“Look what these bastards have done to Wales. They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year. What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English — and that’s who you are playing this afternoon”
For decades now there has been an undoubted link between Wales and what is considered it’s national sport, Rugby. Wales has produced some of the best rugby players the world has ever seen from the late Ray Gravel to modern greats like Shane Williams who was, until a few years ago considered the best rugby player in the world.
But what is the reason for Wales’s love of the game? If you have ever attended an international game in the millennium stadium you would know that to the Welsh people rugby is more than a game. To many it is a way of life, for both players and people. And of course there is no better feeling than beating the English. This ancient rivalry goes way back and is tied in heavily with Wales own history as a nation. Trying to explain the reasons for the rivalry is impossible in one article but I can tell you that seven hundred years of rule from over the border has made the Welsh bitter at their English counter parts. From the assassination of Wales last indigenous price Llywelyn to the drowning of the Tryweryn valley the Welsh have remembered and rugby has always been the way in which Wales has been able to cut it’s big brother down to size. Through rugby, Wales has been able for eighty minutes to exert seven hundred years of built up anger over its oppression as a nation. For those of you who still don’t understand this bitter rivalry should consider the words of ex Wales number 10 Phillip Bennett
Over in England the outlook is different. If you ask an Englishman what sport is important to him most would say football. If you ask them what country they love beating more than anyone in Football I’m sure that most would say Germany. I’m sure many of you are puzzling at the moment – How are two countries so close together, governed completely by the same parliment until 1999 be so different? The answer is simple. Culture. To me, it’s not even a question of Wales as a unit against England. It’s a question of the south Wales valleys with a population of not even 10% of the United Kingdom that were traditionally coal mining, steel producing, church going and carol singing against England as a nation of tens of millions who completely contrast Wales as a nation. Politics is a prime example of how the countries differ so much. Wales has always been dominated by Labour and in later years Plaid Cymru where as in England the Tories have much more of a say. So what has this got to do with rugby I hear you ask? Think about it. It’s the working class boys in Wales trying to bite back at the country that has for many years ruled its affairs. Need I say anymore than two words? Thatcher + Coal. To me Wales patriotism can be shown in one way. The connection between politics, culture , history and a game can be shown in one way. It is well documented that in 1905 as a response to the New Zealand Haka ahead of a test match in that was later dubbed the greatest game of rugby ever played. A member of the WRU started Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and the crowd joined in, making it the first occasion a national anthem was sung at a sporting event. It’s not just a game. It’s a way of life. It’s a culture. It’s history. It’s a battle ground.
Of course, this isn’t the only rivalry the in the game, there are several. It it important to note than in these matches, it goes far beyond just skill and talent to win the game, the desire inside to beat one another, the adrenaline, the rage inside all comes together to always produce a breath taking match.