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Six Nations 2024: Sam Warburton talks about his memorable England and Wales matches

Six Nations 2024: Sam Warburton talks about his memorable England and Wales matches

  • Written by Alistair Telfer
  • BBC Sport

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Six Nations Championship 2023: Wales 10-20 England

Former Wales captain Sam Warburton loved playing for England.

The rivalry has provided the Welshman with some of its highest highs, but also some of its lowest lows. It's a game that always has a lot at stake.

From historic victories to tournament deciders and World Cup deciders, the match has produced plenty of special moments.

2012: Wales achieve a rare win at Twickenham

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Scott Williams scored a late goal in a bid to snatch victory at Twickenham for Wales

Wales have only won twice at Twickenham in the Six Nations.

One of them came in February 2012, when the 23-year-old Warburton was contemplating redemption just months after receiving a red card in a narrow World Cup semi-final loss to France.

“Twickenham was a great ground with the Welsh traveling down and the atmosphere was fantastic,” he told Rugby Union Daily. “Outside the emirate, it was my favorite place to play.

“Walking through the crowd is very tough if you're young. I just got sent off four months ago at the World Cup and got a lot of credit for it.

“When I got to the door, there was a little fire escape and some England fans shouted: 'Warburton's got a red card.' That was a huge motivation for me. That little moment.”

Warburton produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 19-12 win including an iconic save effort on Manu Tuilagi.

“It was my first win at Twickenham and not many players, as a young team, win there,” he says.

“When I played at Twickenham, I had a different energy to the boys on the field.”

2013: Wales prevented England from winning the tournament

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2013 Six Nations Championship highlights: Wales 30-3 England

England were on a roll in 2013, one game away from winning a Grand Slam when they headed to Cardiff. But Wales recovered from their weekend defeat to Ireland to retain the title hunt, needing to win by seven points.

“There must have been 15 people on either side of the bus,” Warburton recalls. “The sidewalk on each side was like parting the Red Sea to get the bus to the stadium.

“The whole street remained packed with fans all the way up to the Prince of Wales pub. I literally couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was like the whole of Wales coming to Cardiff.”

Warren Gatland's side led 9-3 at half-time, before two quick tries from Alex Cuthbert helped seal a 30-3 win.

“All this drama and emotion – it only happens with England coming to town,” says Warburton. “You'll never get that when you're playing Ireland, France, Scotland or New Zealand.”

2015: Cardiff Tunnel Showdown

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Six Nations 2015: Wales v England tunnel showdown

Two years later, there was more drama.

Waiting for Wales to emerge from the Emirate Stadium dressing room, England captain Chris Robshaw stood still inside the tunnel.

Warburton respected Robshaw's decision, and said Wales would not be in a rush to fall back on their pre-match routine after initially being told they had three minutes remaining.

“They didn't say: 'Chris Robshaw is in the tunnel, so get out,'” he says. They just said: Get out. I said: No, we will stick to our routine.

“I thought it was a good drive by Chris Robshaw. I thought it was brilliant. I'm really glad he did it because you have to stand on your feet.”

Robshaw's side were unfazed – avenging their 2013 defeat with a 21-16 win.

2015: A meeting on the biggest stage

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Wales were defeated by South Africa in the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Cup

The six countries are undoubtedly large. But playing England and Wales in a World Cup match at Twickenham is something that may never happen again.

Stuart Lancaster's England were seen as favorites against injury-hit Wales in a match deemed a “must-win” for both sides.

“We had a lot of bad cards before the England game, but when you get that many bad cards it almost works in your favour,” says Warburton.

“Sometimes it's easier to be the underdog. I never liked it because I wanted to be number one but I remember thinking in 2015 that we had nothing to lose.

“I didn't enjoy it as much as I did in 2013 where we were back on the hamster wheel trying to beat Australia the following week.”

Australia beat both England and Wales to qualify as group winners, with England exiting the home World Cup early.

2017: One of Wales' toughest defeats

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Elliot Daly started against Italy in England's opening match of the Six Nations

This was Warburton's last match in the Six Nations against England, and their fourth successive loss to them in the competition.

Elliot Daly's attempt in the 76th minute secured the victory for the visitors.

“That was one of the toughest defeats, the home loss to England was crushing,” says Warburton.

“A lot of senior players can take that on the chin – if this had been a younger group it could have been very damaging.

“Then the players won the Grand Slam two years later when they came home again.”

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Six Nations 2024: A weekend in the life of BBC Sport pundit and former Wales captain Warburton

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