February 19 down the years
Battling Wilkinson fends off the French
England's players celebrate victory in Paris on this day in 2000 © PA Photos
Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to a 15-9 victory over France in the key match of the first Six Nations Championship. His brave tackle on Emile Ntamack also prevented a certain French try. Wilkinson was involved in a kicking duel with French fullback Richard Dourthe while four players were shown yellow cards. Olivier and Brouzet and Serge Betsen were sent packing for France, while Austin Healey and Simon Shaw also spent time in the bin.
France, on their way to only their second Grand Slam, struggled to eke out a 4-3 win at Twickenham against a rejuvenated England side. Francois Sangalli scored the only try of the game but Man of the match was England's Nigel Horton who dominated the forward play. As the press lauded an excellent England display, he kept his feet firmly on the ground. "We can slap ourselves on the back all the way to Cardiff if we like. But we lost. What is the point of moral victories? You don't take championships, or anything."
Wales beat France 24-15 in Cardiff to register their first victory in the fixture since 1982. Scott Quinnell provided the lasting memory of the match, bursting away from a line-out, beating three tackles and scoring a rousing try in the corner.
In days of old Services matches at Twickenham used to draw good crowds and more than 30,000 turned out in the bitter cold to watch the Army v Navy clash. The game was spoilt when Army hooker Hamish Bryce sustained a fractured jaw in the first minute of the game; although he played on for a while he was clearly affected and he left the pitch midway through the half. The press went to town, demanding in strong terms that injury replacements be allowed in rugby to avoid matches being ruined. Within two years they got their wish. And despite the one-man advantage the Navy only won 10-9.
Wales made their Test rugby bow with a disastrous defeat by seven goals, six tries and a dropped goal to nil (82-0 under today's values) against England. For the match played at Blackheath the teams use the local Princess of Wales hostelry as an impromptu changing room.
In the wake of Wales's record defeat at Twickenham, their coach John Ryan resigned and was replaced by Neath's Ron Waldron. Waldron, a former Wales prop, relied heavily on the players that he cultivated with the Welsh All Blacks and was an often controversial coach. He left the post due to ill health in 1991, having overseen a disastrous tour to Australia, including a 70-point hiding by New South Wales.
The punishing fixture schedule for the visiting New Zealand Natives brought them a 7-3 defeat against a strong Cambridge University side, barely 24 hours after their game against London Welsh.