Wales internationals past and present talk about what the red shirt means to them

What the Wales rugby jersey means to players

Pinewood Studios is synonymous with James Bond but a few weeks ago it was rugby players rather than film-star spies who were doing their thing in front of the cameras at the complex in South Wales. Instead of tuxedos there were red jerseys; instead of martinis there were bottles of water.

The reason for this gathering of Wales players past and present, male and female in a film studio rather than a rugby pitch? They have come together to film a WRU promotional campaign that will run all the way through to next year’s World Cup. This is the first of the four films to be released:

And the second film has recently been unveiled – take a peek here…

‘For The Jersey’ is the theme of the campaign, so Rugby World has asked some of those players taking part what the Wales jersey means to them.

“It’s a childhood dream come true,” says Scarlets and Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny of pulling on the red shirt. “It’s something I dreamed of wearing when watching Wales play when I was a kid; I just always wanted to be playing for Wales. When I’d be practising I just dreamed of kicking for Wales and pulling on the Wales jersey.”

Alun Wyn Jones, who has played 117 Tests for his country, echoes that sentiment, saying: “It was an absolute dream as a kid. I think that gets used a lot but, in this case, I don’t think calling it a dream would be far from the truth.”

What the Wales rugby jersey means to players

Pictorial plan: The storyboard for the WRU shoot (Huw Evans Agency)

Gareth Edwards, widely regarded as the greatest rugby player of all time, remembers receiving a red shirt every Christmas, but it was one with the white feathers on that he really wanted. He got to wear one at age-grade level but it was the moment he got to pull it on at Test level for the first time, against France in 1967, that really stands out in the former scrum-half’s memory bank.

“I watched Wales play at Cardiff Arms Park when I was in school and every schoolboy was thinking the same thing: I’d give my right arm to be out there wearing the red shirt,” says Edwards.

“I yearned to have that little white badge and what that represented, I dreamed about it and I’ll never forget it (when he first wore it).

“I got capped in Paris and the masseuse, Gerry Lewis, used to enjoy presenting the shirts to the boys. I was sitting in the dressing room all excited, with the match coming and contemplating what wa ahead. Gerry said, ‘I have great pleasure to present you with your jersey’.

“I picked it up and kissed the little white badge. I then did that every other time I played for Wales because of that moment. What a difference it made to have the badge and what it represented.”

What the Wales rugby jersey means to players

Pause for thought: Gareth Edwards looks contemplative during filming (Huw Evans Agency)

Edwards brought one of his old shirts to the shoot. He’s not sure which of his 53 Wales Tests he wore it in – jerseys from his playing days did not have the match and date stitched on it as they do now – but impressively it still fits the now 71-year-old.

Other players involved in the shoot brought the jersey(s) that mean the most to them. Halfpenny went to somewhat extreme lengths to bring the shirt from his first cap, taking the frame it was in down from the wall and removing the jersey.

Ellis Jenkins and Cory Hill brought along the Wales jerseys they wore when captaining their country for the first time this summer as well as a significant club shirt. For Jenkins, the Cardiff Blues jersey he wore in last season’s victorious European Challenge Cup final; for Hill, his Pontypridd SWALEC Cup final jersey from 2011.

What the Wales rugby jersey means to players

Look who’s talking: Gareth Edwards and Alun Wyn Jones at Pinewood Studios (Huw Evans Agency)

Jasmine Joyce highlights her Commonwealth Games jersey and the shirt she wore in a memorial game for former Wales wing Elli Norkett, which had ‘EN14’ embroidered on it. Norkett died in a car crash in 2017 and Joyce says: “She was one of my closest friends growing up and I lived with her for two years. It was so sudden. That was one of the best jerseys I’ve played in and it was an honour to play in it.”

November is the next chance many of the players involved in the filming will get to wear the Wales jersey. The men play Scotland, Australia, Tonga and South Africa at the Principality Stadium on successive Saturdays – buy your tickets here.

“When you play in Cardiff and you taste what the Principality Stadium has to offer as a rugby venue, to have that opportunity over and over again – you feel very lucky to be a part of it,” says Wales centre Jonathan Davies.

It’s another opportunity for these players to create memories and fulfil those childhood dreams.

Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.