As Wales look to start their Six Nations off with a win, many will be looking for them to bounce back from some difficult years. Can Wales complete the Grand Slam this year, with the weight of fan expectation on their shoulders?
This Sunday, Wales kick off their RBS Six Nations tournament away in Italy, at 3pm. Wales haven’t won the tournament since 2013, and have struggled to compete with the likes of Ireland and England. Therefore, they will be hoping to start their season with a bang, and a big win in Rome would massively underline their title credentials. They will certainly be hoping to claim this year’s title, in an effort to remain one of the best rugby teams in the world. Welsh fans always expect the best from the Welsh Rugby Team, and this year, with the likes of England coming to Cardiff, Welsh fans will be more expectant than ever of a successful campaign. Unfortunately, injuries have spread through the Welsh team, which may lead to some star players missing out on the opener against the Italians, but Head Coach Robin McBryde is hopeful that they can make it back in time to play against England in Cardiff on the 11th. McBryde told BBC Sport, “This week? No it will be too early for this week…but hopefully they’ll be fit for the following week [against England].” While Wales and Cardiff prepare for another Spring season of international rugby, we take a look at Wales’s chances this year of winning the competition.
The sport of Rugby
Rugby is the national sport of Wales. While in recent years the Welsh Football Team has done better at football than the rugby side has done at rugby, it will always be the game Welsh children want to play.
The object of the game is to place the ball down behind the oppositions posts, which is called a “try”. Rugby is an invasion game, which means each side has a territory, and the teams must invade that territory to score a try. This earns the team five points. One member of the team will then kick the ball, aiming to go between the two vertical posts, and above the horizontal post. This will then earn the team an extra two points. These are called a try and a conversion respectively. The crucial aspect to rugby, is that while a player can kick the ball in any direction they choose, they can only throw the ball backwards. This gives the game a tactical edge, but also relies on the physical strength of the players to push the ball forwards, which gives rise to the game everyone knows and loves.
The Six Nations
The Six Nations is an annual rugby tournament held over 7 weeks beginning in February. The six nations involved are Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy. It was originally the Four Nations, and contained only British teams, but the format was extended in 1910 to allow France, and then Italy joined in 2000. Last year’s winners were England, and Wales last won the competition in 2013 and 2012. England and Wales both have the most Six Nations wins, England having won it 27 times, and Wales 26. Italy, by contrast, have yet to hit the ground running. Since joining the Six Nations they have only finished outside the bottom 2 twice, with many questioning their right to remain in the tournament. However, this record will hopefully give the Welsh side confidence, as they prepare to face the Italians this Saturday. Wales have had a difficult few years, with disappointment in the Six Nations and in the World Cup in 2015, but with experienced international and young fresh faces, Wales will hope to pull up trees this year.
Rugby can be a confusing game, but also a dangerous one. Concussion occurs in rugby 1.5 times every 1000 playing hours. To put this into context, that means that there is a concussion in rugby every 8 games. In the top level of British rugby alone, around 20-30 games are played each weekend, so its clear that concussion is an issue that needs dealing with. During an interview with Geoff Davies, head doctor for the Welsh rugby team, he explained how a concussion is the most dangerous injury a rugby player can receive, “We need to recognize that the concussion has occurred as soon as possible, and then remove him from the field of play until they can be examined by a doctor.” New rules have been introduced to rugby to prevent such injuries, for example players will now be sent off if they tackle a player over shoulder height. It is possible that over the course of this years Six Nations a number of players will receive concussions, but with new laws and awareness, the severity of these injuries should be reduced.
The first game of the tournament this year is on Saturday the 4th at 2:25pm, between Scotland and Ireland. All rugby fans will be eagerly awaiting the kick-off, and those who are new to the sport may just take a seat on the sofa and have a first look at one of the most popular sports in the world.