are rather popular on rugby weekends, one their products is a beer called “Brains SA” the locals will tell you that  “SA” stands for skull attack, which informs you all of you need to know about the side effects of this particular beverage.

Talking of beer, Dublin is of course the home of the silky smooth black stuff, Guinness, and the most popular excursion for 6 Nations fans visiting the Irish capital, is a tour of the Guinness brewery where you actually get a free sample.

The French fans simply adore Dublin, they fly over in the thousands to watch Ireland face “Les Bleus” they used to bring live cockerels with them and release them on the field of play, obviously this is now outlawed, or it may just be that chickens find Air France air fares a bit too expensive these days.

The Irish will charm you, entertain you, smile and then kick the living day lights out of you on the rugby field, there aren’t many more hospitable capitals on this planet than Dublin, as any 6 nations fan who has been there will happily tell you, once they have recovered from their lack of sleep and mind numbing hangover.

Rome is the 6 Nations “new kid on the block” as Italy did not join the tournament until the year 2000 and the shock for fans here, especially those from Scotland, is that you are likely to experience sunshine, now a famous Scotland player once told me that Scots are born with blue skin, and it takes them three weeks in the sun to even turn white, so the Tartan Army are easily to spot, not only because they are wearing kilts, but due to the fact that they are all clutching bottles of factor 50 sun cream.

Italy joining the 6 Nations created an added pressure for the regular 6 nations fans, and  there is a big downside the Azzuri’s inclusion.

Partners, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends who previously had no interest in rugby, and could be visibly seen yawning when you even mentioned the word , suddenly took a rather disturbing interest in the game, when they discovered that joining you on a potential weekend to the Eternal City was a distinct possibility.

Rome is a venue like no other, no tradition or historical rugby hang ups here, it is the brash teenager of 6 Nations rugby, and is determined to enjoy La Dolce Vita whatever the result.

A colleague, when in Rome for an Italy v England match, told me of a time he found himself standing at a set of traffic lights in Rome, when he suddenly became aware of a twelve-inch sword being waved in his face, wielded by a local man uttering threats in a deep loud Italian voice.

A few seconds later his “assailant” reassured my friend that the sword was made of plastic and gave him a “high-five” and a “Ciao baby” and went on his merry way.


If Rome is the brash teenager then Twickenham, the bastion of Englishness, is the grumpy old grandfather, but even so is a shrine for visiting fans, and a shrine that obviously makes visitors extremely thirsty.

At the England v Ireland match in 2014 160,000 pints of beer,were sold at the stadium, another victory over the Welsh who only managed a mere 77,184 pints in Cardiff at a match between Wales and France.

As you walk from Twickenham station to the ground, every inch of pavement is filled with providers of fast food frying their wares, as the aroma of burgers, sausages and onions fill the air with a smokey haze you can almost touch the cholesterol.

For Welsh fans the favourite trip is Edinburgh, this all started due the fact that until 1977, the matches at Murrayfield were not “All Ticket” so people paid at the gate, as a result the Welsh always travelled in heavy number.

It is a like a red tsunami flowing down Princess street as the Scarlet hordes make their way to Murrayfield framed by the beauty of the castle, and the Scott Monument.

Things went horribly wrong in 1977 when at least 110,000 were squeezed into Murrayfield for Scotland v Wales, and it was a miracle that no one was seriously injured, and since that day, Scotland matches became ticket only affairs.

That weekend trip to see Wales play Scotland in Edinburgh was perceived to be a test of manhood undertaken by many generations of Welsh fans.

The journey to this game was known as “The Killer”, leaving Cardiff at 2100 on Friday night, the train would arrive in Edinburgh at 0700 on Saturday morning, the return journey commenced immediately following the match, with the train leaving Edinburgh at 2100 on Saturday night, and arriving in Cardiff at 0500 on Sunday morning, it was not a journey for the faint hearted.

Mind you I know of people who have travelled on this weekend marathon and never even got to see the game, due to socialising a bit too fervently, they returned home with very little memory of the whole weekend, but the moment they got back they started saving, weekly, for the next trip in two years time.

But putting romanticism aside for one moment, the stark economic factors of the tournament are worth a mention.

Supporters spending makes the championship worth £375 million per year to the participating countries economies, whilst the cities that host the matches (London, Paris, Rome, Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburgh) benefit by around £150 million.

The main sectors to benefit are food and drink and accommodation, in a study undertaken by previous tournament sponsors RBS, £59 million is spent in bars and restaurants, and £38 million on hotels and other accommodation, and £19 million spent in shops.

In addition the tournament creates around 3,100 jobs, and all this very real boost to economies occur during what is a quiet time of year for tourism.

In 2017 two matches in Cardiff, where Wales faced Ireland and England, resulted in £52 million coming into the Welsh economy, of which £30 million was enjoyed by the city of Cardiff itself, so it seems everyone is a winner in the 6 Nations, off the field at least.

As the 2023 tournament approaches, many of us, in the middle of a cold dark winters night will lie awake, and as the wind and rain beat against the window, we will feel a cosy warmth, as we remember with fondness, the matches, the weekends, the laughter, the tears, but most of all we will remember the people we have shared the matches with, and those friends we have met, because it is they that make the six nations tournament so very special.

Haere rā New Zealand Hello England

There is a Peculiar feeling when World Cup tournaments come to an end, an emptiness, a void that is difficult to fill, weeks and months even years of hope and expectation suddenly evaporate, and we are left with the vagaries of so called normal life.

Ruby Tui’s feet had barely touched the ground before the rugby circus had packed up its tent, and the mass migration to Auckland airport commenced.

But as the sun sets in the land of the long white cloud, a new dawn has already risen in the northern hemisphere, as England take over the RWC torch for 2025.

The number of teams participating will be increased to 16 with England, New Zealand, France and Canada already awarded qualification as a result of reaching the semi-finals of RWC 2021.

The prospect of a sold-out Twickenham for the 2025 Final is now a very realistic one, the tournament down under has been another Neil Armstrong type giant leap for the women’s game.

For the Red Roses there is no doubt that the heart breaking pain of yesterday’s final will be the fuel to ignite their challenge for 2025 at the moment though there are wounds to heal and a long 24 hour flight to re-live events from a tournament that gave us all so much.

Thank you New Zealand see you in London.