Numbers Game
White line fever
Tom Hamilton
February 25, 2012
England centre Will Greenwood holds off a tackle to score one of his hat-trick of tries against Wales, Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, February 3 2001.
Will Greenwood goes over for one of his three scores against Wales in 2001 © Getty Images
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Rising Welsh star George North will be hoping to wreak havoc in the England defence on Saturday and add to his two tries against their Six Nations foes - but he has some way to go to match the most prolific try-scorers in this 131-year-old rivalry.

The all-time stats feature some illustrious names but there are some notable omissions with the recently-retired Shane Williams - Wales' most celebrated try-scorer - missing from those players to have crossed the whitewash the most times.

While an Englishman - Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood - leads the roll of honour with seven tries, Wales' Dewi Bebb, Gerald Davies and Willie Llewellyn all follow hot on his heels with six.

Llewellyn's efforts all came at the turn of the 20th century but it is the four tries scored on his debut which propelled him into the history books. It was the first time a Welsh player had scored a hat-trick in a competitive match with his efforts helping his nation to just their fourth ever victory over England.

And Bebb - the man with the epic initials DIE Bebb - also marked his debut for Wales with a try. Bebb went on to share in the Five Nations successes of 1964, 1965 and 1966 and his final appearance in a Welsh jersey, on April 15, 1967, saw him once again prove to be a thorn in England's side.

Davies was a key component of Wales' golden generation in the 1970s. The side swept all before them as they took the Championship title in 1970, 1975, 1979 and Grand Slams in 1971, 1976 and 1978. Davies' international career came to an end in 1978 with their last clean sweep of a sensational era but his most telling contribution arguably came at the start of the decade. His double against England in Cardiff in 1971 - coupled with three more in the remaining three matches - guided them to their first Slam since 1952.

Davies' long-time team-mate JPR Williams trails his contemporary on five scores. He is joined on that mark by Jehoida Hodges - the first Welsh forward to get a hat-trick - but he cannot rival JPR's reputation as another member of the aforementioned 'golden generation'.

JPR's double in 1976 guided Wales to their biggest ever win over their old foes at Twickenham; and all that with blood streaming down his face. The nature of his side's victory was not enough to impress Welsh skipper Mervyn Davies but he did heap praise on key member of his side. "Only in one respect was it the best," he commented, "the phenomenal performance of JPR Williams".

While Shane Williams failed to trouble the English defence as much as Llewellyn et al, his first ever try against England in 2005 proved crucial in their charge to a first Grand Slam since the glory days of 1978.

While Wales laboured in the early part of the 21st century in the Championship, rivals England took three Championships between 2000 and their World Cup winning year of 2003. And at the forefront of England's dominance of Wales in those years was Will Greenwood. The centre scored seven times for his country against Wales between 1998 and 2004 including a hat-trick at the Millennium Stadium in their 44-15 victory in 2001. And the British & Irish Lions international continued as the scourge of Welsh rugby with tries in their 2002 and 2003 encounters.

Hot on Greenwood's heals are Gregory Wade and Rory Underwood with six apiece in matches between the two European powerhouses. Wade's came at the turn of the century with his efforts coming in just four matches while Underwood's were spread over 14 Test appearances. Four of Underwood's six came towards the end of his England career with scores in 1995 and 1996 helping England claim the Five Nations title.

Try-scoring in England v Wales clashes
Name Country Years Games Tries Championship titles
Will Greenwood England 1998-2004 6 7 3
Dewi Bebb Wales 1959-1967 8 6 3
Gerald Davies Wales 1967-1978 10 6 6
Willie Llewellyn Wales 1899-1905 6 6 3
Rory Underwood England 1984-1996 14 6 4
Gregory Wade England 1882-1886 4 6 4
JPR Williams Wales 1969-1981 11 5 7
Jehoida Hodges Wales 1899-1906 8 5 4

While Greenwood was gaining plaudits for his hat-trick exploits against Wales in 2001, the only man to have since matched the feat was turning out for Orrell in National League One. Nick Easter, now of Harlequins, became only the second England forward to score a hat-trick in matches between these two nations in 2007 when he crossed the line four times at Twickenham in their 2007 World Cup warm-up match.

North is joined on his tally of two scores by England flyer Chris Ashton but with age on their side, the pair have every chance of etching their name into the try-scoring history books.

With both current squads laced with youthful exuberance, there's a crux of players taking to the field on Saturday all capable of reaching the heights of Greenwood, Llewellyn and Davies - but even the most glory hunting of wingers would take a 3-0 win in the age old rivalry if it was offered to them now.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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