Wales national rugby union team

Last updated

Welsh Rugby Union logo.svg
Emblem WRU Three Feathers
Union Welsh Rugby Union
Head coach Wayne Pivac
Captain Alun Wyn Jones
Most caps Alun Wyn Jones (148)
Top scorer Neil Jenkins (1,049)
Top try scorer Shane Williams (58)
Home stadium Millennium Stadium
Kit left arm Walesleft19.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body Waleskit19.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm Walesright19.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts Walesshorts19.png
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks Walessocks19.png
Kit socks long.svg
First colours
Kit left arm Walesleft19b.png
Kit left arm.svg
Kit body Waleskit19b.png
Kit body.svg
Kit right arm Walesright19b.png
Kit right arm.svg
Kit shorts.svg
Kit socks long.svg
Second colours
World Rugby ranking
Current5 (as of 1 March 2021)
Highest1 (2019)
Lowest10 (2007)
First international
Flag of England.svg  England 8–0 WalesFlag of Wales (1959-present).svg
(Blackheath, England; 19 February 1881)
Biggest win
Flag of Wales (1959-present).svgWales 98–0 Japan  Flag of Japan.svg
(Cardiff, Wales; 26 November 2004)
Biggest defeat
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 96–13 WalesFlag of Wales (1959-present).svg
(Pretoria, South Africa; 27 June 1998)
World Cup
Appearances9 (First in 1987 )
Best resultThird place, 1987

The Wales national rugby union team (Welsh : Tîm rygbi'r undeb cenedlaethol Cymru) represents Wales in men's international rugby union. Its governing body, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), was established in 1881, the same year that Wales played their first international against England. The team plays its home matches at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (currently known for sponsorship reasons as the Principality Stadium), which replaced Cardiff Arms Park as the national stadium of Wales in 1999.


Wales has competed annually in the Six Nations Championship (previously the Home Nations Championship and Five Nations Championship) since it was established in 1883. They have won the tournament (and its predecessors) outright 28 times, most recently in 2021. Since 2005, Wales has been the most successful team in the Six Nations, winning six Six Nations titles. They include four Grand Slams, again more than any other side. Wales has also participated in every Rugby World Cup since the competition was established in 1987; they finished third in the inaugural tournament and have since made two semi-finals, in 2011 and 2019. Wales were the host nation for the 1999 Rugby World Cup, although matches were also played in England, Scotland, Ireland and France.

The Wales team experienced their first 'golden age' between 1900 and 1911; they first played New Zealand in 1905, winning 3–0 in a famous match at Cardiff Arms Park, and between March 1907 and January 1910, they won 11 consecutive matches, a record that stood for over a century. Welsh rugby struggled between the two World Wars, but experienced a second 'golden age' between 1969 and 1980, when they won eight Five Nations Championships. In addition to their Six Nations successes, Wales also finished fourth at both the 2011 Rugby World Cup and 2019 Rugby World Cup. Additionally Wales won 14 consecutive matches between March 2018 and March 2019, and reached number 1 in the World Rugby Rankings for the first time in August 2019. Eight former Welsh players have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame; 10 were inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame prior to its 2014 merger into the World Rugby Hall.


Early years (1881–1892)

The 1895 Wales team before playing England in the Home Nations Championship 1895 Wales team cropped.jpg
The 1895 Wales team before playing England in the Home Nations Championship

Rugby union took root in Wales in 1850, when Reverend Rowland Williams became Vice-Principal at St David's College, Lampeter, and introduced the sport there. [1] Wales played their first international match on 19 February 1881; organised by Newport's Richard Mullock and captained by James Bevan, they played against England, losing by seven goals, one drop goal and six tries to nil (82–0 in modern scoring values). [2] [3] On 12 March 1881, the Welsh Rugby Union was formed at The Castle Hotel, Neath. [2] Two years later, the Home Nations Championship – now the Six Nations Championship – was first played, but Wales did not register a win. [4] [5] [6] However, rugby in Wales developed and, by the 1890s, the Welsh had introduced the "four three-quarters" formation – with seven backs and eight forwards instead of six backs and nine forwards – which revolutionised the sport and was eventually adopted almost universally at international and club level. [7]

First 'golden age' (1893–1913)

Wales' 1905 team that defeated New Zealand Wales team for the Original All Blacks match December 1905 - cropped.jpg
Wales' 1905 team that defeated New Zealand

With the "four three-quarters" formation, Wales won the Home Nations Championship for the first time in 1893, winning the Triple Crown in the process. [7] Wales next won the Championship in 1900, heralding the first "golden age" of Welsh rugby, which was to last until 1911. [8] They won two more Triple Crowns in 1902 and 1905, [9] and were runners-up in 1901, 1903 and 1904. [6]

A scrum in the Wales victory over New Zealand's Original All Blacks in 1905 Wales versus New Zealand scrum 1905 - cropped.jpg
A scrum in the Wales victory over New Zealand's Original All Blacks in 1905

When Wales faced New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in late 1905, they had not lost at home since 1899. [10] This New Zealand team – referred to as The Original All Blacks – was the first of the southern hemisphere national teams to visit the British Isles, [11] and were undefeated on their tour up to that point, having already beaten England, Ireland and Scotland. [12] [lower-alpha 1] Before the match, New Zealand team performed a haka (a Māori posture dance); the 47,000-strong crowd responded with the Welsh national anthem – Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau ("Land of My Fathers") – the first time a national anthem had been sung before a sporting fixture. [13] Wales wing Teddy Morgan scored a try to give Wales a 3–0 lead, before New Zealand's Bob Deans claimed to have scored a try, only to be dragged behind the goal-line before the referee arrived. The referee awarded a scrum to Wales and the score remained unchanged; Wales won 3–0. [14] The loss was New Zealand's only defeat on their 35-match tour. [15]

In 1906, Wales again won the Home Nations Championship, [9] [lower-alpha 2] and later that year played South Africa for the first time. Wales were favourites to win the match, [16] but South Africa dominated in the forwards and eventually won 11–0. [17] [18] Two years later, on 12 December 1908, Wales played the touring Australians, who they defeated 9–6. [19]

In 1909, Wales won the Home Nations Championship and then, in 1910 – with the inclusion of France – the first Five Nations. In 1911, Wales took the first Five Nations Grand Slam, winning all their matches in the tournament. [9] [lower-alpha 3] It would be nearly 40 years before they achieved a Grand Slam again. [9] England's defeat of Wales at Cardiff in 1913 was Wales' first home loss to one of the Home Nations since 1899, and their first home loss to England since 1895. [20] The Great War came in 1914 and rugby was suspended for the duration.

Post-war years (1920–1968)

Wales playing France during the 1922 Five Nations Championship France versus Wales in rugby union 1922 - cropped.jpg
Wales playing France during the 1922 Five Nations Championship

The post-First World War years marked a decline in Welsh rugby. An industrial recession struck the country, and hurt South Wales in particular. Welsh international results in the 1920s mirrored the performance of the economy: of their 42 matches, they won only 17, with three drawn. [21] Half a million people emigrated from Wales to find work elsewhere during the depression; [22] this included many Welsh rugby union internationals, who moved to the professional code of rugby league. [23] Between 1923 and 1928, Wales managed only seven victories – five of them against France. However, even France managed to defeat Wales that decade, achieving their first victory in 1928. [24] Welsh selection policy reflected the upheavals of the mid-1920s. In 1924, 35 different players were selected for Wales' four matches, with a different captain for each, and only Edward Watkins in the backs and Charlie Pugh in the forwards playing in all four matches. [21]

A resurgence of both economy and rugby union followed in the 1930s and, in 1931, Wales won their first championship for nine years. That year, for the first time since the First World War, Wales retained the same side for two consecutive matches when they faced England and Scotland. [25] Then, in 1933, captained by Watcyn Thomas, Wales defeated England at Twickenham. [26] In 1935, Wales beat the touring New Zealand side 13–12, with Haydn Tanner making his first appearance. Although the Five Nations Championship was suspended during the Second World War, [lower-alpha 4] Wales did play a Red Cross charity match against England at Cardiff in 1940, losing 18–9. [28]

after the Second World War, Wales played a New Zealand Army team (the Kiwis) in 1946, losing 11–3. [29] The Five Nations (suspended during the war) resumed in 1947, when Wales shared the title with England. Although Wales suffered their first home defeat to France in 1948, [30] they won their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1911 in 1950. [9] The next year, they lost 6–3 to the touring South Africans, despite dominating in the line-outs. [31] They achieved another Grand Slam in 1952, [9] followed by a 13–8 win over New Zealand in 1953. [32] In 1954, St Helen's in Swansea (a Welsh international venue since 1882) hosted its last international and Cardiff Arms Park officially became the home of the Welsh team. [33] In 1956, Wales again won the Five Nations, but they did not regain the title until 1964 and did not win it outright until 1965. [9]

Wales playing Argentina at Estadio GEBA in September 1968 Rugby arg wales 1968.jpg
Wales playing Argentina at Estadio GEBA in September 1968

Wales conducted their first overseas tour in 1964, playing several games and one test in South Africa. [34] They lost the test against South Africa in Durban 24–3, their biggest defeat in 40 years. [35] At the WRU annual general meeting that year, the outgoing WRU President D. Ewart Davies declared that "it was evident from the experience of the South African Tour that a much more positive attitude to the game was required in Wales ... Players must be prepared to learn, and indeed re-learn, to the absolute point of mastery, the basic principles of Rugby Union football". [36] This started the coaching revolution. The WRU Coaching Committee – set up in the late 1950s – was given the task of improving the quality of coaching and, in January 1967, Ray Williams was appointed Coaching Organiser. [37] The first national coach, David Nash, was appointed in 1967 to coach Wales for the season, but resigned when the WRU refused to allow him to accompany Wales on their 1968 tour of Argentina. [38] Eventually, the WRU reversed their decision, appointing Clive Rowlands to tour as coach. Of the six matches, Wales won three, drew two and lost one. [39]

Second 'golden age' (1969–1979)

Wales enjoyed a second "golden age" in the 1970s, [40] [41] [42] with world-class players such as Gareth Edwards, [42] J. P. R. Williams, Gerald Davies, [42] Barry John, [40] and Mervyn Davies [43] in their side. Wales dominated Northern Hemisphere rugby between 1969 and 1979, and managed an incredible winning record, losing only seven times during that period. [40] Wales toured New Zealand for the first time in 1969, but were defeated in both matches. In the second test, which they lost 33–12, [44] New Zealand fullback Fergie McCormick scored 24 points; a record at the time. [45]

In 1970, Wales shared the Five Nations with France, and recorded a 6–6 draw against South Africa in Cardiff. [46] The following year, Wales recorded their first Five Nations Grand Slam since 1952. Using only 16 players in four games, [47] the 1971 side achieved their most notable win of the tournament in their victory over Scotland; [48] after a last-minute try by Gerald Davies that reduced Scotland's lead to 18–17, flanker John Taylor kicked a conversion from the sideline described as "the greatest conversion since St Paul" to give Wales a 19–18 win. [49] Wales contributed more players than any other team to the British Lions side that toured New Zealand that year. Those Lions became the only ones to win a series over New Zealand. [50]

In the 1972 Five Nations Championship, Wales and Scotland refused to travel to Ireland at the height of the Troubles after receiving threats, purportedly from the Irish Republican Army. [51] The Championship remained unresolved with Wales and Ireland unbeaten. Although the Five Nations was a five-way tie in 1973, the Welsh did defeat Australia 24–0 in Cardiff. [52]

Wales next won the Five Nations outright in 1975, and in 1976, Wales won their second Grand Slam of the decade. Just like the first in 1971, they used only 16 players over their four matches. [53] They repeated the feat in 1978 and, in the process, became the first team to win three consecutive Triple Crowns. [54] Following their final Five Nations match of 1978, both Phil Bennett and Gareth Edwards retired from rugby. [42]

Wales hosted New Zealand at Cardiff Arms Park in November 1978, losing 13–12 after a late penalty goal by the replacement New Zealand fullback, Brian McKechnie. [55] The penalty was controversial because New Zealand lock Andy Haden had dived out of a line-out in an attempt to earn a penalty. Haden later admitted that he and Frank Oliver had pre-agreed this tactic should they find themselves in difficulties. [56] [57] Referee Roger Quittenton was criticised by the press for failing to notice the dive, but he later stated that the penalty had been given against Welsh lock Geoff Wheel for jumping off the shoulder of Oliver. [58] Quittenton later said, "Haden's perception is that his dive secured the penalty. That is a load of rubbish". [57] Wales then went on to win the 1979 Five Nations with a Triple Crown. [9]

Barren years (1980–2003)

New Zealander Graham Henry coached Wales to their first test win over South Africa in 1999. Graham Henry 28 March 2011 Twickenham.jpg
New Zealander Graham Henry coached Wales to their first test win over South Africa in 1999.

In 1980, the WRU's centenary year, [59] Wales lost 23–3 to New Zealand in Cardiff, with the All Blacks scoring four tries to nil. [60] Wales won two matches in the Five Nations Championships of both 1980 and 1981, [61] and in 1983 were nearly upset by Japan, winning 29–24 at Cardiff. [62] In 1984, Australia defeated Wales 28–9 at Cardiff Arms Park. [19]

Wales achieved only one win in 1987's Five Nations before contesting the inaugural Rugby World Cup. [61] Wales defeated Ireland in their crucial pool fixture, [63] before defeating England in the quarter-finals. [64] They then faced hosts New Zealand, who won 49–6, but beat Australia in the third place play-off game to claim third. [65] The next year Wales won the Triple Crown for the first time since 1979, but heavy defeats on tour to New Zealand later that year saw the end of a number of Welsh players' careers, as several converted to rugby league. [59]

Welsh rugby reached a nadir when Wales suffered their first Five Nations Championship whitewash; they had upset England in 1989 to avoid losing all their Championship matches that season, [66] but in 1990, Wales were defeated in all four Five Nations' matches for the first time, before almost doing the same the following year. [67] The 1991 World Cup saw further frustration, when Wales were upset by Samoa in their opening match. [68] A second group-stage loss, by 38–3 to Australia, eliminated Wales from the tournament. [69]

After winning two Five Nations games in 1992, and one in 1993, [70] Wales won the Championship in 1994 on points difference. [9] But without defeating one of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa during the inter-World Cup period, and again losing all four of their matches at the 1995 Five Nations Championship, Wales was not considered a major contender for the 1995 Rugby World Cup. [69] [71] At the 1995 World Cup, after comprehensively beating Japan, Wales lost to New Zealand; this meant that they needed to defeat Ireland to qualify for the quarter-finals. Wales lost 24–23 and so failed to progress beyond the pool stage for the second time, [72] and later that year Kevin Bowring replaced Alec Evans to become Wales' first full-time coach. [73]

Record defeats of 51–0 to France and 96–13 to South Africa, prompted the WRU to appoint New Zealander Graham Henry as coach in 1998. [74] [75] Henry had early success as coach, leading Wales to a 10-match winning streak; this included Wales' first victory over South Africa, a 29–19 win in the first match played at the Millennium Stadium. [74] Henry was consequently nicknamed "the Great Redeemer" by the Welsh media and fans, a reference to the opening line of Cwm Rhondda , a popular song among Welsh rugby fans. [75] [76] Hosting the 1999 World Cup, Wales qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1987, but lost 24–9 to eventual champions Australia. [77] A lack of success in the Five and Six Nations (Italy joined the tournament in 2000), and especially a number of heavy losses to Ireland, led to Henry's resignation in February 2002; his assistant Steve Hansen took over. [74] [75]

During Hansen's tenure, the WRU implemented a significant change in the structure of the game domestically. Regional teams were introduced as a tier above the traditional club-based structures in 2003, and the five (later four) regional sides became the top level of domestic professional rugby in the country. [lower-alpha 5] [78] [79] At the 2003 World Cup, Wales scored four tries in their 53–37 pool stage loss to New Zealand, [80] before losing in the quarter-finals to the eventual tournament winners, England, despite outscoring them by three tries to one. [81]

Revival (2004–present)

Michael Owen takes a line-out. Michael Owen takes a lineout.jpg
Michael Owen takes a line-out.

Coached by Mike Ruddock, Wales won their first Grand Slam since 1978 and their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005. A late long-range penalty from Gavin Henson gave them victory over England in Cardiff for the first time in 12 years, [82] and after victories over Italy, France and Scotland, they faced Ireland in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium where Wales' 32–20 victory gave them their first Championship since 1994. [83] Later that year, they suffered a record home loss, 41–3 to New Zealand. [84]

Ruddock resigned as head coach midway through the 2006 Six Nations, [85] where Wales finished fifth, and Gareth Jenkins was eventually appointed as his replacement. [86] Jenkins led Wales through the 2007 World Cup, where they failed to advance beyond the pool stage after losing their final game 38–34 to Fiji, thanks to a Graham Dewes try. [87] Jenkins subsequently lost his job, [88] [89] and Warren Gatland, a New Zealander, was appointed as his successor. [90]

Gatland era

Wales faced England at Twickenham for Gatland's inaugural match as coach and their first match of the 2008 Six Nations. They had not defeated England there since 1988, and went on to win 26–19. They eventually won all their matches in the Championship, conceding only two tries in the process, to claim another Grand Slam. [91] Later that year, Wales defeated Australia 21–18 in Cardiff, but then started a six-year, 23-game winless streak against the southern hemisphere nations of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. [92]

At the 2011 World Cup, Wales reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1987, but lost 9–8 to France after captain Sam Warburton was sent off. [93] The two teams met again in March 2012, with Wales needing a win to claim their third Six Nations Grand Slam in eight years, which they did with a 16–9 victory. [94] This was followed immediately by an eight-match losing streak that was eventually broken during the 2013 Six Nations, [95] where Wales retained the Championship for the first time since 1979. [96] Wales reached the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup at the expense of hosts England, before losing 23–19 to South Africa. [97] Wales also achieved a fourth Grand Slam in 14 years and their first in seven years in the 2019 Six Nations. [98]

Wales reached the top spot in the men's World Rugby Rankings in August 2019, holding the position for two weeks. [99] They went on to top their pool at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, winning all their pool matches for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1987, [100] and ultimately reached the semi-finals before they were knocked out by eventual champions South Africa; [101] Wales lost to New Zealand in the bronze final and finished fourth in the tournament. [102]


Wales play in red jerseys, white shorts and red socks. For the 2015–16 season, the jersey design incorporated gold for the first time. The jerseys are embroidered with the WRU logo, which is based on the Prince of Wales's feathers. The original motto beneath the feathers was a German phrase, Ich dien, meaning I serve, but this has been replaced with large letters reading WRU. [103]

Wales's alternate strip is green jerseys, white shorts and green socks, [104] although there have been various different coloured strips in the past. Former change strips worn by Wales have used black, navy, white, yellow and grey as their predominant colours. [105] Wales previously wore black jerseys as part of celebrations for the WRU's 125th anniversary in 2005. The jersey was worn against Fiji and then Australia that year; the Australia match was the first time Wales had not played in their red jersey against one of their traditional rivals. [105]

In 1992, the Welsh Rugby Union agreed a deal with Cotton Traders to produce the national team's kits. [106] They were replaced in 1996 by Reebok, [107] whose contract with the Welsh Rugby Union was worth £1.3 million in 1999. [108] Wales received the first jersey sponsor in their history in 2000, when Redstone Telecoms agreed a deal worth £2 million. [109] Redstone was replaced two years later by Reebok subsidiary Rockport, in a deal worth £1 million, [110] followed by Brains Brewery in 2004, [111] in conjunction with a four-year extension to the Reebok deal. [112] Due to French alcohol advertising regulations, the "Brains" name was replaced by "Brawn" for the 2005 Six Nations Championship match between France and Wales at the Stade de France, [113] and by "Brawn Again" for the corresponding match two years later. [114] The Brains deal was extended in June 2008 until September 2009, with "Brains SA" appearing on Wales home shirts and "SA Gold" appearing on the team's yellow change shirts. [115] For the away match against France in February 2009, the "Brains SA" logo was replaced by the words "Try Essai"; "essai" is the French word for a try, but is also pronounced the same as "SA", meaning the branding could have been viewed as "an invitation to 'try' Wales' best loved beer brand". [116]

In 2008, Under Armour replaced Reebok as Wales' kit manufacturer in a four-year deal worth £10 million. [117] Welsh insurance company Admiral replaced Brains as the main shirt sponsors in 2010, signing a three-year contract. [118] That deal was extended by two years in both in 2013 and 2015, [119] with the latter described as the WRU's "biggest shirt partnership deal in its history". [120] In 2017, Japanese motor company Isuzu Motors replaced Admiral as the main sponsors of the Wales team's home shirts, [121] while sponsorship of the team's away shirts was taken on by Subaru as a result of both companies' UK imports being handled by IM Group. [122] In October 2015, the WRU agreed a nine-year, £33 million extension to its contract with Under Armour, [123] only for both parties to mutually terminate the deal four years early in 2020. [124] A new, seven-year contract with Italian company Macron was agreed in September 2020, believed to be worth around £30 million. [125]

PeriodKit manufacturerShirt sponsor
1970s–1991 Umbro No shirt sponsor
1991–1996 Cotton Traders
1997–2000 Reebok [112]
2000–2002Redstone Telecom [109]
2002–2004 Rockport [110]
2004–2008 Brains Brewery
2008–2010 Under Armour [117]
2010–2017 Admiral [118]
2017–2020 Isuzu (home kit) [126]
Subaru (away kit)
2020– Macron


Rugby union and Wales' national team hold an important place in Welsh culture and society. Sport historian John Bale has stated that "rugby is characteristically Welsh", and David Andrew said that "To the popular consciousness, rugby is as Welsh as coal mining, male voice choirs, How Green Was My Valley , Dylan Thomas, and Tom Jones". [127] Welsh rugby's first 'golden age' (1900–1911) coincided with the country's zenith during the 20th century, [128] and rugby was important in building Wales' modern identity. [129] There is a long tradition of Welsh supporters singing before and during matches. The choral tradition developed in Wales during the 19th century alongside the rise of nonconformity, and has extended to singing at rugby matches. [130] Commonly sung songs include the hymn Cwm Rhondda , [130] Tom Jones' Delilah , [131] and Max Boyce's Hymns and Arias. [132]

Home stadium

Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, where Wales play their home games MillenniumStadiumExterior.jpg
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, where Wales play their home games

Wales' first home international was played in 1882 at St Helen's Ground in Swansea. [133] In the 1880s and 1890s, home Welsh internationals were played at Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Llanelli. [134] Swansea continued to be used as an international venue until 1954, when Cardiff Arms Park became Wales' primary home venue. [135] [136] Cardiff Arms Park first had a stand erected in 1881, and continued to expand its seating that decade. [137] Crowds continued to grow and in 1902 in Wales' match against Scotland a world record 40,000 spectators paid to see the match. [138] In 1911, the owners of the Arms Park, the Marquess of Bute's family, [139] confirmed Wales' tenure and during the 1920s and 1930s, Wales gradually gained increasing control. [140] A new stand was built at the park in the 1933–34 season, which increased the grounds' capacity to 56,000. [141]

The National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park The National Stadium The Arms Park Cardiff.jpg
The National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park

By 1958, the WRU had concluded that a new national ground was needed due to flooding that often affected Arms Park. [142] After debate and disputes between the WRU and various other parties, including Cardiff RFC, it was decided in the 1960s that a new national stadium would be built with a new ground for the Cardiff club backing onto it. [143] The National Stadium, as it was known, was officially opened in 1970. [144]

Since 1999, Wales have played all their home matches at the 74,500-capacity Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, which is also Wales' national stadium. [145] The Millennium Stadium was first conceived in 1994, when a group redevelopment committee was set up. It was decided to replace the National Stadium at Cardiff Arms Park after a review found it was out of date; new legislation also required stadia to be all-seated. [146] Construction of the new stadium began in September 1997, and was completed by June 1999, in time for the Rugby World Cup. The construction, which cost the WRU £126 million, was funded by private investment, £46 million of public funds from the National Lottery, the sale of debentures to supporters (offering guaranteed tickets in exchange for an interest-free loan), and loans. [147] While the new ground was being built, Wales used the old Wembley Stadium for their home matches [148] – a deal reciprocated during construction of the new Wembley, when FA Cup finals were held at the Millennium Stadium. [149]


Six Nations

Wales compete annually in the Six Nations Championship, which is played against five other European nations: England, France, Ireland, Italy, and Scotland. The Six Nations started as the Home Nations Championship in 1883, as a contest between the four component nations of the United Kingdom. Wales first won it in 1893, when they achieved a Triple Crown. [4] [7] Wales have won the tournament outright 27 times, and shared 12 other victories. [150] Their longest wait between championships was 11 years (1994–2005). Wales first won a Grand Slam in 1908 – although France did not officially join the Five Nations until 1910 – and their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 2005. [4] [151] Their most recent Grand Slam was won in 2019 with victory over Ireland on the final day of the Six Nations tournament. Their most recent Triple Crown was won in 2021 with victory over England in the third round of the Six Nations tournament.

World Cup

A scrum between Wales and Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup Wales vs Australia 2011 RWC (5).jpg
A scrum between Wales and Australia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Wales have contested every Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987.

The 1987 tournament was Wales' most successful; they won all three pool matches and their quarter-final, before losing to the All Blacks in the semi-finals. They then faced Australia in the third place play-off match, which they won 22–21. [65]

In the next two tournaments in 1991 and 1995, Wales failed to progress beyond the pool stage, winning just one match in each tournament. [69] [72] They also became the first co host nation to not make it out of the pool stage in 1991.

Both the 1999 and 2003 tournaments were more successful, with Wales qualifying for the quarter-finals both times. Wales hosted the event in 1999 and topped their pool only to lose to eventual winners Australia in the quarter-finals. [77] [152]

In 2003, they finished second in their pool behind the All Blacks, [80] and faced England in the quarter-finals. They lost to England, the eventual champions, 28–17. Wales conceded 17 penalties, and their lack of discipline proved costly. [81]

In the 2007 World Cup, Wales again failed to progress from the pool stage. After a loss to Australia, and two wins against Japan and Canada, they faced Fiji for a place in the quarter-finals. [87] The game started poorly for Wales who were behind 25–3 at half-time. They fought back to lead by three points with six minutes remaining, but Fiji then scored a try to win 38–34 and eliminated Wales from the tournament. [88]

At the 2011 World Cup, Wales reached the semi-finals for the first time since 1987. Playing the semi-finals against France, Wales lost 9–8, in a game overshadowed by the 18th-minute sending off of Wales' captain Sam Warburton for a dangerous tackle against Vincent Clerc. [93]

At the 2015 World Cup Wales were in the same pool as Australia, England, Fiji and Uruguay. They finished second in the pool behind Australia and ahead of hosts England. South Africa defeated Wales in the quarter-finals.

In the 2019 World Cup Wales were in pool D with Australia, Fiji, Georgia and Uruguay. They won all their group matches to finish top of the pool. After defeating France in the quarter-finals, they lost to the eventual tournament winners South Africa in the semi-finals.


Men's World Rugby Rankings
Top 20 rankings as of 26 April, 2021 [153]
1Steady2.svgFlag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 094.20
2Steady2.svgFlag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 088.95
3Steady2.svgFlag of England.svg  England 085.44
4Steady2.svgIRFU flag.svg  Ireland 084.69
5Steady2.svgFlag of France.svg  France 084.27
6Steady2.svgFlag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 083.44
7Steady2.svgFlag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 083.08
8Steady2.svgFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 082.02
9Steady2.svgFlag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 080.31
10Steady2.svgFlag of Japan.svg  Japan 079.29
11Steady2.svgFlag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 076.87
12Steady2.svgFlag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 073.73
13Steady2.svgFlag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 071.44
14Steady2.svgFlag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 070.72
15Steady2.svgFlag of Italy.svg  Italy 070.65
16Steady2.svgFlag of the United States.svg  United States 068.10
17Steady2.svgFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 067.02
18Steady2.svgFlag of Romania.svg  Romania 066.22
19Steady2.svgFlag of Spain.svg  Spain 064.82
20Steady2.svgFlag of Russia.svg  Russia 062.71
21Steady2.svgFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 062.10
22Steady2.svgFlag of Hong Kong.svg  Hong Kong 061.23
23Steady2.svgFlag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 061.11
24Steady2.svgFlag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 061.04
25Steady2.svgFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 060.09
26Steady2.svgFlag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 057.71
27Steady2.svgFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 057.17
28Steady2.svgFlag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 054.12
29Steady2.svgFlag of Chile.svg  Chile 053.81
30Steady2.svgFlag of Germany.svg  Germany 053.13
*Change from the previous week
Wales's historical rankings

See or edit raw graph data.

Source: World Rugby - Graph updated to 26 April 2021 [153]

When the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003, Wales were ranked 8th. [lower-alpha 6] They rose to 7th in June 2004, before falling back to 8th in November that year. Following a Grand Slam win in the 2005 Six Nations, they rose to a ranking position of 5th. They fell to 9th by June 2006, and, after rising back to 8th by September, fell to 10th after the 2007 World Cup. A second Six Nations' Grand Slam in 2008 propelled them to 6th in the rankings, but following losses to South Africa in the mid-year and end-of-year internationals Wales slipped to 7th. Wales climbed to 4th after a win over Scotland in their first match of the 2009 Six Nations. They slumped to 9th in 2010 but rose back to 4th after their fourth place in the 2011 World Cup. [154] Since then – notwithstanding a nine-game slump in 2012–13 where they fell to 9th – Wales have ranked consistently in the top six teams. They reached 2nd during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, [155] before hitting top spot for the first time on 19 August 2019, after winning 15 of their last 16 games. [156]

Wales have won 392 of their 748 Test matches. [157] [158] Their biggest Test defeat was a 96–13 loss to South Africa in 1998, and their largest victory was a 98–0 defeat of Japan in 2004. Their record for most tries in a match is 16, scored against Portugal in 1994 – they also scored 102 points in this match, more than in any other Test. Wales' record for consecutive Test wins is 14, and for consecutive losses is 10. [158]

Below is table of the representative rugby matches played by a Wales national XV at test level up until 20 March 2021.

OpponentPlayedWonLostDrawnWin %PFPA+/−
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 18 135072.22%505392+113
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 43 1230127.91%6631004−341
Barbarians 4 22050.00%11393+20
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 12 111091.67%460207+253
Flag of England.svg  England 137 60651243.8%16761839−163
Flag of Fiji.svg  Fiji 12 101183.33%358162+196
Flag of France.svg  France 101 5147350.5%15301473+57
Flag of Georgia.svg  Georgia 3300100.00%7420+54
IRFU flag.svg  Ireland 132 7055753.03%16221547+75
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 30 272190%1040461+579
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 10 91090.00%526159+367
Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia 4400100.00%17169+102
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 35 33208.57%3911110−719
  New Zealand Natives 1100100.00%1G0G+1G
  New Zealand Services 10100.00%36−3
Flag of rugby Pacific Islanders.svg Pacific Islanders 1100100.00%3820+18
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 1100100.00%10211+91
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 862075.00%34296+246
Flag of Samoa.svg  Samoa 10 64060.00%235180+55
Flag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 127 7450358.27%17581356+402
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 36 629116.67%568922−354
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 1100100.00%540+54
Flag of Tonga.svg  Tonga 9 900100.00%301108+193
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 7 700100.00%30586+219
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 2200100.00%8922+67
Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 3300100.00%12638+88


Current squad

On 20th January 2021, Wales announced a 36-man squad for the Six Nations. [159]
On 10 February, James Botham, Willis Halaholo and Lloyd Williams were called into the squad, while Dan Lydiate withdrew due to injury. [160]
On 19 February, WillGriff John was called into the squad, with Dillon Lewis withdrawing through injury. Josh Macleod was also withdrawn from the squad following injury in the lead up to the match against Scotland. [161]
On 4 March, Kieran Hardy was released from the squad due to injury. [162]

Head coach: Flag of New Zealand.svg Wayne Pivac

Player Position Date of birth (age)CapsClub/province
Elliot Dee Hooker (1994-03-07) 7 March 1994 (age 27)37 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons
Ryan Elias Hooker (1995-01-07) 7 January 1995 (age 26)17 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Ken Owens Hooker (1987-01-03) 3 January 1987 (age 34)82 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Leon Brown Prop (1996-10-26) 26 October 1996 (age 24)17 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons
Rhys Carré Prop (1998-02-08) 8 February 1998 (age 23)13 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Tomas Francis Prop (1992-04-27) 27 April 1992 (age 29)57 Flag of England.svg Exeter Chiefs
WillGriff John Prop (1992-12-04) 4 December 1992 (age 28)0 Flag of England.svg Sale Sharks
Rhodri Jones Prop (1991-12-23) 23 December 1991 (age 29)20 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Wyn Jones Prop (1992-02-26) 26 February 1992 (age 29)35 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Jake Ball Lock (1991-06-27) 27 June 1991 (age 29)50 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Adam Beard Lock (1996-01-07) 7 January 1996 (age 25)25 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Cory Hill Lock (1992-02-10) 10 February 1992 (age 29)32 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Alun Wyn Jones Lock (1985-09-19) 19 September 1985 (age 35)148 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Will Rowlands Lock (1991-09-19) 19 September 1991 (age 29)7 Flag of England.svg Wasps
James Botham Back row (1998-02-22) 22 February 1998 (age 23)6 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Taulupe Faletau Back row (1990-11-12) 12 November 1990 (age 30)86 Flag of England.svg Bath
Josh Navidi Back row (1990-12-30) 30 December 1990 (age 30)28 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Justin Tipuric Back row (1989-08-06) 6 August 1989 (age 31)85 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Aaron Wainwright Back row (1997-09-25) 25 September 1997 (age 23)29 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons
Gareth Davies Scrum-half (1990-08-18) 18 August 1990 (age 30)62 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Lloyd Williams Scrum-half (1989-11-30) 30 November 1989 (age 31)32 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Tomos Williams Scrum-half (1995-01-01) 1 January 1995 (age 26)22 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Dan Biggar Fly-half (1989-10-16) 16 October 1989 (age 31)92 Flag of England.svg Northampton Saints
Jarrod Evans Fly-half (1996-07-25) 25 July 1996 (age 24)6 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Callum Sheedy Fly-half (1995-10-28) 28 October 1995 (age 25)9 Flag of England.svg Bristol Bears
Jonathan Davies Centre (1988-04-05) 5 April 1988 (age 33)88 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Willis Halaholo Centre (1990-07-06) 6 July 1990 (age 30)4 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
George North Centre (1992-04-13) 13 April 1992 (age 29)102 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Nick Tompkins Centre (1995-02-16) 16 February 1995 (age 26)10 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Dragons
Owen Watkin Centre (1996-10-12) 12 October 1996 (age 24)26 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Ospreys
Johnny Williams Centre (1996-10-18) 18 October 1996 (age 24)3 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Josh Adams Wing (1995-04-21) 21 April 1995 (age 26)32 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Hallam Amos Wing (1994-09-24) 24 September 1994 (age 26)23 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Cardiff Blues
Louis Rees-Zammit Wing (2001-02-02) 2 February 2001 (age 20)9 Flag of England.svg Gloucester
Leigh Halfpenny Fullback (1988-12-22) 22 December 1988 (age 32)95 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets
Liam Williams Fullback (1991-04-09) 9 April 1991 (age 30)70 Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg Scarlets

Notable players

Eighteen Welsh internationals have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame. [163] One Welsh player, Shane Williams in 2008, has been awarded World Rugby Player of the Year (formerly known as the International Rugby Board Player of the Year). [164]

Individual records

See List of Wales national rugby union team records; and List of Wales national rugby union players for a sortable list containing player caps and tries
Former Wales forward Colin Charvis scored 22 tries for his country, the most ever by a forward. Colin Charvis.jpg
Former Wales forward Colin Charvis scored 22 tries for his country, the most ever by a forward.

Neil Jenkins was the first rugby player to surpass 1000 Test points. He holds several Welsh records, including the most points scored for Wales with 1049, the most successful penalty kicks for Wales with 248, and the Welsh record for most points in a single Test match with 30. [165] [166] The record for drop-goals for Wales is held by Jonathan Davies with 13. [167]

Shane Williams is Wales' record try-scorer with 58 tries. Williams is also Wales' record try-scorer in Six Nations Championships with 22 and the Rugby World Cups with 10. [168] Colin Charvis' 22 tries is the all-time Welsh record for a forward, and was the world record for tries by a forward until 2011. [169]

Alun Wyn Jones is the nation's most capped player with 148 Welsh caps. Five other players have earned 100 caps or more: Gethin Jenkins, Stephen Jones, Gareth Thomas, Martyn Williams and George North. [170] The record for most matches as captain is held by Sam Warburton with 49. [171] The record for the most consecutive appearances is held by Gareth Edwards who played all 53 of his matches for Wales consecutively between 1967 and 1978. [165] Edwards is also Wales' youngest ever captain at the age of 20. [43]

The youngest player ever capped for Wales is Tom Prydie, who made his debut in Wales' 2010 Six Nations finale against Italy at age 18 years, 25 days, beating the record set by Norman Biggs in 1888. [172] [173] Prydie is also Wales' youngest try-scorer, scored against South Africa in June 2010, overtaking the record that Tom Pearson set on his debut in 1891. [174] Winger George North, aged 18 years 214 days, overtook Pearson's record as the youngest Wales player to score a try on debut in November 2010. [175]

Welsh Sports Hall of Fame

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


Wales coach Warren Gatland was appointed in 2007, and coached Wales to Six Nations Grand Slams in 2008, 2012 and 2019, more than any other coach. 2012-03-19 Warren Gatland at Wales' Grand Slam celebrations.jpg
Wales coach Warren Gatland was appointed in 2007, and coached Wales to Six Nations Grand Slams in 2008, 2012 and 2019, more than any other coach.

Following the unsuccessful tour to South Africa in 1964, the WRU set up a working party on coaching. The party recommended that Welsh clubs accept the principle of coaching. David Nash was appointed as the national team's first coach in 1967, but for the 1968 tour of Argentina, the WRU initially planned not to have a coach tour with the team. Following pressure from the Welsh clubs at the WRU's annual general meeting, the decision was reversed and Clive Rowlands was appointed as coach for the tour. [37] The appointing of a coach for the team coincided with Wales' success in the Five Nations during the 1970s. [177]

Wales' head coaches [178]
NameNationalityYearsMatchesWonDrewLostWin %
David Nash Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1967511320
Clive Rowlands Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1968–7429184762
John Dawes Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1974–7924180675
John Lloyd Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1980–821460843
John Bevan Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1982–851571747
Tony Gray Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1985–881890950
John Ryan Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1988–90920722
Ron Waldron Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1990–911021720
Alan Davies Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1991–95351801751
Alex Evans Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 1995 (caretaker coach)410325
Kevin Bowring Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1995–98291501452
Dennis John Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 1998 (interim coach)210150
Graham Henry Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 1998–2002342011359
Lynn Howells Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2001 (caretaker coach)2200100
Steve Hansen Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 2002–04291001935
Mike Ruddock Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2004–0620130765
Scott Johnson Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 2006 (interim coach)30120
Gareth Jenkins [179] Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2006–0720611330
Nigel Davies Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2007 (interim coach)10010
Warren Gatland [176] Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 2007–20191307225655
Robin McBryde [180] Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2009, 2013, 2017 (caretaker coach)650183
Rob Howley [181] Flag of Wales (1959-present).svg  Wales 2012–13, 2016–17 (caretaker coach)201001050
Wayne Pivac Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 2019–present1250742

See also


  1. Wales was the 28th match of New Zealand's tour, and at that point the tourists had scored 801 points and conceded only 22. [12]
  2. Shared with Ireland. [9]
  3. Wales also defeated France in 1908 and 1909, but because France did not join the Championship until 1910, those are not counted as Grand Slam years. [9]
  4. Having been expelled in 1931, France was readmitted into international rugby union following the Home Nations Championship in 1939. [27]
  5. For more information see Introduction of regional rugby union teams in Wales.
  6. Ranking archives can be found at the World Rugby website. [154]

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