Arguably the most heated rivalry contested in the Six Nations Championship, England and Wales have a long shared history on the rugby pitch.
Since the very first match in 1881, there has been one fixture that every Welsh player and fan has looked for on the annual calendar: England.
The intervening years have witnessed Grand Slam deciders, Rugby World Cup tussles and the occasional one-sided blowout. But, there has always been passion.
In the women’s game, England and Wales took their first steps into the test arena alongside (or opposed) one another in Pontypool 34 years ago.
This is the story behind the rivalry.
𝐎𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝟏𝟖𝟖𝟏: It may not have been a fully representative, properly selected side, but Wales finally made their bow on the Test stage in Blackheath.— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) February 19, 2021
The whole, eventful story ☞ https://t.co/bbIHVtLzfv pic.twitter.com/MPSITLLPxv
When was the first match?
England first played Wales 140 years ago, on 19 February, 1881. The match, which took place in Blackheath, was an extremely one-sided affair and the 13 tries amassed by the hosts remains a record in the fixture. Only goals counted towards the score in those early days, however, meaning the winning scoreline was 8-0 — seven conversions and a Robert Hunt drop-goal.
Wales hosted the first women’s fixture between the two nations more than a century later, on 5 April, 1987. Twelve months after the first women’s international had been played in the UK, World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Carol Isherwood captained England to a 22-4 victory in Pontypool. Pip Spivey (two), Karen Almond (two) and Isherwood scored the visitors’ five tries.
Where is it played?
Following that first match in 1881, the two nations alternated in hosting the fixture. Blackheath was the most common venue for the match in England until 1910, when Twickenham became the permanent home for the country’s national team.
Wales staged the fixture at venues across the country, predominantly in Cardiff and Swansea, until the former became its permanent home in 1953. Since then only two Wales home matches against England have been played outside of the nation’s capital. In 1999, a Scott Gibbs try helped secure a 32-31 victory at Wembley Stadium, while England won 24-13 in Llanelli during November’s Autumn Nations Cup.
Pontypool Park hosted the first women’s fixture between the nations in 1987, and since then the match has been played at a number of venues across England and Wales. The last five England home matches have been played in Twickenham, with three of those at Twickenham Stoop. Cardiff Arms Park, meanwhile, has hosted England on their previous two visits to Wales.
Do the teams play for a trophy?
No, neither the men’s nor the women’s teams play for a specific piece of silverware, such as the Calcutta Cup, when they face each other.
However, when the men’s teams met on 29 May, 2016, England’s 27-13 victory gave them possession of the Old Mutual Wealth Cup. Renamed the Quilter Cup, it has since been contested for between England and the Barbarians.
Who wins it?
England will face Wales in a men’s test for the 137th time on Saturday. The English have won 65 of the previous 136 matches, while Wales have 59 victories and 12 meetings have ended in a draw. England have held the upper hand in the fixture for much of the last 30 years, having enjoyed 29 wins since 1990.
Wales’ golden period in the fixture came between 1961 and 1979, when they lost just two matches against England. Wales went 10 matches unbeaten in the fixture between 1964-73.
Of the 36 women’s tests between the two sides, England have won 34. Wales’ first win in the fixture came during the Women’s Six Nations in Cardiff in 2009, when a late Non Evans penalty gave them a 16-15 victory. Tries from Catrin Edwards and Laurie Harries secured the only other Welsh win, a 13-0 victory at St Helen’s in 2015.
Who has played in the fixture the most times?
Given he has played more test matches than anyone else in history, it is perhaps not surprising that Alun Wyn Jones has featured in this fixture most times. Jones has appeared in 22 matches — and counting — against England, six more than his closest challenger, Gethin Jenkins. Rory Underwood is the most-capped Englishman in the fixture, having played against Wales 14 times.
Barring injury, Jones will captain Wales against England for an eighth time on Saturday. Should he do so, he will draw level with Will Carling, who led England in eight of his 10 test appearances against Wales, as the fixture’s most-capped captain. Jones is currently level with Arthur Gould and Sam Warburton, who each captained Wales seven times against England.
Who has scored the most tries?
Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood is the fixture’s most prolific try scorer. He touched down seven times in just six matches against Wales, including a hat-trick in Cardiff 20 years ago. England’s Rory Underwood and Gregory Wade both scored six tries in the fixture, as did Wales’ Dewi Bebb, Gerald Davies and Willie Llewellyn.
Who has scored the most points?
England’s record points scorer, Jonny Wilkinson has also amassed the most points in this fixture. His 182 points against Wales put him comfortably ahead of Owen Farrell, who can improve on his tally of 124 in Cardiff on Saturday. Leigh Halfpenny has scored more points against England (82) than any other Welshman, although team-mate Dan Biggar is only four points behind.
Has anyone ever been sent off?
Three players have received a red card in the men’s fixture. The first to be given his marching orders was Wales flanker Paul Ringer, who was sent off for a dangerous tackle on England fly-half John Horton during the Championship match at Twickenham in 1980. 15 years later, Welsh prop John Davies was sent off in Cardiff. Manu Tuilagi became the first Englishman to be shown a red card in the fixture, following a dangerous tackle on George North at Twickenham.
Has the fixture taken place at Rugby World Cup?
Yes. The two teams met in the quarter-finals of Rugby World Cup 1987, the first men’s edition of the tournament. Wales won 16-3 in Brisbane en route to a third-place finish. In 2003, the teams again met in the last eight as eventual champions England emerged victorious 28-17, thanks to a Will Greenwood try.
The first pool stage meeting between the sides at a men’s Rugby World Cup was played during England 2015. Wales won 28-25 at Twickenham, as the hosts failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of their home tournament.
England and Wales have never met at a women’s edition of Rugby World Cup.