by Olly Allen
The sporting calendar for 2020 is already shaping up nicely with plenty to look forward to over the next 12 months. Gair Rhydd Sport has picked out five events to keep an eye out for from a Welsh perspective…
2019 was a hugely impressive year for the Welsh rugby team as they won the Grand Slam at the Six Nations before reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup. But, they start the new decade with new leadership, as Wayne Pivac begins his first campaign in charge after the departure of Warren Gatland.
Gatland left the squad in a healthy state with a nice blend of youth and experience, but his shoes remain big ones to fill for former Scarlets coach Pivac, who won his first game in charge 43-33 against the Barbarians in November.
Despite their success last year, Wales are only third favourites for the Six Nations crown this time around – behind England and Ireland, both of whom they face away from home. The Dragons start and end the tournament in Cardiff though, as they aim to make it a total of 40 titles overall.
There was a time when Welsh football fans could only dream of major tournaments, but 2020 will see the national team compete in a second successive European Championships. After the magical heroics of 2016, there will be hope for another summer of love for Bale and co and the Red Wall.
After securing automatic qualification in November, Ryan Giggs’s side will now face Switzerland, Turkey and Italy in the tournament’s group stage. Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will of course be the star men, but this squad is full of youthful vibrancy too with players such as Dan James, Ethan Ampadu and David Brooks to name but a few.
Get ready for plenty of ‘Wales. Golf. Madrid’ and ‘Please don’t take me home’ chants in the streets of Baku, Rome and wherever else this adventure takes them.
The eyes of the world will be on Japan in the summer as the Olympics heads to Asia for the first time since 2008. 33 different sports will be on show across a two-week period, including surfing, skateboarding and climbing for the first time.
Wales are set to be well-represented in Team GB again after Welsh athletes achieved their highest ever medal haul four years ago. Hannah Mills (sailing), Owain Douall (cycling) and Elinor Barker (cycling) all won gold in Rio and will be aiming to do so again. As will Jade Jones, who is aiming to make taekwondo history by earning a third successive title.
Meanwhile, there are high hopes for boxer Lauren Price who has claimed gold at the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships in the last two years.
With the England and Wales Cricket Board looking to reinvigorate the sport and attract a new generation of fans, The Hundred is set to begin in July. As the name suggests, this is a new 100-ball format which will see eight city-based franchise teams compete in a round-robin league format followed by play-offs.
On paper, the men’s Welsh Fire team, who will play their home fixtures at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, looks incredibly strong. Johnny Bairstow had already been secured as the side’s Centrally Contracted player before October’s draft saw the likes of Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and Liam Plunkett join up.
Australia’s Meg Lanning is the star name in the women’s side alongside young English talents Bryony Smith and Katie George.
The Cardiff City Stadium will host this year’s Pro14 final in June, the first time that the Welsh capital has staged the event since the competition took finals around the grounds in the 2009-2010 season. The Principality Stadium has previously hosted the Celtic League final between Munster and Neath in 2003.
This year, reigning champions Leinster look in excellent form as they sit first in Conference A with ten wins from ten games, while it’s much closer at the top of Conference B – just four points currently separate Edinburgh, Scarlets and Munster. Cardiff Blues have work to do in Conference B, where they currently sit fifth.
With the Pro14 final achieving record attendances in the last four years in Glasgow, Dublin and Edinburgh, it is hoped that the Cardiff City Stadium will be a sell-out this summer.