A look back at memorable fixtures from Five/Six Nations history


Eight great England v Wales matches

Since 1882, England and Wales have played each other 124 times in the championship in its various guises – Home Nations, Five Nations and Six Nations. England edge the long-running rivalry having emerged victorious 57 times compared to Wales’ 55 wins. There have also been 12 draws.

Since the inception of the Five Nations, there have been some memorable fixtures that have produced emphatic scorelines, controversial moments and unexpected victories of the underdog. 

As Wales welcome England to the Principality Stadium on Saturday, we look back at some of the most thrilling encounters between the two nations before the latest instalment of this intense rivalry. 

Related: Six Nations Fixtures 

Eight great England v Wales matches

1970 – England 13-17 Wales

It must have been demoralising trying to get a start at scrum-half ahead of Gareth Edwards, but Ray ‘Chico’ Hopkins did get his flickering moment of fame in a Wales jersey.

At Twickenham in 1970, captain Edwards ran into the referee, Robert Calmet, in a hefty collision. Calmet retired hurt, handing the whistle to touchjudge Johnny Johnson, while Edwards lasted until 20 minutes from time before giving way to Maesteg’s uncapped youngster, Hopkins.

His side was in a predicament, trailing 13-6 with Tony Novak having scored for England and made another for David Duckham, and Mervyn Davies and Barry John replying.

Now the luck swung Wales’ way. Untidy scrum ball forced Chico towards the touchline where he put JPR Williams in for a try. Then, in stoppage time, England threw long at a lineout on their line and it soared over everyone for the grateful Chico to score.

JPR, a reluctant kicker with Edwards off the park, converted for a 14-13 lead and there was still time for Barry John to land a 40m drop-goal.

“In a strange way, the fact we lost Gareth helped us to win the game because England relaxed,” said JPR Williams, who was to win all 11 of his clashes against England from 1969-81.

It was the first time that either side had come back from a ten-point deficit and as Chico told Huw Richards for the book The Red and the White:  “A lot of people think this is the only game I ever played because I sat on the bench to Gareth Edwards about 21 times.” 

1974 – England 16-12 Wales

Of the ten encounters between these two nations in the 1970s, Wales completely and utterly dominated their neighbours by winning nine of them. 

During this period of Welsh rugby superiority, England were far from at their best for this 1974 fixture. It was the final game of the tournament, England had managed a solitary draw against France, with defeats against Scotland and Ireland leaving them in contention for the Wooden Spoon. And yet England beat Wales – a victory that denied the Welsh the title.

Alan Old and Geoff Evans advanced upfield with neat interplay, before the ball found its way out to the left wing, where David Duckham cleverly side-stepped the Welsh defender to score the opening try. Old was unable to convert, but he made amends for the mistake by scoring from a penalty later in the half. 

A patchy and disjointed game ensued. A mistake from an England lineout allowed Mervyn Davies in for a try, with Phil Bennett also taking advantage of the error by converting. Bennett also scored a penalty just before the break as Wales took a 9-7 lead going into half-time.

At this stage, Wales’ incredible record against England looked set to continue. However, they weren’t able to establish their superiority. Andy Ripley bundled the ball over for a try at the start of the second half, putting England back in the ascendancy, although far from in control of the match. The try was duly converted by Old, who also scored another penalty to swing the tie further in England’s favour after Bennett slotted two penalties of his own.

The game wasn’t without controversy either, with the referee’s decision to not award JJ Williams a try in the dying embers of the game met with contention. After outpacing England’s defence, it was unclear whether the Welshman fell on or off the ball, as the referee deemed the contact insufficient for a try. 

1991 – Wales 6-25 England

England’s seismic 34-6 win against Wales at Twickenham the season before this led to Wales head coach John Ryan’s resignation. Yet England still had a point to prove as they arrived in Cardiff in 1991 having not won in Wales for 28 years.

England defiantly kept Wales from scoring a try in the opening exchanges, pushing them back to just a metre from the try-line before conceding a penalty for their aggressive efforts.

Penalties seemed the order of the afternoon, as England’s Simon Hodgkinson kicked seven throughout the course of the match – a record at the time – while forward Mike Teague scored the only try after powering his way through the Welsh defence in the second half. 

England v Wales 1991

England beat Wales in Cardiff for the first time in 28 years in 1991 (Getty Images)

England broke the hoodoo of a barren period of results since 1963 when facing Wales in their own backyard and Hodgkinson added another 11 penalties to his collection en route to the Grand Slam, proving invaluable to the English who hadn’t won the Five Nations since 1980 prior to their 1991 triumph.

1998 – England 60-26 Wales

An annihilation of the highest order, England became the first team in Five Nations history to score more than half a century of points, scoring more tries in one afternoon than Wales had conceded against them throughout the entire 1970s. Clearly, this was a period of dominance England was revelling in, winning 13 of the 15 championship fixtures between 1990 and 2004. 

This fixture remains the most points England have scored against Wales in the championship, despite Wales starting strongly. Allan Bateman scored two tries early on to provide some promise at Twickenham, putting them 12-6 ahead after just shy of half-an-hour’s play.

However, Wales capitulated before half-time, unable to gather themselves as England blitzed 21 points past them in a seven-minute spell. 

Throughout this match England were simply superior, toying with the Welsh through sharp interchanges, offloads and side-steps. Unable to legally stop players such as David Rees and Kyran Bracken, Wales conceded over countless penalties, allowing England to constantly gain ground closer to the try-line. Paul Grayson’s near faultless kicking proved pivotal in capitalising on Welsh mistakes, as he also converted seven tries and two further penalties. 

Kyran Bracken

Kyran Bracken helped England to a big win over Wales (Getty Images)

Wales managed four tries of their own throughout the course of the 80 minutes, but England’s eight dwarfed any resurgence from the team from across the Severn Bridge.  

1999 – Wales 32-31 England

Of all Wales’ 57 wins against England, this is their most satisfying. The Red Rosers were used to thumping Wales in that era and accusations of arrogance – so often wrongly labelled – had substance this time as Clive Woodward’s men commandeered the home changing room at Wembley despite it being a Wales home game.

There was a carnival atmosphere, with Tom Jones, Max Boyce and and the Stereophonics ramping up the noise pre-match. Barely had the strains of Delilah faded than Dan Luger was scoring England’s first try, Steve Hanley and Richard Hill also crossing before the break.

But Neil Jenkins’ six first-half penalties kept Wales in touch. And early in the second half, the fly-half put Shane Howarth over from a miss pass and converted for 25-25. Game on.

With some ten minutes remaining, England led 31-25 and Woodward demanded within earshot of the Welsh bench that English ribbons be displayed on the Six Nations trophy.

On 76 minutes, England chose not to go for goal from distance – a kick that would have secured a Grand Slam – and Tim Rodber then conceded a penalty for not wrapping his arms in a tackle. From Chris Wyatt’s off-the-top lineout ball, Scott Quinnell charged it up and offloaded for Scott Gibbs to wrong-foot four defenders. Cue delirium.

The conversion wasn’t a sitter but Jenkins nailed it for one of the great upsets. “It was immense. To walk around Wembley stadium and see people crying, it was huge,” said Wales forwards coach Lynn Howells. “Woodward never came near us after the match.”        

The result denied England a record fifth consecutive Triple Crown as well as a Slam, and handed the last-ever Five Nations trophy to Scotland. Woodward was so shocked that he couldn’t sleep that night and ended up driving to his office at 4.30am and having a cup of tea and a fag with the security guards.  

2001 – Wales 15-44 England

England inflicted Wales’ largest-ever defeat in Cardiff on the opening day of the 2001 Six Nations with a resounding victory at the Millennium Stadium. 

Welsh fans arrived at the stadium expectantly, hoping to witness Neil Jenkins’s 1000th point. Instead, they left with a sour taste of an exceptional team and, most notably, individual performance. Will Greenwood put Wales to the sword with a ruthless hat-trick of tries. 

Despite starting questionably, England soon kicked into gear as they became more comfortable with their hostile surroundings. With England’s backs at the time being criticised for not finishing off the work of the forwards, this is a game in which they shone instead.

Four minutes after Jenkins’s missed penalty in the opening exchanges of the game, Jonny Wilkinson broke Wales’ defensive line through both some sharp handling and poor Welsh anticipation. Offloading inside to Greenwood, with what Welsh fans argued was a forward pass, the centre was able to score his first of the afternoon.

Just two minutes later, Greenwood capitalised on more swift passing from England. As the ball worked its way across the field, Iain Balshaw, who stretched Wales’ back-line all afternoon, darted inside one Welsh challenge before being tackled five metres from the line. However, Greenwood was on hand for a quick offload, skipping over Balshaw to scramble the ball over the line.

Greenwood completed his hat-trick just minutes into the second half. After England charged down a Welsh kick under their goalposts, the ball worked its way across to the blonde bombshell. Swift interplay with Austin Healey allowed Greenwood to emphatically dive for the line to complete his hat-trick in style. 

2008 – England 19-26 Wales

Warren Gatland has described his ten years as Wales’ head coach as an “emotional roller coaster” – and his very first match was exactly that. 

With little time to prepare for the 2008 opener at Twickenham, he chose 13 Ospreys alongside Mark Jones and Martyn Williams, who he had talked out of retirement. It was a record representation, exceeding the ten Cardiff players who faced England at the same ground in 1948. 

A shambolic first-half performance ensued and but for a vital tackle by Huw Bennett on Paul Sackey, England might have been out of sight. As it was, they led 16-6 at the break, Toby Flood their try-scorer, and only one outcome seemed possible.

However, injuries now took their toll. England lost four players during the match, most significantly flankers Lewis Moody and Tom Rees, which led to lock Ben Kay coming on in the back row. Mike Tindall also went off and England’s game fell apart, Jonny Wilkinson throwing a wild pass to debutant Danny Cipriani.

The tide turned. James Hook set up Lee Byrne for a try and Mike Phillips crashed over after a move sparked by his charge-down. 

Wales scored 20 points in 13 minutes to turn the match on its head and left England coach Brian Ashton to ruminate: “We said we wouldn’t feed the Welsh and ended up taking out all the food we had and putting it on a plate for them.”

Wales went on to win a Grand Slam, conceding only two tries in the entire championship – a feather in the cap for new defence coach Shaun Edwards.  

2013 – Wales 30-3 England 

“As we walked down the tunnel we could literally feel the noise. The stadium was rumbling,” said Adam Jones of the day Wales pulverised Stuart Lancaster’s Grand Slam dreams. “That day the Millennium Stadium felt like a sanctified cathedral with hysterical worshippers being whipped into a frenzy.”

The prop says he knew by the anthems that Wales would triumph and, although it took a while to shake England off, the writing was on the wall once Alex Cuthbert crossed twice in ten second-half minutes to build on a 12-3 lead forged by Leigh Halfpenny’s four penalties.

The first try saw the big wing swat off Mike Brown after Ken Owens’s turnover, the second was a majestic team score that included a deft dummy and pass by Justin Tipuric, getting a rare start in the absence of Dan Lydiate.

Penalised heavily in the scrum, England’s humiliation saw the title ripped from their grasp by Wales on points difference. It remains Wales’ biggest-ever win over their old rivals, albeit that a 25-0 rout in 1905 would exceed it (39-0) under modern scoring values.

That night, the Ospreys in the Welsh side were driven in a fleet of Porsche jeeps to enjoy a slap-up meal. It was a day of feasting.   

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