Support our Nation today - please donate here

Home Sweet Home

11 Mar 2024 3 minute read
France supporters, image by Ben Wildsmith

Ben Wildsmith

According to psychologists, our brains can create contentment from vanishingly scarce resources.

If we are incarcerated in a room with nothing to distract us from our misery than a small skylight, we will become fascinated with the passing of the clouds.

So, actually boarding a train to Cardiff from the Rhondda, after 200 years of rail replacement buses triggered every happy chemical that my brain has at its disposal.

Seriously, it was like passing my driving test on VE Day. Just mint.

The company was commensurately superb. The couple next to us had just completed a tour of eastern England in a decommissioned NHS ambulance that they had fitted out as a camper and named ‘Aneurin Be-Van’.

Now, you can get as sniffy as you like about the status of puns in the comedic arsenal, but the perfection of that silences everything. Be in awe.


Cardiff was amiable. Is it me, or has it calmed down since the pandemic? It had the air of a soft play facility, when, in days gone by, you could count on it to spin you round on match days.

Even before the game the event was kept afloat by the thousands of French people who knew how to enjoy themselves.

I headed for the Bluebell, previously the Goat Major, because the last time I had tickets to see France it was patronised by a club from Biarritz whose members handed out sausages and moonshine to everyone before marching round the bar singing ‘Death to Spain!’ This year, the fancy dress was the most notable feature, with special accolades to the musketeers.

The anthems in the Principality were as great as you’d hope, but even then, right at the start, the energy was with the French. Even the most one-eyed amongst us knew, if we were honest, that beating France today would require one of those insane Six Nations upsets. It was possible, but highly unlikely.

Wales v France, image by Ben Wildsmith

So, when Wales went into the lead early on and then scored just after half-time, it was more than we had the right to expect. Our team is, as acres of reportage will describe, inexperienced, underpowered, mismanaged, and the product of a failed system.

They are, though, furiously committed to their game. They leapt on every scarce opportunity and made this a real contest until 60 minutes passed and the intensity could not be maintained. Their defence in the face of skilled opposition was at times miraculous.

When the crux of the game arrived, halfway through the second half, and it became a matter of will, fitness and destiny, the French supporters shamed Wales.

Hymns & Arias

I never thought I would live to see international rugby in Cardiff at which the only Welsh singing had to be provoked by the WRU pumping ‘Hymns & Arias’ through the PA.

All around me, French supporters were filling the Cardiff air with ‘La Marseillaise’ and urging their side to victory. In response we had a few desultory ‘Wayulls’ chants and an endless stream of disinterested customers returning from the bar with drinks.

This won’t do. It’s no good whining about the health of the game if, when push comes to shove, we can’t muster enough passion to make Cardiff feel like a home fixture for the team.

We’re in danger of losing more than games here, what on earth has happened to us?

Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
29 days ago

The atmosphere at Wales rugby home games always sounds pretty poor. It’s just an often repeated myth that the atmosphere’s great. Wales football matches have much better singing. Probably because those there actually are fans and not just people out for a day out down the pub.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
29 days ago

It felt at times like I was watching the game in Paris. The French were at the stadium in large numbers. Economically Wales is the poorest country in the 6 Nations tournament. Money matters in sport, rugby needs the best coaches, support staff, and facilities. Other countries have more finance available to support their rugby clubs and national teams.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.