Jump to main content
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship

Faletau, Warburton and Lydiate - a great Welsh back row trio

Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship

As the countdown clock to the opening game in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations ticks past 50 days, it is interesting to record that today (Friday, 16 December) is the 140th birthday of the first game played in what is world rugby’s longest standing and most successful championship. 

Share this page:

Wales will kick-off the 24th Six Nations with a home game against the world No 1 ranked team, Ireland, at Principality Stadium on 4 February 2023 – and it was Wales who hosted the first game in the inaugural ‘Home Nations Championship’ on Saturday, 16 December 1882. 

That game was against the third international played by Wales and the first on home soil. The Welsh Football Union was only 18 months old and this was only the second team picked by the committee. 

DFP – Leaderboard

The first Welsh team had been picked independently by Richard Mullock to face England at Mr Richardson’s Field, in Blackheath on 19 February 1881. Mullock was to go on to become the first Secretary of the WFU. The game was a complete miss-match and England romped to victory by seven goals, one dropped goal and six tries to nil. 

Less than a month later, 12 March 1881, the WFU was formed at the Castle Hotel in Neath. The new committee picked their first team to face Ireland in Dublin on 28 January 1882. That ended up being Welsh rugby’s first international victory, bt two goals and two tries to nil. 

After their thumping at Blackheath the previous year, England refused to grant Wales another fixture at senior international level. That meant proving themselves, and showing their improvement, by facing the North of England and then the Midland Counties. 

Both those games came before a Welsh team was selected to cross the Irish Sea. The game at Rodney Parade on 14 January 1882 against the North of England was described as “the most significant game ever played in Wales” and attracted a gate of 3-4,000. The North of England won, but Wales beat the Midland Counties by three goals and three tries to nil a week later. 

Seven days on and Wales were winning in Dublin with a much-improved team from Mr Richardson’s Field. That led to England agreeing to put Wales back on the fixture list, which meant all four Home Unions had fixtures against each other. This led to the formation of the Home Nations Championship. 

The date for the historic game against England was confirmed by the WFU secretary, Richard Mullock, at the AGM held on Saturday, 15 April at the Wyndham Arms Hotel, in Bridgend. The date settled on was 16 December and the home of Swansea RFC was chosen as the venue. 

This season is Swansea’s 150th anniversary and the All Whites contributed three players to the national side on the big day. 


The first Home Nations Championship fixture
The first international played on Welsh soil
The first international played at St Helen’s, Swansea
The first international controlled by a Welsh referee, Mr A Herbert


Wales were led by the Llandovery school teacher Charles Lewis. A great all-round sportsman, he won athletics and cricket Blues at Oxford University. He won five caps for Wales at rugby and was the representative from Llandovery who attended the founding meeting of the WFU. He became the first Presidents of Llandovery RFC in 1885and worked as a solicitor in the town. He was a member of the town council in Llandovery (1889–1920), became an alderman in 1899 and twice served as mayor (1894–95, 1904–05). He was appointed as a magistrate for Carmarthenshire in 1898.

Wales: Charles Lewis (Llandovery, captain); * Harry Bowen (Llanelli), William Norton (Cardiff), * James Clare (Cardiff); * Dai Gwyn (Swansea), Charlie Newman (Newport), Edward Treharne (Pontypridd); * Tom Judson (Llandovery / Llanelli), Frank Purdon (Swansea), Bob Gould (Newport), Tom Baker-Jones (Newport), Tom Clapp (Nantyglo), George Harding (Newport), George Morris (Swansea), * Alf Cattell (Llanelli)

England: * Arthur Taylor (Blackheath); Wilfred Bolton (Blackheath), * Arthur Evanson (Oxford Uni), * Greg Wade (Oxford Uni); * Alan Rotherham (Oxford Uni), John Payne (Broughton); William Tatham (Oxford Uni), * Richard Kindersley (Oxford Uni), * Charles Wooldridge (Oxford Uni), Harry Vassall (Oxford Uni), Herbert Fuller (Cambridge Uni), * Rob Henderson (Blackheath), George Thomson (Halifax), Temple Gurdon (Richmond, captain), * Graham Standing (Blackheath)
Scorers: Tries: Wade 3, Thomson, Henderson, Bolton; Cons: Evanson 2 

* Denotes New Cap 

Oxford University wing Greg Wade became the first player in championship history to score a hat-trick



There were 3,000 spectators at the game and they saw Wales start strongly. New cap Dai Gwynn almost dropped a goal. England were in control by half-time thanks in the main to the superb running of Wade. He scored one and made two other tries. Despite frequent pressure, Wales failed to cross the English and ended up being ‘nilled’.  

South Wales Daily News – ENGLAND V WALES  

Great anxiety has been felt during the last few days by the devotees of football lest the heavy snow and severe frost should prevent the above match being played at Swansea. A visit to the field on Thursday revealed the fact that the ground was totally covered with snow, about three inches deep, but not the slightest appearance of frost on the surface was apparent.  

On Thursday at Swansea a rapid thaw set in, and the snow began rapidly to disappear, leaving the ground in a sloppy state, but not dangerous to football players, hence the weather will not in the slightest degree interfere with the game on Saturday next, which is looked forward to with such great interest.  

It is to be sincerely hoped that all lovers of the now national game of football will put in an appearance at the St Helen’s Ground, Swansea, tomorrow, as by watching carefully the unique and skilled play of the Englishmen many a valuable lesson may be learnt, which may prove of service for the future.  

Such a team as England will bring together can rarely be seen in Wales, or even England. It is to be hoped that the game will not prove too one-sided in favour of the visitors this might be partly averted if the Welsh backs, for at least the first half-time, kicked the ball when quite clear of their opponents. Any bold attempt to charge the forwards will probably prove futile until the Welshmen warm to their work.  

The home forwards ought to play up hard on the ball throughout. A great feature on the ground will be the new grandstand, which will be used for the first time. It will accommodate nearly 300 persons, and a capital view of this match can be obtained, without the slightest exposure to the weather.  

This, no doubt, will prove a boon to the ladies who are good enough to grace the geld with their presence. The arrangements are now complete, and should some snow be on the ground on Saturday morning, it can be easily carted away from the portion of the field which will be used for the play. G. Rowland Hill, Queen’s House Football Club, will act as umpire for England, whilst R. Mullock, Newport, will represent Wales. The name of the referee is not yet to hand. The Englishmen will be dressed in white, and the Welshmen in red.   

Partners and Suppliers

Principal Partners
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Official Broadcast Partners
BBC Cymru/Wales
Official Partners
The Indigo Group
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Papa Johns
Official Suppliers
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Rhino Rugby
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Princes Gate
Happy 140th birthday to the greatest rugby championship
Total Energies
Seat Unique
Castell Howell
Glamorgan Brewing
Ted Hopkins