Farewell To The Kalmar Quin

Saying Goodbye is never easy, and perhaps it is even more difficult in light of what the world has gone through over the last 14 months, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is the importance of friends and family in our daily lives.

Any city that has a beach called the cat’s bottom (Kattrumpan), must be pretty special, the city in question is Kalmar the home of Victoria Petersson, situated alongside the Baltic Sea, it is one of Sweden’s most beautiful.

Her rugby journey started due to a chance meeting at a party, and following game time at university, and local club Kalmar Sodra, she found herself jetting south to leafy Surrey, at the tender age of 22, to join Harlequins.

When I first met Vic it was very evident that she displayed a maturity beyond her tender years.

She spoke in perfect English about life and rugby, with her wonderful modesty and a smile as wide as the Oversund, she has not surprisingly been one of the most popular members of the Harlequins Women’s squad.

Settling into English life like a duck to water, she had the difficult task of learning to cope without her mum’s potato and leek soup, but with a little cajoling from a certain Welsh journalist,she discovered the delight of Welsh cakes, an able replacement to Mum’s speciality, and on the plus side my home country’s economy has taken a dramatic upward turn thanks to her consumption.

Matchdays became a double bill, Saturday night Scandi dramas on the BBC were preceded by Swedish afternoon thrillers courtesy of the Kalmar Killer, who never took any prisoners on the pitch…absolut!

Sunny summers of Sevens with the Swedish national team kept her looking very sharp when returning to pre season training, having a smorgasbord of talent and the ability to play fly half, centre and wing meant she was an integral and versatile part of Harlequins Women’s drive for success.

At the top of her game in early 2020, the cruelty that is so often administered by the sporting gods struck.

The Swedes are no strangers to the power and unpredictability of Norse gods, certainly the thunderbolt that hit the Quins number ten early in the second half of the match against Bristol Bears, could have come from Thor himself.

Whilst attempting a “jackal” at a breakdown, Vic suffered a hamstring injury that ripped two tendons off the bone, left one hanging off, and the remainder descending five centimetres.

I have seen players with a similar injury carried off the field being given oxygen, Vic stood up and was helped off, they breed them tough in Kalmar, the agony etched on her face was almost too painful to watch.

Former England World Cup winning coach, Gary Street, talked just before the injury about how superbly Vic was playing, she was in the form of her life, bossing the game, organising those around her, the silken running and perfect timing of the pass were getting better and better game by game, the worse possible time for the sporting gods to strike.

I have watched some pretty special players over the last fifty years and all the very good ones appear to have more time on the ball than those around them, it is as if they operate in another dimension of time and space, Vic is a member of that exclusive club.

Following surgery Vic endured a long and demanding rehab, never one to feel sorry for herself, she poured her heart and soul into it, and that sunny smile never diminished. I have met few people better at turning a negative into a positive than the speedy Swede.

“Av skadan blir man vis” is a Swedish saying that roughly translates to, Adversity is the mother of wisdom, and Vic finally emerged from darkness into the light last Saturday, to wear the Quins shirt for one last time, against Gloucester-Hartbury, in the Allianz Premiership, 406 days after that horrific injury.

Swedes often say “Borta bra men hemma bäst” which literally translates as “Away is good, but home is best”, and it has now come to pass that Vic, after the briefest of comebacks, is heading back to her home.

Thank you Vic for coming into our home, for decorating the place, and leaving it a million times brighter than when you arrived.

As you leave these shores with all our fondest wishes, you have provided us all with a box full of wonderful memories that we will treasure forever.

2005 France Last 6 Nations Win At Twickenham

England suffered an eighth defeat in 11 Tests as scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili booted France to victory at Twickenham.

Two converted tries from Olly Barkley and Josh Lewsey helped the world champions to a 17-6 half-time lead.

But Charlie Hodgson and Barkley missed six penalties between them, while Yachvili landed six for France to put the visitors in front.

England could have won the game with three minutes left, but Hodgson pushed an easy drop goal opportunity wide.

It was a dismal defeat for England, coming hard on the heels of an opening Six Nations loss in Wales.

They should have put the game well beyond France’s reach, but remarkably remained scoreless for the entire second half.

A scrappy opening quarter saw both sides betray the lack of confidence engendered by poor opening displays against Wales and Scotland respectively.

Hodgson had an early opportunity to settle English nerves but pushed a straightforward penalty attempt wide.

But a probing kick from France centre Damien Traille saw Mark Cueto penalised for holding on to the ball in the tackle, Yachvili giving France the lead with a kick from wide out.

France twice turned over England ball at the breakdown early on as the home side struggled to generate forward momentum, one Ben Kay charge apart.

A spell of tit-for-tat kicking emphasised the caution on both sides, until England refused a possible three points to kick a penalty to the corner, only to botch the subsequent line-out.

But England made the breakthrough after 19 minutes, when a faltering move off the back of a scrum led to the opening try.

Jamie Noon took a short pass from Barkley and ran a good angle to plough through Yann Delaigue’s flimsy tackle before sending his centre partner through to score at the posts.

Hodgson converted and added a penalty after one of several French infringements on the floor for a 10-3 lead.

The fly-half failed to dispense punishment though with a scuffed attempt after France full-back Pepito Elhorga, scragged by Lewsey, threw the ball into touch.

Barkley also missed two longer-range efforts as the first half drew to a close, but by then England had scored a second converted try.

After a series of phases lock Danny Grewcock ran hard at the French defence and off-loaded out of Sylvain Marconnet’s tackle to Lewsey.

The industrious wing cut back in on an angle and handed off hooker Sebastien Bruno to sprint over.

After a dire opening to the second half, France threw on three forward replacements in an attempt to rectify the situation, wing Jimmy Marlu having already departed injured.

Yachvili nibbled away at the lead with a third penalty after 51 minutes.

And when Lewis Moody was twice penalised – for handling in a ruck and then straying offside – the scrum-half’s unerring left boot cut the deficit to two points.

Barkley then missed his third long-range effort to increase the tension.

And after seeing another attempt drop just short, Yachvili put France ahead with his sixth penalty with 11 minutes left.

England sent on Ben Cohen and Matt Dawson, and after Barkley’s kick saw Christophe Dominici take the ball over his own line, the stage was set for a victory platform.

But even after a poor scrummage, Hodgson had the chance to seal victory but pushed his drop-goal attempt wide.

England threw everything at the French in the final frantic moments, but the visitors held on for their first win at Twickenham since 1997.

England: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, J Noon, O Barkley, J Lewsey; C Hodgson, H Ellis; G Rowntree, S Thompson, P Vickery; D Grewcock, B Kay; J Worsley, L Moody, M Corry.

Replacements: A Titterrell, A Sheridan, S Borthwick, A Hazell, M Dawson, H Paul, B Cohen.

France: P Elhorga; C Dominici, B Liebenberg, D Traille, J Marlu; Y Delaigue, D Yachvili; S Marconnet, S Bruno, N Mas; F Pelous (capt), J Thion, S Betsen, J Bonnaire, S Chabal.

Replacements: W Servat, J Milloud, G Lamboley, Y Nyanga, P Mignoni, F Michalak, J-P Grandclaude.

Referee: Paddy O’Brien (New Zealand)

2007 The Last Time Italy Beat Wales

ITALY 23

Tries: Robertson, Mau Bergamasco

Con: Pez (2)

Pens: Pez (3)

WALES 20

Tries: S Williams, Rees

Cons: S Jones, Hook

Pens: Hook (2)

Italy claimed an historic second Six Nations win of the season after coming from behind to edge a thriller in Rome.

Shane Williams scored the opening try for Wales, but Kaine Robertson’s score and two earlier Ramiro Pez penalties put Italy 13-7 up at half-time.

Matthew Rees’ try and two James Hook penalties early in the second-half opened up a seven-point Wales lead.

Pez cut the deficit to four points with a penalty and then Mauro Bergamasco’s 77th-minute try snatched victory.

The game ended in controversial circumstances as Wales were awarded a penalty in Italian territory and Hook kicked for a line-out instead of going for the kick at goal which would have secured a draw.

Referee Chris White seemed to tell the Wales players they had time for one more play, but he then blew up for full-time as the visitors prepared to re-start the game.

The final whistle sparked wild celebrations at the Stadio Flaminio as Italy secured two wins in a Six Nations campaign for the first time.

But a bemused Wales trudged off the field with the Wooden Spoon staring them directly in the face.

Italy, high on confidence after claiming their first Six Nations away win, almost reproduced their stunning start in Scotland two weeks ago by scoring a try in the opening minutes.

Centre Gonzalo Canale burst through Martyn Williams’ clutches, but his long pass to unmarked left wing Matteo Pratichetti was ruled forward.

Pez, benefiting from a stiff breeze behind his back, converted early Italian pressure into points with two penalties in the first quarter as Wales struggled to get out of their own half.

The visitors then started to play to their strength by spinning the ball wide, and the backs combined well to score the opening try.

James Hook’s chip over the top found acres of space, Tom Shanklin benefited from a favourable bounce to gather the ball and his inside pass to Williams gave the winger a clear run home.

Jones added the simple conversion, but then left the field for treatment after Mauro Bergamasco’s punch – which went unpunished – caused a nasty cut above his eye.

A chip over the top almost brought a try for Italy before the break, but a huge punt downfield worked perfectly minutes later for Robertson to score.

Wales lost the ball in a good attacking position and, with full-back Morgan up with play, wing Robertson only had lock Ian Gough to beat to the ball and score under the posts.

Pez converted to give Italy a 13-7 half-time lead, but Wales were ahead again five minutes after the break.

Hook – taking the kicking duties despite Jones’ reappearance – closed the gap with a 44th-minute penalty.

And a minute later hooker Rees scored under the posts after bursting clear after an attacking line-out and fooling the home defence with a great dummy.

Hook’s conversion was a formality and a second penalty ten minutes later gave Wales a seven-point cushion.

Wales then withstood a sustained period of pressure, showing great defensive discipline by not conceding a single penalty.

The game opened up as the unrelenting pace caught up with the players in the final 10 minutes, and a lazy offside infringement allowed Pez to cut the gap to four points.

Fierce Italian forward play brought Italy within inches of the Wales line, and then Mauro Bergamasco won the race to Pez’s chip over the top to score.

Pez added the extra points in front of the posts to create history at an ecstatic Stadio Flaminio.

Italy: De Marigny; Robertson, Canale, Mi Bergamasco, Pratichetti; Pez, Troncon; Lo Cicero, Festuccia, Nieto, Dellape, Bortolami, Zanni, Ma. Bergamasco, Parisse.

Replacements: Zaffiri for Canale (22), Staibano for Lo Cicero (59), Perugini for Nieto (59).

Not Used: Ghiraldini, Bernabo, Griffen, Scanavacca.

Wales: Morgan; M Jones, Shanklin, Hook, S Williams; S Jones, Peel; Jenkins, Rees, Horsman, Gough, A W Jones, Popham, M Williams, R Jones.

Replacements: G Thomas for S Jones (29-40), D Jones for Jenkins (62), R Thomas for Rees (79), A Jones for Horsman (57), J Thomas for R Jones (72).

Not Used: Cockbain, Phillips.

Att: 24,973.

Ref: Chris White (RFU).

Back To The Future with Harlequins Women

14 months ago I walked away from Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, having been match announcer at the Premier 15s match between Harlequins Women and the team formerly known as DMP Sharks.

Little did we know at the time what the world had in-store for everyone, so to be back there this afternoon after such a long gap, felt quite an emotional occasion.

So much has happened in the Quins camp since that sunny January Saturday in 2021.

Many members of Quins team that day have said goodbye to Surrey and headed off to various corners of the UK and Europe.

My dear friend Debs McCormack has retired, the delightful force of nature, Giada Franco has returned home to Italy, whilst the lovely down to earth Jade Konkel is about to start training with the London Fire Brigade

Another sad departure has been that of “The French Exocet” Khadi Camara who has gone back home across the channel.

Of course there were lots of comforting familiar sights today, particularly my “Fika” buddy Vic Petersson making a comeback.

After tearing her hamstring off the bone she had been out of action for 406 days, today she made her final appearance in a Quins shirt before she too heads back home, to Sweden.

Today’s opponents Gloucester-Hartbury arrived full of confidence with the number 6 prominent in their psyche. They were 6th in the table with 6 wins and 6 losses. 6×6=36, the number of points they scored against Bristol Bears the previous weekend in a 36-6 win.

It took them 17 seconds to get on the scoresheet with a try by Hunt, and a second try by Lund soon followed to give the visitors a 10-0 lead.

A Jess Breach try following a break by Abbie Ward, and Ellie Green’s touch line conversion, narrowed the gap to three points (7-10)

Amy Cockayne’s brilliant individual effort followed by another superb conversion from Green gave Quins a 14-10 lead at half time.

Early in the second half a quick tapped penalty saw Chloe Edwards charge over the line with Green’s deadly boot again adding the extras.

Gloucester-Hartbury responded with an Emma Sing try that meant only six points separated the two teams.

An outstanding defensive display in the final quarter as Gloucester-Hartbury pounded their 22, allowed Quins to apply the sucker punch when, in the 70th minute, a blistering run from Jess Breach left two defenders prostrate on the turf, before she touched down for the home side’s 4th and bonus point winning try.

There was a real winter chill at Surrey Sports Park this afternoon, as Spring decided to have a duvet day, but for Quins a tough heart warming victory hit the spot perfectly.

Wales Parisian Grand Slam Walkways 50 Years Apart

Wales have a history of Grand Slam deciders against France, and a very positive one at that.

The omens are good, 1976, 1978, 2008 and 2012 saw victories for the men in red in Cardiff against France which gave them a Slam on the final day of the Five and Six Nations tournaments.

Only once before have Wales had to come to Paris on the final day of the championship to earn a clean sweep, and that was 50 years ago in 1971, when one of the greatest ever Welsh teams visited the city of lights, and on that day they came away with the spoils.

It was Wales first Grand Slam for 19 years, and also their first victory in Paris in 14 years.

Two brilliant tries sealed the victory. France had led 5-0 with Barry John suffering a broken nose. France wing Roger Bougarel seemed poised to score near the Welsh try line but JPR Williams intercepted and raced 70 yards before finding Gareth Edwards supporting at a tremendous rate to score.

It was still 5-3 to France in the second-half when Barry John slotted over a penalty. But arguably the greatest half back pairing in the history of the game turned the match, Gareth Edwards sent Barry John John to the blindside after hooker Jeff Young had won the ball against the head in the scrum.

John glided between two defenders and went over untouched to score the winning try and give Wales victory in front of a record Paris crowd of 60,000.

This year it will be very different, the cafes outside Gare du Nord will be deserted, and the RER trains that ferry constant hoards of fans to the outskirts of Saint Denis will be minus their considerable human cargo decked in blue and red spilling out onto the platform at La Pleine station, where the short straight walk to the stadium begins.

But whatever the backdrop a Grand Slam is almost within touching distance for a Welsh side that has already exceeded all hope and expectation.

The men in red have scored 17 tries in 4 matches and are the only unbeaten team left in the tournament.

France Grand Slam hopes are over after a last minute defeat to England, but their championship hopes are well and truly alive, they will be hurting and fired up for the Friday night showdown at Stade de France.

The permutations for the title are not quite Stephen Hawking territory, but complex nonetheless.

The equation is very simple for Wales, secure victory at the Stade de France, and they will complete the clean sweep, everything else would be irrelevant as they would be Grand Slam champions.

A draw would also be enough for Wales to claim the title in Paris as the two points would take their tally to 21, with no other side able to catch them at the top of the table.

Even suffering their first loss of the Championship might not prevent them from securing the title, depending on the margin of defeat.

The loss to England means Les Bleus must come away from next weekend’s contest with at least four more Championship points than Wales to keep their title hopes alive.

Therefore, if France win by seven points or less and fail to get a bonus point, then Wales will still be champions.

Should France beat Wales with a bonus point then they could still be crowned champions but they would have to beat Scotland potentially with a bonus point.

So it’s all to play for on Saturday night in a dark and deserted Saint Denis, France v Wales with a Grand Slam at stake, plus ça change.

The Italian Job And Days Like These

“See Rome and Die” A quote echoing the bloody history of the eternal city where your life expectancy was pretty  limited, unless of course you happened to be Russell Crowe, and a place where you literally had to fight for your life.

 The equivalent Welsh venue in the 1970’s was probably the Top Rank night club in Swansea on a Saturday night, Caligula would have felt quite at home there.

Of course the legendary Welsh teams of that era never had to contend with Italy on the way to their illustrious Grand Slams, but how Gareth, Barry and JPR would have enjoyed a Saturday night in Rome.

Negotiate the Italian job on Saturday and Wales will face France in Paris with a 13th Grand slam at stake.

With just the odd blip the men in red have more often than not come out on top against the Azzuri, and so far this tournament there has been nothing to suggest the likelihood of an Italian win.

Wales will be fighting for the right to play for their … Grand Slam and when in Rome will be hoping to not only blow the bloody doors off , but also bring the house down, and with the youthful exuberance of Rees-Zammit and Sheedy, hopes of a bonus point win are realistic and indeed expected.

Wayne Pivac announces his team on Thursday, and will sure go fully loaded, but perhaps resting Biggar and Falatau.

Sadly yet again there will be no fans at the majestic Stadio Olympico, shirt sleeved factor 50 coated Welsh fans will be absent, not a case of “See Rome and Dai” as is the usual case for this biannual pilgrimage.

For Wales a taste of La Dolce Vita is just 160 minutes of game time away, a potential Grand Slam that seemed unthinkable at the start of the tournament is within touching distance, and as Matt Monro sang in the theme to the motion picture “The Italian Job”

“In questi giorni quando arriva il bel sole”

Doom And Gloom Following A Triple Crown With Van Morrison

When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this

When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this

When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch

Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this“.

The words of that great songsmith Van Morrison beautifully sum up Saturday at a sunny Principality Stadium, But only if you happen to be Welsh.

As is the way in Welsh rugby, hopes for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations were extremely low, based on a dismal Autumn Nations Cup.

We Welsh are wonderful exponents of doom and gloom, even in the most positive of circumstances, but on this occasion it was justified, as performances before Christmas allowed us to be nothing else.

Maybe this gloom is a Celtic thing, we feel very uncomfortable when things are going well, far better to err on the side of pessimism.

A writer once said “When a group of Welshman sit in a bar talking about their lives, the one who has had the worst thing happen to him most recently is elevated to the top of the social ladder”. There could well be some truth in that.

My weekly phone call to my late Mother used to be a roll call of the sick and deceased Welsh people, from her home town, none of whom I had ever even heard of.

So from the vain hopes of a couple of victories in this years championship, we find ourselves with a problem, we have a Triple Crown in the bag, and hopes of a Grand Slam, the challenge for us Welsh is to try and find some doom and gloom in all that, I guess we’ll just have to keep on trying.

So I leave you with the words of Van the man, and memories of a sunny Saturday when doom and gloom were off the agenda, at least for a short while.

Maybe just this once we can celebrate, and dare I say it, be optimistic.

“When no one steps on my dreams there’ll be days like this

When people understand what I mean there’ll be days like this

When you ring out the changes of how everything is

Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this”.

France Covid Chaos The Full Story

The old adage you never know which French team will turn up, takes on a whole new meaning this weekend when one will actually fail to turn up at all.

In the eternal soap opera that is French rugby, the last ten days have been dramatic even by their high standards.

Here’s how things unfolded.

Tuesday February 16

The first announcement came from the FFR revealing a positive case of Covid-19 within the staff, the victim has remained anonymous ever since. There was also the suspicious case of Fabien Galthié who passed his test on Monday evening, the day after the victory in Ireland (13-15 ). The head coach was retested on Tuesday morning and tested positive in the afternoon.

Wednesday February 17

Another positive case announced, scrum coach of William Servat, bringing the number of cases within the staff to three. No positive case among the players who were are all authorized to return home with instructions maintain isolation.

Friday February 19

Star scrum half Antoine Dupont, became the first player officially to be infected with Covid-19. The eleven other players results announced that day were negative.

Saturday February 20

Prop Mohamed Haouas and wing Gabin Villière test positive, bringing the number of players affected to three. Assistant coach Karim Ghezal also tests positive.

Sunday February 21

Hooker Julien Marchand and centre Arthur Vincent to be test positive.

Monday February 22

Following the tests carried out the day before in Marcoussis, the list grows to five new players: captain Charles Ollivon, Cyril Baille, Peato Mauvaka, Romain Taofifenua and Brice Dulin.

Baptiste Pesenti tested positive on Monday morning before his arrival at the training base so he could not join the France group. That brought the total to 11 infected players.

Two “suspicious cases” within management were also mentioned. According to my sources, one of the two has since tested positive.

Tuesday February 23

No new cases reported.

Wednesday February 24

No new positive Covid cases, collective contact training resumes and the France v Scotland match get the go ahead.

Thursday February 25

A positive player case is revealed, the twelfth, despite the player not being named it is common knows that the victim was Uini Antonio, making him the seventeenth person in the France group to test positive

The entire France group is once again placed in isolation. The game against Scotland is postponed indefinitely.

The Fall Out

The Ministry of Sport has asked the FFR to conduct an internal investigation and requires answers by next week.

At a Press conference, Prime Minister Jean Castex was asked if sanctions could be taken against France rugby’s management.

“Before we talk about sanctions, we still need to know exactly what happened. I think the players themselves are already being penalised for not being able to play against Scotland on Sunday, and I think they are very unhappy about that”.

A phone call on Monday from Roxana Maracineanu, Minister Delegate in charge of Sports, to Bernard Laporte, President of the FFR, was followed by a formal letter on Wednesday evening to ask him to return within eight days an internal investigation into the implementation and compliance of the Covid protocol validated before the Tournament.

Bernard Laporte declared “The first one who will conduct an investigation and who wants to know the truth, it is indeed me! ”

“As far as I know, there is no fault in the team,

It is unclear how this investigation will proceed and whether the findings be made public or reserved for the ministry.

With the French Federation likely to be judge and jury how credible can it be ?

Infectious disease specialist Éric Caumes claimed to know the origin of the infection: “The Blues applied the procedure exactly as it should but, unfortunately, there is a player who slipped between the cracks that is to say a guy who had a negative PCR test but who was in the incubation period he is a rugby sevens player.

“What was decided is that people only fit in bubbles if they have tested negative, but the problem is, if they are in incubation, they can test negative and be positive 48 hours later. This is what happened and this is how the virus entered the bubble. ”

However there is also a suspicion that the source of Fabien Galthié himself. L’Equipe reported that the coach has, violated the Covid protocols before the match in Ireland .

Bernard Laporte has dismissed this theory defending his friend and coach tooth and nail without waiting for the conclusions of the investigation: “Fabien told me that he respected the protocol and I believe it. For me, there is no fault. If the report says people have failed, sanctions will have to be taken, for sure. Which ones? Could Fabien Galthié’s post be threatened? ” Of course not ! ”

France Sports Minister

The Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, has increased the pressure stating who Bernard Laporte himself came to see us before the Tournament to present the protocol to us and tell us that everything was going to be fine, that the bubble was going to be strictly respected with entries and controlled exits. Now that we see that this is not the case, I am waiting for him to come and explain to us what it has been,”the minister said.

When asked about possible sanctions, she was very explicit: “If nothing ever happens, if we don’t look for this chain of contamination and we don’t explain how it could have happened, then the authorisation that has been given to play the Six Nations Tournament may be withdrawn.

The Ministry of Sports, after having requested additional guarantees from the FFR in January, gave the green light it, on February 2, to participate in the Six Nations Tournament, and in particular to travel abroad to Italy, Ireland, England.

Maracineanu a former top swimmer was surprised at some of the France squad behaviors: “I don’t think it was marked in the protocol that players could go out to eat waffles (as happened in Rome after the Italy v France match on February 6, or else, if they go out to eat waffles, they had to be retested when they re-entered the bubble in contact with others. We want to know if it has been done because it is the conditions of entry and exit in the bubble that make it a bubble, by definition. ”

The source “Patient zero” has changed three times, quipped Minster Roxana Maracineanu, and I await the full report with interest from the person who presented the health protocol to me before the Tournament (Laporte).

So this coming week could be an interesting one for the French national team and everyone involved, Bernard Laporte has not earned the nickname “Teflon” for nothing but Roxana Maracineanu is no pushover, watch this space.

For The Record Wales Triple Triumph 1965

As a child, my media entertainment was somewhat limited. Television only had two channels, BBC and ITV, and both were broadcasting in black and white, or grey depending on how old your television was.

The other great form of entertainment was the radiogram, a record player and radio built into a wooden cabinet to disguise these decadent items as a piece of furniture. It was this wooden wonder that provided me with my first experience of this wonderful mystical rugby entity, the Triple Crown.

I was six years old in 1965 when Wales won my first Triple Triumph, and to mark the event my parents bought a long playing gramophone record that celebrated this achievement, with excerpts of match commentary and male voice choirs.

This LP was played to death by me, hearing the dulcet tones of commentator Alun Williams describing Terry Price’s drop goal against Ireland lives with me to this day, “The ball comes to Price who will drop at goal, it’s a good one, it’s a very good one, and it’s over !”.

For the record, if you’ll pardon the pun, Wales won the Triple Crown by scoring the same number of points against all three teams. England (14-3) Scotland (14-12) and Ireland (14-8). Only defeat in Paris prevented a Grand Slam as Wales were beaten at Stade Colombes (22-13)

Clive Rowlands captained the side with the mercurial David Watkins at fly half, with a back three of Terry Price, Stuart Watkins and Dewi Bebb.

One of Clive’s proudest moments was winning the Triple Crown in 1965. He says: “We missed out on the Grand Slam but won the Triple Crown. It was the first time for 13 years. It’s something very special.”

Denzil Williams from Ebbw Vale one of Wales greatest ever props accompanied a second row of Brian Price and Keith Rowlands, with gnarly Llanelli hooker Norman Gale adding to a pack that didn’t take any prisoners.

Wales next won the Triple Crown in 1969, the start of a golden era that saw them repeat the feat in 1969, 1971 and a record four consecutive years in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979.

Should Wales beat England on Saturday it will be their 22nd, leaving them 4 behind England’s total of 26.

France And Scotland In Deserted Paris The Auld Alliance

There is something special about Paris in the winter, the moment you step off the train at Gare du Nord, the aroma of coffee engulfs your senses as you hit the dark misty grey gloom, lit up by the neon lights of the cafes and bars in rue dunkerque.

Paris does the cold dark miserable season like no other city, with its inimitable style and class.

But Paris is different this year, the pavement cafes are shuttered and deserted, the tartan army sipping their cafe cremes with an insouciance and panache, is just a distant memory.

Historically France and Scotland have a very special bond, in 1942 Charles DeGaulle described it as the oldest alliance in the world.

“In every combat for five centuries when the destiny of France was at stake, there were always men of Scotland to fight by the side of the men of France, and what Frenchmen feel is that no people has ever been more generous with its friendship”.

The auld alliance with France was first agreed in 1295 built on France’ need to curtail English expansion.

The canny Scots were given the pick of the best French wines as a result of this accord.

The Auld Alliance will be put on hold next Sunday when the battle of the blues takes place at Stade de France.

France having lit up our dark Covid infested year with flair and panache, showed they can also win ugly, victory in Dublin in the rain could be a watershed moment for this team, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Scotland are hoping they can go the whole hog and win in Paris, especially with the whole Stuart Hogg in such fine form, and of course the boy from down the road at La Defense, Racing 92’s Finn Russell.

Scotland’s championship chances are over if they lose, whilst a France win will see them heading to meet their Waterloo, this time the station not the battle, and a mouthwatering encounter with England at Twickenham.

Ecosse will be hoping that they can bounce back after a heartbreaking defeat to Wales, and do not succumb to a case of the Bleus, thereby sent homeward to think again.