Rugby in Wales – Part 2

Posted by on Mar 28, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Rugby in Wales – Part 2

Rugby in Wales – Part 2

A good example of the relationship between the close-knit communities of Wales and their rugby tams was at LLanelli RFC, the club that produced both Phil Bennett and JJ Williams. It was a hard working steel town which was dominated by the rugby club. Men would finish a hard week’s work and go down to Stradey Park and support their workmates playing for the club.

This was in the amateur era and although the players did receive unofficial payments, they still had full time jobs. In 1972 Llanelli beat the All Blacks at Stradey Park 9-3 in front of 26,000 supporters. The atmosphere created by the community provided the back bone to the victory and also goes a long way to explaining how these world class players were produced.

Stradey Park packed to support their local heroes

The local sides reflected their community and the battles between the top clubs were as keenly contested as international games. During these times all of the Welsh sides would play teams like Bath, Gloucester and Bristol from the West Country of England. With rugby turning fully professional it has changed completely the club structure of Wales. There are now four regional rugby sides that play in the Pro 14 League. The other sides in the league come from Scotland, Ireland, South Africa and Italy.

The Scarlets are made up from the old club sides Llanelli, Carmarthen Quins and Llandovery. The Ospreys saw Neath and Swansea coming together. The Dragons is a combination of Newport, Ebbw Vale and Cross Keys. The last team are the Cardiff Blues which was formed as a result of Cardiff joining forces with Pontypridd.

There is no doubt that the club rugby has lost a lot of the community spirit that it had with the older system but it has resulted in better facilities and better foreign players being attracted to play in the region. Also the standard of rugby has been improved from week to week as the Welsh teams are playing the other country’s top club sides.

The Principality Stadium, Cardiff

There has been a similar transformation with the International team. The side now play their home fixtures at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff which was built in 1999. It is home to many sporting events but the 74,500 capacity venue is principally the home of the Welsh RFU. The venue is fast becoming many rugby players favorite international stadium and has the benefit of being able to close the roof when wet weather is forecast.

The Welsh team also has its training home just down the motorway at the Vale Resort. Located just 10 miles from the center of Cardiff the resort consists of 2 championship golf course a hotel and the largest spa in Wales. The Welsh team now have their own indoor training facilities plus outdoor pitches as well. The construction of two administration blocks means that the whole of the Welsh Rugby Union is now based here. The transformation of ruby in Wales in recent times has had no effect on people’s perceptions of the game in Wales as it is still the national sport of the country. As well as the Welsh sides having the reputation of being very good they always play with a certain style.

The recent form of the national side is inconsistent. On their day they can beat any side in the world but at the current time they do have the same standard of players available to them that previous generations have had. When a Welsh player plays rugby for his country he is left in doubts the enormity of the occasion.

Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

Posted by on Mar 15, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

Rugby Union in Wales – Part 1

The national sport of Wales is Rugby Union. It is the dream of nearly every child growing up in Wales  to one day wear the famous red shirt and run out onto the pitch at the National Stadium, before handing out a good old fashioned thrashing to their fiercest rivals, England. It has been the case for many years and any miss-justice that the Welsh feel has gone against them in dealing with the English, is stored in the nations memory banks, so that retribution will hopefully be carried out the next occasion that the two nations meet on the rugby field.

The Welsh team singing the National Anthem at the Principality Stadium

Representing the Welsh rugby team is more than just the 80 minutes of rugby being played. The build up to the game and the coverage in the local media is intense. The day of the game sees the crowd arriving early to sing songs, and when the national anthems are being played the home team is lifted by a rousing rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

Of the 131 matches that the games have been played between the two nations England have 62 wins ad Wales have 57. To put this into perspective, Wales pick from just over 3 and a half million people, while England can choose from a population of over 53 million. The simple fact is that the Welsh are very good at this sport and they regularly produce players that are among the best in the world.

The reputation for their rugby comes from the performances from the national team in the early 20th century. Wales were the top side in The British Isles between 1899 and 1910 winning the Triple Crown twice and finishing runners up on three other occasions. In 1905 they beat the visiting New Zealand national team, the All Blacks, and this was their only defeat on their 35 match tour. The second golden period for the Wales team was between 1969 and 1979 when the side contained a large group of players that could get in any side in the world. During this period the side only lost on seven occasions, winning three Grand Slams and three Five Nations titles.

Another try for Gareth Edwards

At the start of this period the side was inspired by their fly half Barry John. He was the player who drove the team forward with his accurate kicking and his even balanced running. It was a day of mourning in Wales in 1972 when it was announced that he was retiring from the game at the age of 27.

John was so revered in Wales that the high levels of expectation simply got to him, and he could not cope with the pressure that was put on top his shoulders. However, Wales had another great player to take the number 10 shirt, and that was Phil Bennett the fly half who was playing his club rugby for Llanelli RFC. Bennett was only a small man but his was quick and well balanced. He possessed an incredible side step, and it was due to his piece of magic that led to one of the greatest tries ever scored, during a game between the Barbarians and the All Blacks in Cardiff in 1973. The try was eventually scored by Gareth Edwards but it was started by Bennett.

Gareth Edwards was the scrum half who played with both John and Bennett. Many people regard Edwards as the greatest scrum half to play the game. He was as quick as any player on the pitch and his passing was fast and accurate. He scored 22 tries in 53 appearances for Wales and as also the stand out performer for both the British Lions and the Barbarians.

There were other famous Welsh players from this era including Mervyn Davies, John Taylor, JJ Williams and Dr JPR Williams. The list was endless and it was a mystery how these players were emerging from such a small population. But that also was the secret behind the success.

The Geography of Wales

Posted by on Mar 2, 2018 in Blog | Comments Off on The Geography of Wales

The Geography of Wales

Wales is situated on the western side of Great Britain, bordered by the Irish Sea to the west and surrounded by England in the other directions. The country is roughly around 170 mile long and 60 miles wide, and is a geographers dream. It is a mountainous country with three National Parks being located in its region. Considering the wilderness nature of the country is fairly well populated with a population of just over 3 million people, but the majority of these people tend to be concentrated into the lowland flat areas.

The general topography of the region has been formed by plate tectonics up lifting and folding the rocks into the mountains that are found today. There are 15 mountains in Wales over 3000 feet, and the highest of these is Snowdon with its summit at 3560 feet.

Llyn Ogwen in the Nant Ffrancon valley

The mountains have been sculptured and shaped by last ice the country’s age. This has left behind a spectacular landscape which attracts many visitors into the three National Parks. The National Parks as well as protecting the natural environment has helped make the region more accessible to its visitors. The upland regions are home to glaciated landscapes that have produced many landforms that are often used as examples in geography text books. The Snowdonia National Park is often used in case studies to provide evidence of the work of glaciers. The huge U shaped valley at Nant Ffrancon has many features including the long ribbon lake, Llyn Ogwen.

Spilling into the lakes are waterfalls that descend from truncated spurs located along the valley’s sides. Further up the valley are small corrys, such as the one at Cwm Idwal, which is occupied by a small lake. The whole area has many example of striations cut into the rocks where the ice has worn against the valley bottom and sides.

The country no longer is affected by glaciation but its mountains have a huge effect on the region’s climate. As warm moist air approaches from the Atlantic it has to rise above the mountains. This produces relief rainfall and the whole of the country experiences high amounts of rainfall during the year.

The River Taff flowing through Cardiff

The sea has the effect of cooling the country in the summer and warming it in the winter. Due to the high altitude the mountains do get snowfall in the winter but not as much as the highlands in northern England and Scotland. However, the climate does change around the country with the highlands being wetter and cooler than the lowland areas. The high rainfall in the region has resulted in numerous rivers draining the land. The River Severn acts as the border between England and Wales for many miles before flowing into the Bristol Channel. This direction is also followed by the rivers Towy, Tusk, Taff and Wye.

Other rivers flow northwards and empty into the Irish Sea. The largest of these that flow into Liverpool Bay are the Rivers Clwyd, Conwy and Dee. The Rivers Dovey and Rheidol also reach the Irish Sea but through Cardigan Bay.

This dense concentrating of rivers has resulted in the lowland floodplains being utilized by the country’s population for agricultural purposes. Wales has a rich farming history and it is able to make the most of both the floodplain areas and also the upland regions where the soils are thinner. The low-quality soils in the upland areas has led to the farming of Sheep and the county is famed around the world for the quality of its lamb. Large areas of the exposed upland regions are dominated by moorland where the toughest species can survive on the thinnest soils.

The geology of the country has presented Wales with large natural resources. During the Industrial Revolution South Wales became the heartland of Britain’s manufacturing Industry. Huge local supplies of coal and iron ore resulted in many jobs being created. It also resulted in the Steel industry have large plants in the local area. The geography of Wales has always been important to the nation.