Monday, January 20, 2014

The Welsh Civil War

"The point at which a condition or situation becomes critical." That is the definition given to 'breaking point' and it is where Welsh rugby currently finds itself.

After two years of negotiating, the Welsh Rugby Union and the regions (represented by Regional Rugby Wales) can find no agreement of the future of the game. The country's national sport teeters on a precipice. The WRU and RRW are at loggerheads. A "participation agreement" between the organisations, which details the funding the regions will receive and the tournaments they compete in, remains unsigned with just a few months left of the current agreement.

Though compete may not be correct word. The Ospreys have taken four league titles since 2003 and the Scarlets reached last season's play offs, but no region has been able to seriously compete in Europe against the financial power of the English, French or Irish. Now, with money being poured into the French game at the rate of a small country's GDP, that gap is ever widening.

George North, Northampton, Saints, rugby, Wales, Aviva, Premiership 

The effect of the affluence across the Channel or over the Severn Bridge is that some of the principality's top stars have exited for the riches of the Top 14 and Aviva Premiership. The "player drain" saw internationals such as Jamie Roberts and George North move away from their home nation to ply their trade on foreign soil. That drain has slowly become a sink hole and several more high profile players are out of contract in the summer, not least the national captain Sam Warburton.

The RRW are unable to compete with the big money boys, but want to at least enter tournaments on their terms and negotiate their own destiny. They state a new European competition run by the English clubs and televised by BT Sports would increase their income by £1m each. The WRU say they are committed to the current tournament, along with their Irish cousins.

The WRU's proposed solution is central contracts, offered to the six internationals who are out of contact and yet to commit to clubs elsewhere. The RRW see this as an underhand attempt by the WRU to take more control than they would welcome and some have uttered words of distrust toward head honcho Roger Lewis. 
Sam, Warburton, Lydiate, Wales, Lions, rugby,

Talk of an Anglo-Welsh league has been rife. So too, has talk of new regions to replace the existing ones should they jump ship.

The father of regional rugby and Welsh rugby's prodigal son has again landed on a flight back from New Zealand and not without purpose. David Moffett covets a return to the top of the WRU hierarchy and believes he can solve the crisis in ten short days. In the Kiwi's sights is the group chief executive role currently held by Roger Lewis.

Much like this website, Lewis straddles rugby and music. In the 80s Lewis was considered one of the most powerful men in music and was head of music at Radio 1. Ironic then, that during the recent Scrum V debate on the standoff, Lewis often resembled a broken record. He was not unable to answer Gareth Lewis' questions on replacement regions, simply unwilling.

Roger Lewis, rugby, WRU, Wales

By contrast, Mr Moffett wanted to answer questions he wasn't asked and pose a few of his own. Gareth Lewis seemed loathed to allow Moffett take the floor and left him to remain quietly seated in the audience.

So it was, that all the questions of importance remained unanswered. 
  • What is the future of Welsh rugby? 
  • Will any of Wales' stars commit to their regions? 
  • Will the regions still be there to commit to? 
  • If they are, what competitions will they be playing in?

At the moment we seem further from a solution than we do from an unwelcome civil war that could tear Welsh rugby apart as egos and self interests threaten to decanonize what is for sometime been treated akin to religion in Wales.

 Guns n' Roses - Civil War

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ruck n Roll Awards 2013: Part 2

After part one of the Ruck 'n' Roll Awards the awards keep coming here, so let's find out who else will get lucky.

Beast of the Year
Bismarck du Plessis' hit on Carter and Hibbard's hit on just about anything that moved made them contenders. Ma Nonu's straight running is just as brutal, but George North was simply phenomenal. Huge hits, rhino-esque runs and carrying Israel Folua down field like a hiker with a knapsack.

Stop the Bus Award
On their way to to a preseason game against the Ospreys Worcester Warriors team bus caught fire just outside Bristol. That was nothing compared to Danny Cipriani who managed stop a bus in a far more simple way by mistiming a run across a Leeds road and being hit by the double decker to Guiseley.

Happiest Welshman of the Year
Jiffy, because a picture speaks a thousand words.

Jonathan Davies, Jiffy, Jeremy guscott, Clive Woodward, John Inverdale, Millennium Stadium, Six Nations, rugby, Champions

The Harry Houdini Award for Escapology
There is no doubting the intensity with which Bismarck du Plessis plays the game, but the Springboks and Sharks hooker can sometimes overstep the mark. The decision to send him off against the All Black was rightly reversed, but the decision not to ban him for a blatant stamp on Lappies Labuschagne was ludicrous.

Musician of the Year
As a rugby player and doctor Jamie Roberts is already a multi-talented man and in in Melbourne he added guitarist with the Manics when he joined the Blackwood band on stage to play "You Love Us." Teammates Alex Corbisiero and Simon Zebo showed their vocal skills in Oz.

Dancer of the Year
Forget Ben Cohen on Strictly, Jon 'Foxy' Davies did a breakdance to cross the try line against Newport-Gwent Dragons at Judgement Day. Not even Ylvis could find a fox with moves like the Welsh centre.

Okey Cokey Dancer of the Year
An award split between the English, French and Welsh teams. When it came to negotiating European competition they couldn't decide where they wanted to be. They were in, they were out, they shook everything about

Lazarus Award for Comebacks
New Zealand's comback against Ireland was incredible and Wales' Six Nations turnaround was fairytale, but Quade Cooper's return to the Wallabies line up with some inspired performances in the Autumn Internationals.

Worst Fighter of the Year
No contest for this one. Gavin Henson made the headlines at his new club Bath before a ball was even kicked when he was knocked out by teammate Carl Fearns on a team night out.

He's a Good Guy Really Award
When Mike Phillips tweeted a chance to get taken for coffee by the Welsh Lothario many thought it may have been a ploy to lure in the beautiful women of Wales. So, when his teammates cottoned on to his ploy Mike threw a dummy and choose instead to meet children for the "Follow Your Dreams" charity.

The Kenneth Williams Award for Sexual Innuendo 
Commentary after that cracking Championship decider at Ellis Park, "The players are on their knees and Nigel Owens is blowing hard."

Warrior(s) of the Year
We wish all the best to Matthew Rees and Matthew Watkins in their respective fights against illness. To hear Joost van der Westheizen talking so openly and candidly about his fight with motor neurone whilst seeing the devastating effects on the former 'Boks scrum half. Joost remains committed to fighting his disease and helping other suffers through his charity.

Daft Punk feat. Pharrell and Nile Rodgers - Get Lucky

Ruck n Roll Awards 2013: Part 1

As the dust starts to settle on 2013, we rewind the film and present some awards for the most important moments, players and teams of the year.

Team of the Year
Wales secured a second consecutive Six Nations crown and the Lions ended their losing streak with an emphatic victory in the third test against Australia, but 2013 was very much New Zealand's year. Undefeated for the whole year and boasting 14 wins from 14 tests, the All Blacks proved once again they are the world's best.

Second Tier Team of the Year
There were a few contenders for this award. Canada had a very good year culminating in victory over their biggest rivals (the USA Eagles) to seal their place in the 2015 Rugby World Cup as the first qualifiers. Meanwhile, Japan claimed their first Tier 1 scalp with a victory over Six Nations champions Wales.
It was Georgia though who again showed their quality by winning their fifth title in six years before ending the year with a win over the Top Ten ranked Samoa in Tbilsi.

Player of the Year
Kieran Read, who else? The brightest light in a team full of stars, Read was virtually untouchable among the undefeated All Blacks. Able to mix aggression and brute force with skill, technique and surprising pace; Read was outstanding in 2013.

Kieran Read, New Zealand, All Blacks, Number 8, rugby, Australia, Wallabies,

Rookie of the Year
Rugby League, Aussie Rules and now Rugby Union, it seems there is little Israel Folau can't do. Having already picked up union's angle of running better than most who have played the game for a whole career, Folau is a potent attacking threat and strong defensive weapon (when not being carried like a sack of spuds by George North). Folau's future in the 15 man code looks very bright indeed.

Match of the Year
There were some absolute humdingers this year, but none could live up to the Rugby Championship decider between New Zealand v South Africa. It was a game that had everything; Sin bins, TMOs, the return of Richie McCaw and a plethora of tries. Both teams were playing to win without forgetting the spirit of the game, a fast and open game ensued which few will ever equal.

Referee of the Year
Pontyberem's finest, Nigel Owens. A referee who is open, honest and empathetic. Owens talks to the players with authority, without being condescending and allows play to go on whenever possible. Even on the field he is quick witted and dry humoured and it's no coincidence that Owens refereed the two best games of the year.

Nigel Owens, referee, New Zealand, All Blacks, McCaw, rugby, Championship

Rugby Programme of the Year
'Scrum V' is a Sunday must and S4C's 'Jonathan' simply isn't on our screens enough, but with it's relaxed nature, good humour and live demonstrations it's another programme with Sarra Elgan in that picks up the award. BT's Rugby Tonight is the programme of the year.

Tit of the Year
Danny Cipriani and the pic of the pair that where sent to him by sales manager Stacey Simcox while the Sale 10 was dating Kelly Brooke. Simcox sold the story and, in an ironic twist, Cips found himself being kicked into touch.

Twit of the Year
Being confident is great, betting a whole country £1 each that they would lose isn't so clever. That's exactly what Austin Healey did though before Wales ran riot against England to win the Six Nations. At the time of presenting these awards Healey still hasn't paid his debt. Still, it's not the worst thing he has ever done...

Austin Healey, Hole in the Wall, rugby, England, Leicester Lip

Twat of the Year
Richard Cockerill spent all of 2013 crowing. He complained at the start of the year and was still moaning as the year drew to a close, not put off by bans or fines handed down by the RFU. His grievances grew and culminated in rants that were not in the spirit of the game. For that reason, he is the Twat of the Year.

Tweeter of the Year
With his drinking games and photoshopped pictured, @WelshDalaiLama will taking some beating to get you in the mood for a match day. Namaste to you Dai.

Proud Parent of the Year
Jez Warburton's support for son Sam and his Welsh team has garnered him a fair number of Twitter followers. Leigh Halfpenny's mother Estelle flew halfway around the globe to console her son when his kick dropped short in the second Lions test. 
However, Proud Parent of the Year goes to none other than Dave 'Papa' North for celebrating George's pivotal try against France in unusual fashion when emotion overtook him and Dave left the stands to celebrate with his son before being escorted off by French stewards.

Papa North, Dave North, George North, Father, Wales, France, try, rugby

Fall from Grace of the Year
What a crazy year for James O'Connor. Promoted to Australia's first choice outside half by Robbie Deans, O'Connor wasted his last chance with an incident at Perth airport and was unceremoniously dropped from the squad and not offered a new contract by the Wallabies. O'Connor was forced to swap Australia's Gold Coast for Reading to try to rebuild is career at London Irish.

Rise to Prominence of the Year
When the year started Richard Hibbard couldn't force his way into the Wales starting lineup, finding himself behind Matthew Rees and Ken Owens. When the year drew to the close Hibbard was Wales and Lions first choice and a contender for team of the year. Hibbard's no nonsense style and thundering hits is building him a cult status and a reputation as a Welsh mainstay.

That's all for now. Find part two of the awards here.

Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film