March 23 down the years
France finally break their Grand Slam duck
Cardiff and Swansea go head-to-head on this day in 1907 ©

France finally achieved the Grand Slam, but they did it the hard way, coming from 9-3 down at the interval to beat Wales 14-9 in the mud at Cardiff. As well as the loss, the Welsh RFU came in for widespread criticism for the state of the pitch, while the crowd hardly did their country proud with widespread booing and whistling during the playing of God Save The Queen. France had won four of the previous nine Five Nations championships without managed a Slam.

Clive Woodward's England team stormed to their then-biggest margin of victory over Wales, routing them 50-10 at Twickenham. Jonny Wilkinson scored 30 points - one try, four penalties, five conversions and a drop goal - but given that Wales's preparations were blighted by talk of leading players going on strike, the outcome was hardly surprising. In the Daily Express Steve Bale wrote: "Scott Quinell and his team-mates have been distracted lately by their involvement in rugby's poisonous politics in their native land. And even though their strike threat was lifted, it is idle to pretend they were unaffected going into their most arduous Six Nations game. There was no problem about their attitude but their execution was another matter, the disparity in physical strength and basic skill levels both glaring and a faithful reflection of the hole Welsh rugby is in, on the field just as much as off it."

Wales beat France 11-3 in a Thursday match in Paris. With both sides in with a chance of the Five Nations Championship, the game was sold out in advance and the authorities called in an extra 800 police - 300 of them mounted - to control the vast crowds expected to try to force their way in. A layer of straw put in place to protect the pitch from snow had to be cleared before the start. The win was enough to give Wales the Championship, but it was to be their last title for nine years.

Before anyone moans about Wales playing on a Friday night, it was a Monday afternoon (ideally suited to the working man) when they beat France 14-8 at Newport - despite that, more than 10,000 turned up to watch.

Speaking at rugby dinner, former England fly-half Air Commodore Gus Walker said that rugby league players should be allowed to play union again. During the war the strict gap between the codes was relaxed. "I am very glad we had the Rugby League players with us during the war … this practice should continue. There is much to be said for both codes. There are some points of the Rugby League game which could well be adopted by union." Fortunately for the ultra-conservative RFU, normal hostilities were resumed and remain for almost half a century.

Wales won a fast, open game 19-13 in Paris to leave France whitewashed in the Five Nations for the last time. France played with great determination given fullback Michel Vannier and centre Andre Boniface were semi-cripples for most of the afternoon.

The growing popularity of rugby was shown, albeit rather patronisingly, by pictures of the Cardiff v Swansea match making it onto the front page of the Daily Mirror which noted it "aroused great interest in Wales, a rugby football-loving country". Cardiff won by one try to nil. It was one of only three defeats for Swansea that season and avenged their win the previous October after which supporters had sent Cardiff fans mocking "In Memoriam".

Italy's bid to join the Five Nations championship was boosted when they beat France for the first time in 19 matches stretching back to before World War Two. Although France rested almost half their squad, the 40-32 loss in Grenoble was still a major upset.


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