Friday, December 23, 2011

If They Go, They Go!

If they go, they go. There is another Luke Charteris up the valley. Just go look for him, get him involved and give him chances and they'll perform. - Lyn Jones

Growing up, watching Wales we had a saying, "it's harder to get out of the Wales team than into it." It seemed that once a player had become a regular first team player he was there for life, no matter how many bad games he played or how hard emerging youngsters fought for that place.

We still suffer from it a little now. We panic about the quality of players we have of the fringes and so we pick the same old players.

It's a shame because if it's one thing this World Cup should have shown us it's that Wales do have strength in depth. Some of the best performers weren't even in the first XV a year before, Sam Warburton, George North, Rhys Priestland, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau and Luke Charteris.

For some time Welsh fans had panicked at the thought of Martyn Williams hanging up his boots. No openside seemed to have to ability to cut it at international level. Then, from nowhere, Warburton not only stake a claim for a place in the Wales team but to be close on the heels of the best 7s in the world.

Shane Williams is the latest corcern on the international stage but at regional level this emergence of these youngsters has proven to be double edged sword. With James Hook, Lee Byrne and Mike Phillips already left Ospreys for France and Adam Jones the next 'O' to follow, Welsh fans are now in a panic. 

Dragons' stars Charteris, Faletau and Aled Brew are rumoured to be on they way from the Newport based region with France their next port of call.

Blues are looking set to lose Gethin Jenkins, arguably the best prop in the Northern Hemisphere, possibly the world. The Scarlets are then fighting to keep their prized assests in the form of Priestland, North, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams. This isn't the beginning of the end for Welsh rugby though.

On the international front, any player who has crossed the Channel has come back better than before they left. Gareth Thomas and Stephen Jones came back more mature, more professional and as fit as they had ever been. Should the players have contract clauses stating they can be released for international duty then it may work to Wales' advantage.

At a regional level, if there is one thing the Scarlets have shown it's that losing your "big names" doesn't mean losing your competitive edge. Having lost the likes of David Lyons and Reagan King, the Scarlets rebuilt a team with hungry, talented, young Turks who were more than capable. Many of those players are now in or around the international setup. With their "stars" the Scarlets slumped to defeat after terrible defeat in Europe. Now, they are competing in every game in Europe and came within minutes of the Celtic League play-offs.

The Blues "big signings" have have hardly been major successes so far. Dan Parks has hardly been the lynchpin they would have hoped but is Dan Carter compared to Sam Norton-Knight.

The WRU funds academies for all four regions and the players coming through are of an excellent quality, let's give more of them a chance and break this cycle of sticking with what we know and shake things up.

So, if we lose international players, instead of mourning the losses maybe we should celebrate the young talent waiting in the wings and the international players in the making.
Cymru am byth!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not a Dry Eye in the House

I was told I would never make it because I'm too short. Well, I'm still too short. It doesn't matter what your height is, it's what's in your heart. - Kirby Puckett

In a recent Telegraph article a solicitor is reported as stating in a tribunal that "Welshmen do not cry in front of people - unless they lose at rugby." This month though it wasn't the defeat to Australia that brought enough tears to break the levys of the Taff but rather the final farewell to one of their greatest sons, Shane Williams.

It's true that there isn't much that brings a Welshman to tears. Grand Slams, pubs running dry and catching your old boy in your flies.

However, when Little Shane faced the cameras, children in his arms, having crossed the line wearing the 3 feathers for the final time, there couldn't have been a dry eye in the Millennium Stadium.

Wales was still in a state of mourning for it's other great number 11, Gary Speed, when the players lined up for a minutes silence in his honour. Then as the anthems were being belted out it was rugby's speedy 11 that broke hearts. Head dropped, tears flowing, it showed what Wales meant to Shane.

Shane means so much to Wales too though. From his debut against France in 2000 and his try scoring full debut a week later, Williams has out lasted "great redeemers" and many false prophets. In 11 years the Welsh wizard accumalated 87 caps and scored a Welsh record 58 tries.

It wasn't just Shane's try ratio that made him a hero though. It was the obstacles he over came, the man in a land of giants story, the nice guy attitude that isn't just a persona and the ability to entertain when he is on the rugby pitch.

Think of truly memorable Welsh rugby moments and it won't be long before Shane comes up. His performance against New Zealand in the 2003 World Cup when he wasn't even considered a first team player, his help in two Wales grand slams, two amazing tries against Bryan Habana and the most amazing late rally against Scotland in 2010 that handed Wales the most unlikely of victories.

It was that spirit, that talent, that attitude that meant whenever Williams was on the field there was always a belief that Wales could achieve anything, could clutch victory from the jaws of any defeat.

Shane loved playing for Wales just as much as the fans enjoyed watching him.  With the professional Shane is unique and that's why on December 3rd there wasn't a dry eye in the house. In fact in almost any house in Wales.

Cymru am byth! 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Goodbye Edwards

This weekend not only brings down the curtain on an excellent Rugby World Cup but also brings an end to Shaun Edwards contract as Wales coach.

Ruck 'n' Roll can exclusive reveal Edwards will not be extending his contract with Wales as he is taking up a role in government.

Honorary Welshman Edwards will be filling the role of Defence Secretary vacated by Liam Fox.

"He has an excellent record as far as defence is concerned," said one Tory backbencher, "it was an obvious decision."

Early indicators suggest Edwards wil scrap the much maligned Trident, instead opting for a much more effective and more mobile defence system of Lydiate, Warburton and Faletau. It's a defence that is believed to be impenetrable.

Anti aircraft vehicles will also be done away with, Edwards instead employing Luke Charteris to reach up and swat any offending aircraft from the sky.

Edwards also plans to use an unusual strategy against any tanks that may threaten the nation. In a bold move, the new Defence Secretary will use Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Huw Bennett to simply push them back where they came from.

One current Wales player is also showing interest in a new role. Andy Powell is hoping to join Edwards in his position. "Hopefully, Shaun will employ me armoury," said Powell flexing his biceps, "Everyone knows I've got the biggest guns you'll ever see."

The Tories seem very happy in their appointment. A Conservative party spokesperson said, "Mr Edwards is the perfect choice for this role. He may have to go to some pretty rough places, but we know that won't bother him, he used to live in Wigan. He will save us money and improve our defence. Not that it would matter. Would you go to war against him? Not even Kim Jong Il is that crazy."

Mr Edwards did air one concern however. "Even with our budget and technology we haven't be able to find a way to stop George North," he said, "thank God he's on our side."

Cymru am byth!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rolland Stops Economy Falling to Pieces

Conspiracy theories have started with regards to Allain Roland's dubious decision to red card Sam Warburton and ultimately cost Wales a place in the final.

The excellent performance at the World Cup from the brave dragons has caused a knock on effect that is bringing the nation to it's knees.

Roadside rescue giants AA have announced a record fall in shares. "We just can't compete anymore," announced a spokesperson. "We have been beaten to the last 1,000 breakdowns by Sam Warburton. We have heard rumours of a low swinging, sweet chariot that's wheels have come off though, so we are hoping we can help."

Website saw it's server crash under the strain of millions of despondent Englishmen desperately searching their family family trees for any Welsh relatives. "My great grandfather once went on holiday's in Barry Butlins," said Cuthbert Rupert Henley-Toffington III, "and my mother's middle name is Sian." Some stewards have said the growth of 'non-welshmen' at game had gotten out of hand, "some of these Welsh accents were worse than Catherine Zeta-Jones," said one.


Some sources were reporting dangerously low levels of particular produce in food supplies. "We were running out of flour," said one source. "We believe it may be from the large amounts of humble pie being eaten by rugby pundits."

Local governements are also announcing difficulties. Some areas were having to revert back to weekly bin collections just to deal with the high number of St. George's cross flags being thrown in the bin.

Chocolate makers Cadbury's have announced they are withdrawing their tins of Roses as, over the past few weeks, all the soft centres have been taken apart by Jon Davies and Jamie Roberts.

In New Zealand hotels and country club had taken out extra insurance on buildings and golf carts. "We've seen what Andy Powell before and that was only Scotland! Imagine if they had won the world cup."

Meanwhile, the IRB have said they were worried about the prospect of Wales winning the World Cup. "We have nothing against Wales as a whole and wished them the best but we were concerned that if the went on to lift the famous gold trophy Lee Byrne will put it in an envelope and send it to Cash 4 Gold."

One unnamed source at Westminster stated "It had to end. A decision was made to get to the referee and make sure the juggernaught was brought to a halt. 

"Things were already pretty dire and if Wales had won the competition the revenue lost by the millions of Welshmen phoning in sick on Monday would have had catastrophic repercussions to the economy from which we may never have recovered."

"We know they would have all had doctors papers too. We've seen this before."

Meanwhile, the first minister of Wales has announced Allain Rolland will be given the freedom of the city. The city in question is Kabul.

Cymru am byth! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sam and Deliver

Robbery hasn't been this blatant since Dick Turpin was in his pomp. Wales' greatest opportunity to reach a World Cup final was cruelly snatched away by the harshest of refereeing decisions.

Wales' captain marvellous and magnificent seven Sam Warburton was red carded just 18 minutes into their semi final with France, by the completely neutral referee Allain Colm Pierre Sebastian Theirry Louis Jean-Baptiste Chateux Piscine Bibliotech Pepe Le Pew Rolland, having already lost their scrummaging lynchpin and cuddly hairbear Adam Jones to injury.

Rolland has been very quiet on the decision since he rode out of Eden Park on Black Bess  after the game. Many are arguing that the man with the French father had no choice under IRB directives but that isn't true. The directive does state that sometimes a penalty and sin bin is sufficient.

The IRB have spinelessly backed Rolland (No surprises) and handed Sam a 6 weeks ban reduced to 3 weeks because of an outstanding disciplinary record, strong character and guilt from the IRB. Maybe they should have reduced it further? Maybe to 10 minutes, you know, the amount of time Sam should have spent in the bin on Saturday for the tackle.

If there is no room for manouvre, no chance for referees to apply common sense when the occassion calls for it then these laws need to be changed. No situation is ever that black and white so the law that governs it shouldn't be either.

Even reduced to 14 men Wales never gave up, never gave in. They battled harder, run faster, tackled stronger, pushed themselves more than ever but it was a step too far. France eventually took it by a single point having never truly threatened Wales' line despite the numbers advantage. Wales did get the ball down when Phillips checked his hair, pulled his cheekiest of poses and crashed over but the hill was too steep to climb.

Wales will now play Australia in the bitter-sweet Bronze Final. Before the tournament started any Welshman would have taken a semi final place as a triumph but now it seems the bitterest of ends.

Never has a Wales team played this well or so professionally. No team has ever played this couragously. There's not a Welshman who could fail to be proud of the Welsh team from the first whistle of the South Africa game to the last whistle on Saturday. I look forward to a prosperous future as with our young players who left Britain as kids but will touch down as men.

Before robbing his victims, Turpin supposedly asked, "Stand or deliver?" Wales did both. They stood tall and delivered the greatest World Cup in the nation's history. That, Monsieur Rolland, is something that can never be taken from us.

Cymru am byth!

 Stand and Deliver - Adam and the Ants

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flag Off Dave!!!

This week I received an email from a colleague. It said "Let's start a campaign to STOP David Cameron putting the Welsh Flag up on 10 Downing Street on Saturday! He supported England and look what happened to those useless gits. (It's) Politically motivated I reckon. If we win he will say it was down to Tories supporting the Welsh."

Now I'm not the biggest supporter of our reptile prime minister but I've had time to think about this and I've come to what I believe is a reasonable compromise.

Now that Cameron is a fully fledged Welsh rugby fan he should know that it takes more than a flag to prove it. Anyone in Cardiff on a match day (Which, being a huge Welsh rugby fan, Cameron obviously has been on a regular basis) will know that real Welsh fans dress the part too.

I propose that Cameron will be allowed to fly the dragon above 10 Downing Street but only if he also dresses as one of the charmingly nicknamed  "Slags in Flags". You know the ones I mean. Red stiletto's, glittery cowboy hat with a dragon on, denim mini skirt and a t-shirt with a filthy rugby related slogan like "Ruck Me Good" or "Enter from behind the back feet". Then add some orange make up and wrap in a flag for good measure.

If, and only if, Thatcher's love child turns up in the house of parliament dressed like that carrying nothing more than a bottle of WKD and dreams of being felt up by Mike Phillips then I will grant him permission to fly the flag above Downing Street.

Otherwise we will keep all our flags for pissed up Welsh girls from the Rhondda tottering around St Mary's Street and aren't just there for booze and blokes before they use the flag to wipe their lipstick slathered lips after spewing in Chippy Alley because THAT, Mr Cameron, is real national pride.

It isn't about what you know, some told me how much they love Toby Fatylau and I once sat behind a bloke in the stadium who shouted "kick it" for the full 80 minutes. Although to fair to him the IRB did a similar thing with the ELVs a few years ago.
Cameron needs to realise we aren't like England, in Wales rugby is a life style not a badge of honour and you're not a real fan until you've got drunk on cans of Carling in The Square with a midget you've never met before and a gang of confused All Blacks fans. Before you ask, yes, yes I did do that and unlike Mike Tindall I felt no urge to throw the little fella. While we are talking Tindall, motorboating is an acceptable pass time Mike but try to keep between you and the wife. You should be grateful you found one woman with a mug like that.
So, that's my glittery, dragon stetson firmly in the political ring. 
Cymru am byth!