Six of The Best: England against Wales

James Haskell 2011 SB19
There are few more storied fixtures in international rugby than England against Wales, few rivalries that run deeper, few fixtures enriched with such history.

There are few more storied fixtures in international rugby than England against Wales, few rivalries that run deeper, few fixtures enriched with such history.

The two sides have faced off a grand total of 122 times across the history of Rugby’s Greatest Championship and will do so again in Round Three when Wales play host to their old rivals in a battle of the two unbeaten sides.

While Wales have geed themselves up for the contest with a stirring reminder of the life of one of their greatest-ever players, England will no-doubt look back to some standout past moments of their own.

Here are six that will fuel their fight ahead of Saturday afternoon’s face-off.

Hare’s boot ends the curse

Wales were the dominant side in the Championship throughout the latter half of the 1970s, winning four of five titles between 1975 and 1979, a run that included two Grand Slams.

It was a streak of dominance that extended over all before them, with England by no means exempt as they welcomed Wales to Twickenham in 1980, having beaten them only once in their last 16 meetings.

In what quickly became an all-out battle, Paul Ringer saw red after just 13 minutes to leave Wales with an uphill task if they were to maintain their proud record over their old foes.

While they held them close – Jeff Squire and Elgan Rees crossing for four points apiece – it was England’s Dusty Hare who kept his head while all about him were losing theirs to slot three pressure penalties for what was a famous victory, one that propelled the hosts to Five Nations glory.

Webb makes history

Heading into their final fixture of the 1992 Five Nations, England were on the cusp of history as they looked to seal their first consecutive Grand Slam titles since the 1920s, with Wales standing in their way at Twickenham.

In what was a famous afternoon for the hosts, one that has cemented that side in the canon of all-time great international outfits, they put in a display that never looked like yielding anything less than a win.

Tries from Will Carling, Wade Dooley and Micky Skinner saw England race into a commanding lead – but it was Jonathan Webb’s performance with the boot that made headlines.

His three conversions and pair of penalties gave him the title of all-time top points-scorer for his country as he overtook Hare, giving England even more reason to celebrate after they wrapped up an historic Grand Slam.

Dallaglio’s drive for the line

England were making murmurs on the international scene when Wales made the trip to Twickenham in March 2000, with big wins over Ireland and France already chalked up in the Championship.

But it was their emphatic 46-12 triumph over the Welsh that truly sent shockwaves across Europe as tries from Ben Cohen, Phil Greening, Richard Hill and Neil Back buffed the score-line for the hosts.

It was England’s legendary No.8 who stole the show, however, powering in a famous try that goes down as one of the Championship’s great solo drives.

Wales contested an England 5m scrum well but almost before the cameras could cut to him, Dallaglio was scooting round the back with two opposition defenders hanging off him as he stayed low to crash over and put the cherry on top of a dominant performance.

Here’s Jonny

Arguably the most famous year in the history of English rugby, 2003 saw Clive Woodward’s men best Wales on no less than three separate occasions.

A Rugby World Cup quarter-final triumph followed victory over Wales in a warm-up to the tournament but both fixtures came after England had laid the foundations for a famous Grand Slam win in Cardiff.

In a gritty first half, it was Jonny Wilkinson who dragged his teammates kicking and screaming to a 9-6 advantage.

He ended the day with 13 points, the pick of the bunch a peach of a drop goal that gave England that crucial advantage at the break, paving the way for second-half tries from Will Greenwood and Joe Worsley to do the damage.

Ashton’s announcement

Without a Championship since their Grand Slam of 2003, England were desperate to get their hands back on the famous trophy when they rolled into Cardiff in February 2011.

It was a venue at which they hadn’t won since Wilkinson’s kicking masterclass, and Martin Johnson’s men knew that they were in need of something special if they were to get their bid for the Championship off to the perfect start.

And remarkably, through winger Chris Ashton, they got just that, with the flyer crossing either side of the break, while Toby Flood’s 13 points helped seal a 26-19 triumph, setting England on their way to Guinness Six Nations glory.

Farrell’s finesse

If England had been made to wait for a Championship title back in 2011, their Grand Slam drought was even more painful – by the time the 2016 Championship got under way, it had been 13 long years since they had notched six wins from six.

With two rounds to go, they faced a pair of tough trips to Cardiff and Paris with their perfect record on the line, and it was Owen Farrell who made sure that they maintained it.

Six penalties from the kicker calmed nerves as England held off a late Wales fightback to seal a 26-21 triumph and virtually hand them the Championship before a win in France the following week capped the Grand Slam.