Being born a Welshman, I didn’t have a choice when it came to sport. Before I had spoken my first word I had been plonked in front of the TV to watch international rugby. I played it at school and I wasn’t great but I enjoyed it.
The first time I saw the sport live was in 1982. I was eight years old and my father took me to the old Cardiff Arms Park to watch Wales get beaten by Australia. I remember the tiered terraces, one after another like a paddy field. I was amazed that no one went to the bathroom during the game — everyone just p*ssed where they stood. By the end of the match, p*ss was cascading down the terracing. We were stood at the front so I was ankle-deep.
Despite this wet introduction, I continued to watch rugby, culminating in the 2005 6 Nations. Wales hadn’t won the grand slam for years so I didn’t hold out much hope. We had a good team, but I knew the game against England would be crucial. Just like this year, we were drawn against England first. There were 75,000 in the Millennium Stadium for the game against the old enemy. We hadn’t beaten them in Cardiff for 12 years, so it was like welcoming the school bully.
It was an incredibly close game [Shane Williams scored the only try, above]. It was 8-9 in England’s favour when Wales won a penalty kick just short of the halfway line. There were only minutes left. Stephen Jones was our regular kicker, but for some reason he passed it to Gavin Henson. I thought, “Henson? What the f*ck?” Admittedly, he’d had an incredible game, carrying England’s Mathew Tait around as if he were a handbag. Still, this was the man that had recently admitted to shaving his legs, and trotted out for Wales in a pair of silver boots. Was Jones really handing him the ball for what looked to be the game’s defining moment? Yes — he was.
Amazingly, Henson peeled the ball between the posts and the stadium went mental. A single kick had turned a preening playboy into a genuine Welsh hero. We won the game 11-9 and went on to secure the 6 Nations. I remember watching the TV highlights later that day. Eddie Butler and Brian Moore were commentating. Moore, the Englishman, was goading Welshman Butler while Henson was lining up his kick. “This is the man that shaves his legs, Eddie.” Henson then thumped the ball over, giving Butler the opportunity to reply: “Gavin – shave away.”
England vs Wales is an ancient grudge. In recent years England have dominated, but there are days like 5 February 2005 that make watching Welsh rugby the best thing in the world.
Patagonia is at cinemas nationwide from 4 March. Main image: PA