Wales national rugby league team

Last updated
Wales
Wales rugby league.png
Team information
NicknameThe Dragons
Governing body Wales Rugby League
Region Europe
Head coach John Kear [1]
Captain Elliot Kear [2]
Most caps Ian Watson (30) [3]
Top try-scorer Rhys Williams (18) [3]
Top point-scorer Iestyn Harris (165) [3]
IRL ranking 14th
Uniforms
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First colours
Team results
First international
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 8–9 Wales  Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg
(Aberdare, Wales; 1 January 1908)
Biggest win
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 4–92 Wales  Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg
(Philadelphia, United States; 11 June 1995)
Biggest defeat
Flag of England.svg  England 74–0 Wales  Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg
(Doncaster, England; 10 October 2008)
World Cup
Appearances5 (first time in 1975 )
Best resultSemi-finals (1995, 2000)

The Wales national rugby league team represents Wales in international rugby league football matches. Currently the team is ranked fourteenth in the RLIF World Rankings. The team was run under the auspices of the Rugby Football League, but an independent body, Wales Rugby League, now runs the team from Cardiff. Three Welsh players have been entered into the Rugby League Hall Of Fame.

Contents

As with other Welsh national sporting teams, Wales strip has been primarily red. However, in the World Cup campaign in 2000 they wore a shirt featuring the Welsh flag, adding a touch of green and white. The team is known as "The Dragons" and so the team's logo on the shirt is a red dragon.

The team date back to 1907, making them the third oldest national side after England and New Zealand, and it was a touring New Zealand side that Wales first played against in 1908, winning 9–8 at Aberdare. Since then, Wales have regularly played England, since 1935 France, as well as welcomed the touring Australia and New Zealand teams, although they rarely toured themselves, not playing a match in the Southern Hemisphere until 1975. For 26 years Wales competed against their two biggest rivals, England and France, in the European Nations Cup, winning the trophy four times.

Wales has also competed in the World Cup on five occasions, the first time being in 1975. In 1995 and 2000 they had their most successful tournaments to date, making the Semi-Finals on both occasions before being beaten by England and Australia respectively. Wales failed to qualify for the 2008 World Cup, being the second highest ranked side not to do so, having lost to Scotland on points difference over two matches. They then qualified for the 2013 World Cup but failed to win a game, including losing 32–16 to low ranked Italy in their opening game at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

In recent seasons, Wales has taken massive strides under former player Iestyn Harris who had coached Wales to back to back European Cup successes, which culminated in a Four Nations appearance in 2011. In 2014 former England and France coach John Kear became the new head coach after Iestyn Harris left the post to concentrate on his new job as head coach at Salford Red Devils.

History

Foundations

On 5 April 1904, England played an international match against the "Other Nationalities", a team of Welshmen and Scotsmen, in Wigan. Of the twelve players who played for the Other Nationalities team, as it was a 12-a-side game, ten of them were Welshmen coming from Northern English clubs. At the turn of the century many Welshmen made the switch from rugby union, wanting to be paid for playing, and although the numbers switching were constantly increasing, the Northern Union did not think that a Welsh side would be strong enough for England. After 80 minutes however, the Other Nationalities had beaten England 9–3. Nevertheless, this team carried on for another two years, playing England annually in 1905 and 1906, losing 26–11 and drawing 3–3 respectively.

The Kiwis In Aberdare

From 1905 to 1910 Rugby League as a sport enjoyed growth, not just in Wales and England, but also on the east coast of Australia and in northern New Zealand. When Albert Henry Baskerville's NZ All Golds with their guest Australian star Dally Messenger arrived in Britain for the inaugural tour by a southern hemisphere side, the first full international was against Wales on New Year's Day 1908. The Welsh rugby league team were contesting their first national fixture, and managed to beat the touring Kiwis 9–8 in Aberdare in front of 20,000 spectators. This was the first international match played under new "Northern Union" rules, which would later be rapidly changed again, but these rules were a small departure from traditional rugby union rules which had been used in previous international matches (minus the number of players, who were experimentally changed by the NU several times). The New Zealand team, or the "All Golds" as they were being called by the New Zealand newspapers, had never played rugby by these rules before but did have a week of preparation and training sessions leading up to the match. With this Welsh victory and large crowd, Wales played their second fixture in Tonypandy, and managed to win that match too recording a 35–18 win against what would soon become their main rival, the England Lions. At the end of 1908 Wales played their third and final fixture of the decade, playing England again, but this time in Broughton, Lancashire. This time they lost 31–7. However, in 1909 another victory was to occur for Welsh Rugby League, with a Welsh League XIII made up of players still playing in Wales beating a touring Australian side 14–13 in Merthyr.

Defeats against England

In the years before the outbreak of the war, Wales regularly played England. The two national teams played each other every year, including 1914. Due to Rugby League only extensively being played in the two countries in the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, touring Australia and New Zealand teams were the only chances to play someone different. Although the two matches against the English played in Wales were played in Ebbw Vale in Monmouthshire, the Welsh travelled around England for away matches, playing in Coventry, Oldham, Plymouth and St. Helens. Collectively those seven matches in Wales and England produced six defeats for the Welsh team, although there were signs of improvement, in the last match in St Helens the Dragons narrowly lost by just four points, the match ending 16–12. On the 7 October 1911 Wales played Australia for the first time. The match, held at Ebbw Vale again, drew 7,000 people to watch Wales go down 20–28. The match was significant though because throughout the next few decades Australia would play the Dragons in Wales whenever they toured Great Britain. During and after the First World War many sports suffered, and rugby league in Wales was no exception, the team didn't play a match again until 1921.

The Twenties

Jim Sullivan, born in Cardiff, first played for Wales on the 21 December 1920 against Australia and played a then record 26 times for Wales throughout the 1920s, and 1930s. This picture depicts him with the Championship Trophy for Wigan. JimSullivan.jpg
Jim Sullivan, born in Cardiff, first played for Wales on the 21 December 1920 against Australia and played a then record 26 times for Wales throughout the 1920s, and 1930s. This picture depicts him with the Championship Trophy for Wigan.

After a seven-year hiatus Wales once again played England and continued to do so annually throughout the 1920s, apart from in 1924. Because of the long hiatus a large proportion of players competing in the 1921 match were earning their first cap for the team. The first game at Leeds saw Wales lose 35–9 in front of 13,000. A further 13,000 saw the 1921–22 Kangaroo touring side play Wales in December 1921, this time in Pontypridd. Like the first time these nations played each other, Australia narrowly defeated the Welsh, the final score being 16–21. In 1922 Wales took part in the first international rugby league match to be played in London. England beat Wales 12–7 in Herne Hill but just 3,000 people turned up to watch, one of the lowest attendances to ever watch a Wales match. After four more matches against England in various Rugby League strongholds in Northern England, the Dragons once again played in Wales. Two matches were played in 1926 in Pontypridd, the same year that a Pontypridd domestic side joined the English leagues, although they disbanded a year later. The first match saw finished Wales 22–30 England with a record 23,000 in attendance. The second match saw Wales comfortably beat the touring New Zealand 34–8. Three more matches against England were played including one in November 1928 played in Cardiff. It was in the 1920s that Jim Sullivan, one of three Welsh players to be enrolled into the Rugby League Hall Of Fame, started rising through the ranks at Wigan. A career spanning 25 years saw him play many times for Wales picking up 26 caps, a record that was only beaten in 2010 by Ian Watson. He also represented Great Britain 25 times and Glamorgan and Monmouthshire 12 times.

The European Nations Cup

The 1930s were to herald a new era for the team as it emerged at times as one of the dominant sides in world rugby league. In 1930 and 1933 Wales played Australia at Wembley Stadium in London. On both occasions they failed to win, losing 26–10 and being thrashed 51–19. However at the time Australia were arguably considered the world's second best nation (behind England) and so particularly in the first game, Wales had done very well against the touring Kangaroos. Wales luck against England did not change either suffering three losses to the Lions in three games, in Huddersfield, Salford and Leeds. They were very unlucky in the latter however, with England winning 14 points to 13. Exactly 27 years after Wales played their first match, they played France for the first time in a new competition called the European Nations Cup, in which Wales, France and England would play two matches each. Wales and France kicked off the tournament on New Year's Day in front of 15,000 in Bordeaux. But the Dragons lost 18–11, and their match against England was just as bad losing 24–11 in Liverpool. The France versus England match finished a 15–15 draw so England won the inaugural competition on points difference. Wales finished bottom. The next European Nations Cup brought better fortunes to the Welsh and they kicked off the competition, which was staged across Winter 1935 and 1936, with a 41–7 thrashing against France. The team were cheered on by 25,000 people at Llanelli and three months later Wales did the unexpected and squeezed past England, winning 14–17 away at Hull. This was a huge result for Wales, having not beaten England since 1923, and they had won the cup for the first time. For the next two competitions Wales successfully defended the cup. A 3–2 win against the English in Pontypridd, coupled with a 9–3 victory in Paris saw Wales clinch the cup for the second time, and then in 1938 the Dragons beat England again by one point in Bradford before beating the French 18–2. This represents perhaps the highest point in Welsh rugby league history with great players such as Jim Sullivan, Gus Risman, Alan Edwards and Alec Givvons featuring. In 1935 Welsh rugby league would produce its first black international in George Bennett (some 48 years before Welsh rugby union would do so). In the 1938/1939 tournament, the last to be held for six years because of the Second World War, Wales beat their main rivals England before dramatically losing 16–10 in Bordeaux against Les Tricolores. Because of the French's victory against England, Wales finished second and the cup was taken across the channel.

During the 1978 Kangaroo tour Wales played Australia at St Helen's ground in Swansea, losing 8–3.

Timeline

Wales team shirt used in the 2000 World Cup. Wales rugby league shirt.PNG
Wales team shirt used in the 2000 World Cup.
Wales played Papua New Guinea on the Kumuls tour of Europe. The match finished 50-10 in favour of Wales. WalesPNGRL.JPG
Wales played Papua New Guinea on the Kumuls tour of Europe. The match finished 50–10 in favour of Wales.

Kit

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Primary
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1978–1985
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1994–1999
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2000–2004
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2017 World Cup

Current squad

Squad selected for 2021 Rugby League World Cup qualifiers; [5]

Records

Most capped players

RankNameCareerCapsTriesPosition
1 Ian Watson 1995-2011307 HK
Jordan James 2003-2013309 PR
3 Jim Sullivan 1921-1939263 FB
Rhys Williams 2008-2621 WG
Elliot Kear 2009-2612 FB
6 Lee Briers 1998-2011239 SH
Christiaan Roets 2006-20162313 CE

Top try scorers

RankNameCareerTriesCapsPosition
1 Rhys Williams 2008-2126 WG
2 Christiaan Roets 2006-20161323 CE
3 Iestyn Harris 1995-20071218 SO
Elliot Kear 2009-1226 FB
5 Lee Briers 1998-2011923 SH
Jordan James 2003-2013930 PR
Adam Hughes 2002-2007913 CE

Top points scorers

RankNameCareerPointsCapsPosition
1 Iestyn Harris 1995-200716518 SO
2 Jim Sullivan 1921-193912926 FB
3 Lee Briers 1998-201110023 SH
4 Jonathan Davies 1993-1995879 FB
5 David Watkins 1968-19797416 FB
6 Rhys Williams 2008-7226 WG
7 Lloyd White 2009-2662 HK

Competitive record

Overall

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by the Wales national XIII at test level up until 24 December 2020. [6]

OpponentMatchesWonDrawnLostWin %ForAgaDiff
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 4004%143455–312
Flag of the Cook Islands.svg  Cook Islands 210150%6234+28
Flag of England.svg  England 681625023.53%8011510–709
Flag of England.svg England Knights 210150%1934–15
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 1001%672–66
Flag of France.svg  France 431802541.86%643713–70
Four Provinces Flag.svg  Ireland 1060460%253199+54
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 310233.33%4259–17
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica 1010%16160
Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon 210150%5072–22
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 1030730%158264–106
Tino Rangatiratanga Maori sovereignty movement flag.svg New Zealand Maori 1100100%1812+6
Other Nationalities 410333.33%60101–41
Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea 430175%14668+78
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 1100100%744+70
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 1100100%2210+12
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 1060460%266221+45
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia 2200100%1388+130
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 1100100%4012+28
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 320166.67%17438+136
Total17365310537.57%31313902–771

World Cup

World Cup Record
YearRoundPositionPWDLFAPD
Flag of France.svg 1954 Did not enter
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 1957
Flag of England.svg 1960
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 1968
Flag of England.svg 1970
Flag of France.svg 1972
1975 Group stage 3rd of 58305110130–20
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 1977 Did not enter
1985–88
1989–92
Flag of England.svg 1995 Semi-finals 3rd of 1032016041+19
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Four Provinces Flag.svg Flag of France.svg 2000 Semi-finals 3rd of 165301124140–16
Flag of Australia (converted).svg 2008 Did not qualify
Flag of England.svg Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2013 Group stage 12th of 1430035684–28
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg 2017 Group stage 13th of 14300318156–138
Flag of England.svg 2021 Qualified
Flag of the United States.svg Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg 2025
TotalThird place228013368551–183

Four Nations

Four Nations Record
YearRoundPositionPldWDLFAPD
Flag of England.svg Flag of France.svg 2009 Did not enter
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 2010
Flag of England.svg Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg 2011 Group stage 4th of 4th300318134–116
Flag of Australia (converted).svg Flag of New Zealand.svg 2014 Did not enter
Flag of England.svg 2016

Honours

Major:
World Cup :
Semi-finalists (2): 1995, 2000

Regional:
European Championship :
Winners (7):1935-36, 1936–37, 1938, 1995, 2009, 2010, 2015
Runners-up (9): 1938-39, 1946–47, 1952–53, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1996, 2005, 2018

Rankings

IRL World Rankings
Official Men's Rankings as of November 2019
RankChange*TeamPts%
1Increase2.svg 2Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
2Decrease2.svg 1Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia
3Decrease2.svg 1Flag of England.svg  England
4Steady2.svgFlag of Tonga.svg  Tonga
5Steady2.svgFlag of Fiji.svg  Fiji
6Increase2.svg 4Flag of Papua New Guinea.svg  Papua New Guinea
7Steady2.svgFlag of Samoa.svg  Samoa
8Decrease2.svg 2Flag of France.svg  France
9Decrease2.svg 1Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland
10Decrease2.svg 1Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon
11Increase2.svg 5Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
12Steady2.svgFour Provinces Flag.svg  Ireland
13Increase2.svg 1Flag of Italy.svg  Italy
14Decrease2.svg 3Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales
15Increase2.svg 4Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia
16Increase2.svg 1Flag of Malta.svg  Malta
17Increase2.svg 1Flag of Norway.svg  Norway
18Decrease2.svg 3Flag of the United States.svg  United States
19Increase2.svg 4Flag of Poland.svg  Poland
20Decrease2.svg 7Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica
21Decrease2.svg 1Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary
22Increase2.svg 3Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic
23Increase2.svg 5Flag of the Cook Islands.svg  Cook Islands
24Increase2.svg 7Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
25Decrease2.svg 1Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands
26Increase2.svg 4Flag of Spain.svg  Spain
27Decrease2.svg 6Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada
28New.pngFlag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria
29Decrease2.svg 2Flag of the Solomon Islands.svg  Solomon Islands
30Increase2.svg 10Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden
31Increase2.svg 4Flag of Germany.svg  Germany
32Increase2.svg 1Flag of Chile.svg  Chile
33New.pngFlag of Ghana.svg  Ghana
34Increase2.svg 16Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco
35Decrease2.svg 3Flag of Vanuatu.svg  Vanuatu
36Steady2.svgFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa
37Decrease2.svg 8Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
38New.pngFlag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon
39Decrease2.svg 2Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine
40Increase2.svg 1Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia
41Increase2.svg 4Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil
42Steady2.svgFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium
43Increase2.svg 4Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark
44Increase2.svg 4Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria
45Increase2.svg 4Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia
*Change from July 2019

Coaches

NameYearsGWDL%Honours
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Les Pearce 19759306033.33 1975 Rugby League World CupGroup stage
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg David Watkins 19772101050.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg John Mantle
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Bill Francis
19781001000.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Kel Coslett 1978–19815005000.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg David Watkins 1982–19842002000.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Clive Griffiths 1991–20002515010060.00 1995 European Rugby League Championship
1995 Rugby League World CupThird place
2000 Rugby League World CupThird place
Flag of England.svg Neil Kelly 2001–20035104020.00
Flag of England.svg Stuart Wilkinson 20042002000.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Martin Hall 2005–20077403057.14
Flag of Australia (converted).svg John Dixon 20081001000.00
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Iestyn Harris 2009–2013187011038.89 2009 European Cup
2010 European Cup
2013 Rugby League World CupGroup stage
Flag of England.svg John Kear 2014–10406040.00 2015 European Cup
2017 Rugby League World CupGroup stage

Source: [7]

Notable players

Rugby League Hall Of Fame

The following Welsh players have been inducted into both the British Rugby League Hall of Fame and the international Rugby League Hall of Fame  :

Welsh Sports Hall Of Fame

The following Welsh players have been inducted into the Welsh Sports Hall of Fame:

See also

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References

  1. "John Kear to remain as head coach of Wales". Wales Rugby League. 14 December 2017. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  2. "Elliot Kear named Wales captain". Wales Rugby League. 12 September 2018. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 "Wales - Players". Rugby League Project.
  4. 1908 Wales vs New Zealand
  5. "Regan Grace and Morgan Knowles absent from Wales' Euro squad". BBC Sport. 18 October 2018.
  6. "Head to Head". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  7. "Wales - Coaches". Rugby League Project.