Welsh rugby fans have had to endure a roller-coaster of a Six Nations so far this year. And, with the championship decider against England lying in wait on the final day, they can expect a few more frayed nerves before the end of the tournament.
Read on to find out about what has gone right (and wrong) so far for the defending champions and the significance of the match with England.
Six Nations: the story so far
Ireland were never likely to be easy opening day opponents – and that’s exactly how it turned out. Spurred on by the talismanic Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland rushed to a 23-3 half time lead following quick fire tries by Simon Zebo and prop Cian Heealy. However Wales were able to rally in the second half and played with more of their characteristic attacking flare. Leigh Halfpenny, Criag Mitchell and Alex Cuthbert all snatched back tries although Wales still disappointingly lost out at the Millennium Stadium.
Following this opening day disappointment and media scrutiny Wales were able to restore pride with a tight 16-6 victory in Paris against France. The low-scoring affair was poised on a knife-edge until a moment of brilliance by Dan Biggar unleashed powerhouse winger George North, who touched down the game-clinching try in the 72nd minute. It was the first win for Wales at the Stade de France since 2005 and helped relieve pressure on temporary coach Rob Howley.
And Wales carried this winning momentum into their third match against Italy, with a comfortable 26-9 win over the unpredictable Azzuri. Wales’ forwards and the kicking of Leigh Halfpenny proved particular highlights in the victory, which helped keep hopes of retaining their title alive.
All to play for
The closing weekend of the Six Nations is famous for producing some of the best matches in the tournament’s history, with Wales versus England always a titanic struggle. Since the introduction of five-point tries in 1992, England has won the tie 14 times to Wales’ 7, although the home advantage of the Millennium Stadium has proved crucial in recent years.
As usual fans of both teams will descend on the bars and hotels in Cardiff on the 16th March, with the two countries likely to still be in contention to win the Six Nations. England, who are still unbeaten, have continued their strong autumn form into this year’s tournament, with Owen Farrell proving to be a revelation at stand-off.
However Wales will be encouraged by the return of flanker Sam Warburton from a shoulder injury, with the grand-slam winning former-captain able to add experience that could prove crucial in clinching the title for a 5th time.