Six Nations 2014: England v Wales - a game for the ages

By Ben Dirs and Tom FordyceBBC Sport
Sam Warburton and Gareth Edwards

Whether you are the father of the Wales captain or England's wide-eyed mascot, Sunday's Six Nations clash between the old rivals at Twickenham will get the juices pumping like no other fixture.

Since they first got it on in Blackheath in 1881, 124 matches have been played between the old rivals. England have won 56, Wales 56 and 12 have been drawn. With honours even and the Championship title up for grabs, expect the 125th encounter to be furious.

Through the ages, sons and daughters have learned about glorious victories and defeats at the knees of fathers, mothers and grandparents. This is how the fixture's traditions and legends have been cultivated.

With the help of former players and fans of both nations, retelling stories passed down the generations, BBC Sport explores what makes England-Wales so special.

Jez Warburton - father of Wales captain Sam

It's strange for me, now that my son plays for Wales. As someone who was English growing up in Wales in the 1970s, when Wales had all those great teams,external-link I experienced the wrath of the Welsh.

But much as I love it in Wales and I've lived here for so long, I've never contemplated supporting Wales instead of England. I'm very proud of being English and have never wavered.

Sam wore England shirts when he was younger, he supported England in the World Cup in 2003. But I remember the day I realised Sam and his twin brother Ben had turned over to the other side.

We were watching England play Wales at Twickenham in 2008 and Mike Phillips went over for a try to clinch the victory. They really let rip and I felt quite disappointed inside - I had finally lost them.

I used to think that if I had a child playing for any other country against England, I would want them to play well but for England to win. But I desperately want Wales to win on Sunday.

When Wales played England in a World Cup warm-up at the Millennium Stadium in 2011, Sam won the man-of-the-match award. I texted him and said: "I've got tears in my eyes even though you've beaten England." He texted me back: "You big girl."

Rob Jones - former Wales scrum-half, father of Tiaan, 14, and Nicholas, six

When I was a boy, I would hear from people in the village, from my father and the rest of my family, about just how important the England game was. It was in our blood, part of our psyche, and I don't think things have changed that much.

Players and coaches nowadays talk about it being just another game. But they all would have grown up understanding the importance of the fixture to the people of Wales. I grew up watching Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett, and especially remember JPR Williams's two tries against England in 1976.

I made my debut against England at Twickenham in 1986.external-link Only if I had been playing in Cardiff could I have asked for a bigger and better baptism. To be selected to play rugby for Wales was the pinnacle, not just of sporting life but life in general.

Rob Jones
Rob Jones made his international debut against England at Twickenham in 1986

My mother and father, brothers, aunties and uncles, people in my village, they all managed to find tickets from here, there and everywhere. Watching their 20-year-old boy run out for Wales was enormously emotional. For me as well.

Overall we had the edge but Rob Andrew put over a late drop-goal to win the game. I remember Rob being on Wogan a few days later, saying how nice it had been to put one over the Welsh. I've not forgotten it!

I've got two boys, aged 14 and six, who are passionate about rugby. I'd love them to be a part of this tradition and understand how important it is to go out there and perform against the arch rivals, the old enemy.

Every morning my youngest watches George North and Alex Cuthbert tries on YouTube before going to school. I don't think we've brainwashed him but if he doesn't make it he's going to be pretty disappointed! You'll struggle to find anyone as committed to the cause at such a young age.

Gregg Wallace - TV presenter and England fan, father of Tom, 19

Me and my boy both played down at London Welsh and dripped blood on the shirt. The Welsh boys thought I was a decent baritone and made me sing hymns. But I'm a passionate Englishman and could never remember the words.

My first memory of England-Wales is watching it down the pub in Bermondsey, looking at Cardiff Arms Park and thinking: "Wow, what a crowd." When I went to the Millennium Stadium and heard 80,000 people singing hymns, 75% of them in tune, I thought: "My God, I'll never experience anything else like this."

England and Wales fans
Despite the history and rivalry, there is much banter and little animosity between England and Wales fans

Me and Tom will be at Twickenham on Sunday, we wouldn't miss it for the world. That's our special time together, drinking beer and watching rugby.

Tom starts getting nervous a week before a match and I know he's nervous about Sunday. I'm nervous as well. They smashed our party up last year and I don't want to lose to them again, especially at Twickenham.

I tell Tom that England-Wales has always had a bit of an edge because the rivalry goes back such a long way. When I was a youngster, Wales were always the team you wanted to beat most, and vice versa. But England fans welcome the Welsh and Wales fans welcome the English. That's the whole point.

England-Wales matches are a good place for a boy to learn about drinking. Have a beer with them, engage in a bit of leg pulling, have fun. But don't show any aggression or behave too badly. Just sing louder and laugh more.

Tim Brindle - father of Nathan, nine, who is England's mascot on Sunday

Rugby is Nathan's biggest passion, he plays for Blackheath under-10s. After a break of 18 years I'm playing again, too.

This will be the first international Nathan's seen at Twickenham. He's only ever watched Blackheath play, so I've told him that everything will be bigger: the players, the ground, the crowd and the noise. And everything on the pitch will seem that much quicker.

I've been showing him YouTube clips of England v Wales matches in the 1970s and '80s - old tries and celebrations. And I've explained how big the Billy Beaumont Grand Slam in 1980external-link felt in an era of Welsh dominance. He's aware of Wales' place in the game's history, of how they've been resurgent over the past six years, that battles between England and Wales are always significant.

My best mate is Welsh, Jason Lewis from Bridgend. He's like a brother to me and like an uncle to Nathan. Because it's England v Wales, Nathan wants Jason to come because he wants to see Wales beaten.

Nathan just loves watching Mike Brown because he fancies himself as a full-back. It's all Mike Brown, Mike Brown, Mike Brown. The result will matter to him because he's quite a competitive lad. But it won't break his heart, because he will be meeting his heroes.

Nathan is very, very excited about this. He says it's the best thing that's ever happened to him in his life so far. "This is different," he told me. "This is England against Wales."

Katy Mclean - England women's captain and schoolteacher

My granddad used to take me along to watch my dad and my uncle play for Westoe. Afterwards, we'd go round my nana's and watch Six Nations matches with my cousins. I so wanted to be a part of those big clashes, especially England v Wales.

Even though I'm English, I was a big fan of Neil Jenkins, he's the one I really remember. He was just so accurate with his kicking, he never seemed to miss. I also remember watching Jonny Wilkinson and thinking: 'God, I want to be as good as he is.'

Katy Mclean
Katy Mclean captains England women against Wales at the Stoop on Friday

I wasn't even aware that women's rugby existed, so everything I aspired to was linked to the guys. But now I'm part of those big England-Wales clashes in the female game.

There is definitely an edge when it comes to the Welsh. You get the impression they especially want to beat England, there's no love lost at all. When we play them on Friday, we will want to match that Welsh passion, play right on the line of the law.

I teach four and five year olds and they know I'm playing against Wales on Friday. They love hearing the stories, about the noise and the passion. That's fabulous, because hopefully I'm inspiring the next generation.

Fran Caunt - daughter of Wales legend JPR Williams, mother of Carys, three, and Johnny, six months

I was brought up knowing that the England game was always the big one, always the one we wanted to win. You could have a terrible Five or Six Nations, lose every game, but if you beat England, nobody cared.

When we were younger and Dad had tickets, us three daughters used to have to take it in turns to go with him. The match that sticks in my mind is Wembley in 1999,external-link when the whole family went, even Mum.

The atmosphere was amazing - so many travelling Welsh fans, a load of them dressed as Tom Jones and singing Delilah, all of us in red walking down Wembley Way.

Bill Beaumont and JPR Williams
England captain Bill Beaumont and Wales legend JPR Williams, who never lost against the old enemy

At half-time it was all going wrong, even Dad was sure we were going to lose. But my sister Annie kept believing: "We just need someone to break the line." And when Scott Gibbs did exactly that, we celebrated as if the game was already won. Neil Jenkins still needed to make the conversion but we never doubted him.

When my daughter Carys is old enough to understand, I will tell her that this is the match that every Welshman who has privilege of wearing the shirt wants to win more than any other. If you ever wear a Welsh jersey in any sport, England is the big one. Always has been, always will be.

Matt Dawson - former England scrum-half, father of Alex, two, Sam, six weeks

When my two boys are old enough, I'll tell them that England versus Wales is mainly about the fans. They are the bitterest of rivals, but not before kick-off.

Before then it's about roaming the car parks, catching up with friends - in either white or red - analysing players' form and remembering games gone by to stoke annoyance. There will be fervent disagreement and wild over-optimism. Everyone believes.

Matt Dawson
England great Matt Dawson is snagged by Wales' Adam Jones in their 2003 World Cup quarter-final

The atmosphere that is generated does make a difference to the players. When the team crawl through the tweed jackets on the bus before they enter the stadium, every player gets a sense of how much victory means to the supporters.

My favourite memory of the fixture is not actually from a match itself. Before the game in 2001,external-link I walked a lap of the Millennium Stadium, looking out into the crowd and getting a feel for the turf under my feet.

In the midst of Welsh fans dressed as Daffodils and leeks, feisty Welsh kids making hand gestures and the odd dodgy comment, there was one small lad cheering and furiously flapping a St George's flag.

I respected all of them. It showed that the match meant as much to them as it did to me. The difference was I was one of the lucky few who was able to make a difference come kick-off.

Dylan Wyn Jones - secretary of Ammanford RFC, father of Gruffydd, 30, and Amy, 26

Wales versus England is David versus Goliath, isn't it? That's what it boils down to. We're grateful if we beat anybody. But if Wales manage to beat England, it lifts the country in a way that doesn't happen if we beat anyone else.

Classic Wales v England clashes

In the Valleys, the Wales team is supported from grandson to grandmother. Everybody talks about it, wherever you go - old women in shops, young men in pubs. It's the heart and soul of the place and makes us forget any doom and gloom.

When I was seven or eight, I remember gathering around the telly in the living room and watching England v Wales. My uncle came round, because he didn't have a television, and he brought a packet of sweets with him.

When Wales scored he handed them out to us kids, but when England scored the bugger came round and took them back again. When Wales ended up losing, he went off with a full packet and we were all left empty handed.

When Wales beat England at Wembley in 1999, me, my son and daughter were stood right in front of Scott Gibbs when he went over for 'that' try. It was a special occasion, the children still talk about it.

I was so disappointed for England, I did feel sorry for them. But I remember this English chap behind me saying: "Good luck to you, you deserved it." That was so honourable, I'll never forget that gentleman.


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