England versus Wales at Twickenham - a history

January 23, 2018

Of all the traditional fixtures in rugby, internationals between England and Wales are among the biggest of all. While Scotland may provide the longest-running football rivalry, the truth is that for the Welsh, unlike their fellow Celts, rugby is the biggest sport of all. 

While the Calcutta Cup still matters, most Scots would, if pushed, favour a win over the 'Auld enemy' at Hampden Park over one at Murrayfield. However, there is no doubt that to a Welshman a rugby victory over the English is the most cherished of sporting achievements.

The bi-annual visit of England to Cardiff - either to the old Arms Park or to the modern Principality Stadium - certainly gets the hairs standing on the back of the neck as the crowd belts out Land of My Fathers beforehand. However, the return fixture also offers a great atmosphere, one that fans booking corporate hospitality to see the two sides in action can enjoy on February 10th

Over the full history of England against Wales, it is not hard to see why the rivalry is so intense. England are just four wins ahead (61-57, with 12 draws) over a history spanning 130 games and stretching back as far as 1881. 

Early English dominance

England's early matches were played in various different venues, with the first game between the two countries at Twickenham taking place in 1910. A crowd of 18,000 saw England secure an 11-6 victory. 

This began a succession of early wins for England over Wales at the London venue. They won 8-0 in 1912 and 10-9 in 1914 before the Great War led to the suspension of the Five Nations. After the war the sequence continued as England prevailed 18-3 in 1921, 7-3 in 1923, 12-6 in 1925, 11-9 in 1927 and 8-3 in 1929. If it was the 'Roaring 20s', it was certainly the lions, not the dragons, making all the noise. 

Wales broke the sequence in 1931 as the sides drew 11-11, before winning 7-3 two years later. This historic first victory was followed by another draw, this time 3-3, in 1935 before England regained ascendancy on their home turf with tight and tense wins by 4-3 in 1937 and 3-0 in 1939. 

With the Second World War beginning a few months later, the 1940s saw rugby jerseys being swapped for military uniforms again before peace returned and the championship resumed. The one meeting in the 1940s was another nail-biter, a 3-3 draw in 1948. 

Welsh glory years

The 1950s were a great decade for the Welsh. They came to Twickenham and won 11-5 in 1950, 8-6 in 1952 and 8-3 in 1956. England enjoyed just one win in this decade - 9-6 in 1954 - with the 1958 fixture ending in a 3-3 draw. 

If the 1950s were a great decade to be a Welsh visitor to London, the 1960s was a decade of draws, with the teams tied 0-0 in 1962, 6-6 in 1964 and 11-11 in 1968. Each side managed one win, with England coming out on top 14-6 in 1960 and Wales winning 11-6 in 1966.

The 1970s was a decade in which Wales produced arguably their finest ever teams, and their achievements included four wins in five matches at Twickenham, beating England 17-13 in 1970, 12-3 in 1972, 21-9 in 1976 and 9-6 in 1978. England's sole win was by 16-12 in 1974.

England began the following decade well with a nail-biting 9-8 victory in in 1980 and won 17-7 two years later, but the dragon was soon firing again, producing a superb 24-15 win in 1984. England did sneak home 21-18 in 1986, but the following year Wales returned to Twickenham, not in the Five Nations but a Rugby World Cup qualifier. They won that match 16-3 and followed it up 11-3 in the Five Nations the following year.  

England on top

If the period from the 1950s to the 1980s had been a golden time for Wales, England were very much on top in the 1990s. The era of Will Carling, Rob Andrew and Jeremy Guscott saw a nap hand of victories as the men in white won 34-6 in 1990, 24-0 in 1992, 15-8 in 1994, 21-15 in 1996 and an emphatic 60-26 in 1998.

The winning run stretched on into the new millennium, as England's World Cup-winning side took shape. The likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson enjoyed more glory as the Welsh left Twickenham nursing the wounds of defeat by 46-12 in 2000, 50-10 in 2002, 31-21 in 2004, 47-13 in 2006 and an emphatic 62-5 in a friendly ahead of the 2007 World Cup. 

Wales finally broke the run in 2008 by winning 26-19, but the current decade saw what had become normal service resume with a 30-17 win for England in 2010. A Test played ahead of the 2011 World Cup saw England win a tight game 23-19, although it was the Welsh who had the better World Cup, narrowly missing out on reaching the final.

The next Welsh visit saw them head back over the Severn Bridge celebrating a 19-12 victory, although England claimed a 29-18 win in 2014.

Welsh World Cup wonders

However, the next encounter at Twickenham was perhaps the most important: a crucial World Cup Pool match in 2015 that Wales won 28-25.  

That result precipitated England's early World Cup exit and the departure of head coach Stuart Lancaster, to be replaced by Eddie Jones.

Under Jones, England have won every game at Twickenham, and Wales suffered twice in 2016, beaten 25-21 in the Six Nations and 27-13 in a Test ahead of the summer tour of Australia.

With its see-sawing fortunes and long history, England v Wales is a fixture that represents the richest of rugby heritage. With so many years of great players, famous matches, brilliant tries and moments of triumph and disaster, it is an ongoing story with a new chapter just waiting to be written next month.

Image: Michael Steele/Getty Image from Keith Prowse subscription

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