Welsh band writes song about Welsh rivalry with England.
Welsh desire to beat neighbours England on the rugby pitch runs so deep that it has even been immortalised in song.
Prior to a decisive encounter between the countries during the 1999 Five Nations, Welsh rock band Stereophonics penned a ditty that encapsulates how many of their compatriots feel about their sporting rivals from across the border.
Broadcast on BBC television in the week leading up to the game, it carried the simple refrain: “As long as we beat the English, we don’t care.”
The outcome of the match that followed only helped to reinforce the notion.
On a sun-kissed afternoon at the old Wembley Stadium, Scott Gibbs jinked his way to a superb last-gasp try that helped give Wales a memorable 32-31 win and prevented England from completing the Grand Slam.
Wales themselves had nothing to play for, but wrenching glory from their rivals’ grasp made victory even sweeter for the jubilant red-clad hordes in the crowd.
Seen through Welsh eyes, sporting encounters with England represent rare opportunities to strike a blow against their big brothers from the other side of the Severn Bridge.
Wales captain Phil Bennett channelled centuries of Anglo-Welsh mistrust in a rousing team-talk to his colleagues prior to a 1977 encounter between the sides at Cardiff Arms Park.
Drawing on Wales’ dual role as a driving force in the Industrial Revolution and a popular destination for English holidaymakers, he is reported to have said: “Look what these bastards have done to Wales.
“They’ve taken our coal, our water, our steel. They buy our homes and live in them for a fortnight every year.
“What have they given us? Absolutely nothing. We’ve been exploited, raped, controlled and punished by the English – and that’s who you are playing this afternoon. The English.”
Although the Welsh and the English rub alongside each other with good humour most of the time, sporting occasions allow for age-old scores to be settled.
Wales was legally annexed to England by Henry VIII during the 16th century and only gained a degree of political autonomy with the creation of the National Assembly for Wales in 1998.
There have also been numerous attempts to suppress the Welsh language, before the 1993 Welsh Language Act gave it equal status with English.
“I think it goes back to something that long pre-dates rugby,” Huw Richards, who wrote a book on the rivalry entitled ‘The Red and the White’, told AFP.
“Welsh national identity is defined by and against the English, in the same way that any small nation is defined against the much larger one next door.
“Rugby is the field in which Wales has been able not only to ask for, but demand, respect by virtue of holding its own in head-to-head clashes with England over more than 130 years.”
Wales dominated northern hemisphere rugby in the 1970s, but the importance attached to beating England increased during a barren 11-year spell for Welsh rugby between 1994 and 2005.
Wales failed to win the Five Nations or the Six Nations – as it became in 2000 – in that time, and England not only won it five times, but also triumphed at the World Cup in 2003.
However, a Gavin Henson-inspired victory over England in the opening game of the 2005 championship sparked a Welsh revival.
In the years since, the Welsh have tended to enjoy the upper hand in the domestic arena, claiming Grand Slam glory in 2005, 2008 and 2012.
The Six Nations title will be on the line again when the teams meet in Cardiff on Saturday, but unlike in 1999, Wales will take to the field with eyes on the trophy as well.
Given the circumstances, a win against the old enemy would be more delicious than ever.
Listen to the Stereophonics song in the video below: