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!

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