RUGBY UNION: WHEN WE WERE KINGS WHEN THE DRAGON REALLY ROARED

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The Independent Online
I WAS THERE 1959

BRYN MEREDITH

Wales hooker when

Dewi Bebb's converted try

was enough for a 5-0 win

IN THOSE days England were always the first game of the season, then it was Scotland, Ireland, then France, always in that order. You knew whom you were to play and you knew when the game was going to be. You could set your holiday plans years ahead.

England, as far as all the Celtic nations were concerned, was the common enemy. You always wanted to do well because the others would play England later and it would be good to tire them or produce a deflating performance. It was emotional to play for Wales because representing your country was the highlight. Especially, against the old enemy, of course.

When you came out of the tunnel it was overpowering really because the crowd were down in the bowl, very close to the touchline. The noise was deafening - it was always very difficult to hear the ref's whistle.

Playing for Wales was special because it was like a village team. You spoke about your heroes as if you were friends who saw each other socially. We knew them so well because there was always a double-spread in the papers of our local teams - Newport and Swansea - so we knew them.

I WAS THERE 1993

MIKE RAYER

Wales full-back in a 10-9 victory, the last by

the home side in Cardiff

YOU COULD sense something was going to happen that day. Everybody gave everything - it was a huge effort. From a defensive point of view we were proud we kept them out; we got congratulations for that.

As the game wore on we sensed that we were going to win. Every time we were under pressure we brought off a tackle or knocked the ball out and relieved the pressure.

For the winning try, Emyr Lewis saw that there was nothing really on, but quite bizarrely he kicked. Ieuan Evans chased the ball down and kicked it forwards, but even then I wasn't sure if it was going to be a try. Suddenly the crowd got louder and louder and in a flash he got the ball ahead of Rory Underwood. It was one of those split-second things.

The focus has sometimes been too great on England but they are the old enemy, and the players and management will build it up. However sometimes maybe we felt "job done" - in 1993 we lost to Ireland, France and Scotland so we need to remember it isn't everything.

I know it's always special to play England but I was just happy to be playing. As it turned out I was dropped after the Ireland game. It was a case of enjoying every game.

I always used to get excited before a match; the changing room can be quite bizarre before a game but for me it was just exciting. It was always a great feeling taking the field at the Arms Park.

I WAS THERE 1979

ALAN PHILLIPS

Welsh hooker in a 27-3 triumph which

secured the Triple Crown

THE THING I remember most is blinking and realising it was over. I only had one weeks' notice that I was playing because another player was injured.

It was the Triple Crown match. Very early on our forwards got on top and in the last 20 minutes we ran away with it.

I remember Mike Roberts scored from a line-out. Paul Ringer was my man of the match. He was everywhere that day, frightened the life out of England's front row, and scored a great try. JPR Williams scored a simple try. The tries weren't that special, just efficient and the product of hard work.

Our first try was straight from a scrum; we kicked over the top and David Richards scored. JPR played like a madman; then again, so did Ringer.

The atmosphere, like every game against England, was fantastic. Walking from the Angel Hotel to the changing room was special. People patting you on the back, cheering you on - we were 10 or 12 points up before kick- off.

We used to do our line-out signals in Welsh. However, it was so loud inside the stadium that I had to run over to our scrum-half and ask what the bloody hell was going on because the referee was ordering me to hurry up. After that we resorted to using hand signals.

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