By Reece Chambers
In any sport, rivalries play a major role for supporters. Everything is laid down on the line – from bragging rights to league positions. Some supporters will argue that their biggest rivalries are more important to win that any other game. And, with so much at stake, who can blame them for thinking that?
On a general level, it is hard to determine the importance of a rivalry. The importance is relative to many factors – most notably, what is at stake for the sides in a competitive sense.
Liverpool FC vs Manchester United FC has often been heralded as England’s greatest football rivalry, given the history of countless titles between the two clubs.
However, the Merseyside-Manchester derby doesn’t make it onto the list. The three chosen rivalries symbolise more than a competitive element, they embody rivalries that are engrained in their team’s culture. Historically, such rivalries are respected worldwide for their fierce fixtures which see them do battle to the final stages in their respective sports.
Ahead of Welsh Varsity this week, where Cardiff University will travel to Swansea University to compete in many sporting events, we take a look at three of the best rivalries in world sport.
England vs Wales (men’s rugby)
This has to be one of the biggest rivalries in world rugby. On paper, the two countries are miles apart in terms of players to choose from. England have 50 million more people to choose from than Wales who have a tiny population of 3 million.
However, as a much smaller nation, Wales enjoy the almighty task of overcoming the English. England should win this fixture on every occasion if their populations are anything to go by, but that’s one of the factors that makes this fixture so unique.
When the Six Nations fixtures are released, many fans look towards this fixture. The most important question of who is playing at home is a crucial factor in this match. Twickenham and the Principality Stadium boast tremendous atmospheres when the other side visits.
For anyone who doesn’t believe that atmospheres can influence the outcome of a result, you should attend one of these fixtures. The crowd is on top of the opposing side, quite literally at the Principality. With the roof closed, the noise is deafening.
England and Wales have faced each other 131 times in their histories. England have won on 62 occasions whilst Wales have won 57 and 12 finishing as a draw.
In recent history, the most memorable meeting between these two would be their 2015 World Cup fixture at Twickenham. With England hosting the World Cup, they were tipped to reach the final. However, Wales beat Stuart Lancaster’s side 28-25 in a thrilling encounter with England subsequently failing to qualify for the quarter-finals.
The win for Wales indicated everything that makes this fixture so special. A gutsy comeback from Warren Gatland’s side showed why this fixture will continue to excite sports fans across the world for many years to come.
Celtic vs Rangers (football)
The Old Firm rivalry goes beyond the realms of sporting rivalry into the depths of religion. The Catholic vs Protestant rivalry adds a tasty element to this Scottish football fixture that goes far past a simple understanding of football.
In 2015, former Rangers player Brian Laudrup – who played over 100 times for Rangers – said that the Old Firm topped all of the rivalries he had played in, which included the Milan derby and the Fiorentina-Juventus meetings in Italy.
Since Rangers’ financial crisis earlier this decade, the rivalry has had little to play for on the pitch itself. Celtic have won the Scottish Premier League every season since the 2011/2012 campaign. Under Brendan Rodgers, Celtic don’t look to be moving from the position of Scottish football’s top club any time soon.
Despite that, Rangers have returned to the Scottish Premier League since their relegation for financial issues. The club are still far away from realistically challenging Celtic for the league title.
However, Rangers are a big club and will be hopeful of returning to such competition soon. If they can do so, this historic footballing rivalry will be a fascinating spectacle.
England vs Australia (cricket)
As cricket rivalries go, the England-Australia meetings always lives up to expectation. The Ashes, most notably, has made this rivalry what it is today. The first Test Match series between the two sides took place back in 1882.
The competitive edge on the field between the players is something not often seen in cricket. And, whilst some cricket fans dislike the sledging back and forth between the batsmen and fielding team, it certainly adds an interesting element to the fixtures.
Moreover, the rivalry will certainly be ramped up when Australia come to England for the next Ashes series in 2019. The recent ball-tampering scandal involving captain Steve Smith will make the England players, coaches and supporters want to win this fierce test even more interesting.
The Cardiff vs Swansea Varsity rivalry promises to be an interesting spectacle. We will be taking reporters over to Swansea on Wednesday for what we hope will be a successful day of sport.