Two weeks ago on a cold Monday night Wales took on Cyprus at the Cardiff City Stadium, looking for a place in Football’s European Championship. On the pitch Wales boast little star quality aside from Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale and – the currently injured – Aaron Ramsey. Before kick off however, they showed some real star quality with Lucie Jones singing the national anthem.
Afterwards a number of people took to Twitter to congratulate and compliment Jones on a job well done. Inevitably the suggestion of the singing belting out the anthem before the rugby came up and Jones made it very clear she would relish the opportunity and included the WRU account in her tweet.
I hope whomever is in charge of the WRU account raises this as a genuine invitation to the union to get in contact with Jones and make this happen. Rugby has become a business and everything possible needs to be done to make this business prosper. That means that match days are longer about the 80 minutes so that the players are out on the field, but offering something to fans before they even squeeze through the turnstile.
Match days have become a full entertainment experience; from the atmosphere in the streets of Cardiff before a game and the pyrotechnics at pitch side, right through to the final whistle and beyond. It’s about entertaining supporters who are there as well as attracting and retaining new ones, Lucie Jones could help provide the accessibility for younger fans.
Jones has made the journey from X Factor to the West End via modelling, acting, MTV presenter and a studio album. She has even sung in enemy territory at Twickenham before Harlequins Wasps and she's still only 23.
If she could create a connection with Welsh youngsters it would pay dividends for the WRU and the future of rugby in Wales. Similar to the way Charlotte Church and Katherine Jenkins added to the atmosphere during the cool Cymru culture that straddled the millennium Jones could add a little glitz, glamour and relevance to those lurking on the edge of our national sport. She has already professed to be a rugby fan with her Twitter account including photos of her supporting Wales, the Lions and her home regions the Blues.
She was an X Factor rarity in as much as she possessed discernible talent, but that seldom matters in the 'talent' show and she lost out to big haired, irritating Irish idiot sibling leprechauns Jedward.
That prompted over one thousand complaints and showed how popular the Pentrych girl had become. Another of the show's alumni, Rhydian Roberts has both the love of rugby and musical talent to offer a similar effect. He joined Jones at April's Judgement Day double header in a role that felt a little misguided, forced and stilted. A more natural role would suit him excellently. So too Sophie Evans; Since she appeared on Andrew Lloyd Webber's search for Dorothy Over the Rainbow she too has conquered musical theatre and released a studio album as well as appearing in Edgar Wright's The World's End and hit British film Pride. Her rugby connections run deep too; she isn't just a fan, her other half is flanker Ellis Jenkins.
Some while say this is trivial. Traditionalists will say it should be about the rugby and rugby alone. However, like it or not, rugby is now firmly part of the entertainment business and that won't change anytime soon. The WRU need to embrace it and appeal to the public.
The union can't run the risk of looking dated. Many remember the Jenkins, Church and Boyce taking to the field before the 2005 Grand Slam to create an electric atmosphere. Similarly we all remember the cringe inducing embarrassment of Wynne Evans, wandering across the pitch after the haka. It's a shame that such a talented singer and radio presented will always be remembered for Go Compare adverts and meandering across the turf in shirt that looked as ill fitting as Adam Jones pulling on Shane Williams' jersey by mistake, singing to a bemused crowd.
Engagement is a big part of any successful company and people like Lucie, Sophie and Rhydian could help the WRU connect with young would-be fans.
Lucie Jones - Edge of Glory