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Welsh clubs plan their URCxit

Does Welsh rugby's future belong in England?

So we once again loop into a new cycle in the never ending rotation of Welsh clubs flirting with the English Premiership before finally settling back in the league from whence they came. The Ekin-Su like Welsh clubs crawling on hands and knees to the English Premiership’s Jay before coupling up with the now suspicious Davide of the URC.

 

The concept of Welsh club rugby blows in the collective minds of its fans. Drifting between an eternally rebranded league of increasing nations and an English Premiership filled with apparent riches. Like a carrier bag caught in an updraft the teams blow in circles; never settling, never stopping. Though not with the mesmerising, grace of American Beauty - administration within Welsh rugby has little of that. Indeed had the WRU been entrusted with cast they would no doubt have replaced Mina Suvari with Danny Devito and the cascading rose petals with flakes of pastry from overpriced pasties from the stadium.


But what of the treasures the Premiership offers? Maybe no more than costume jewellery. There is an irony on a base level in supporters talking of how lucrative a move to the Premiership would be if they replace the two clubs that have gone bust playing there.


The reality is that the English game is littered with sugar daddies and false promises; somewhat like my Twitter DMs. Clubs run at a loss, dice with relegation and owe more tax than Gary Barlow. A far cry from what many will have you believe.


The stakes in the URC are not big enough, say some. There is little worth in Welsh Shields and other such nonsense titles, competed for by such few team. Not when there are three foot rag dolls to do battle for against Bath.


Whilst, Welsh clubs plan their URCxit - the unfounded promises of bumper crowds plastered upon the side of an Edwards Coaches bus - they need to consider the pitfalls that may follow. There’s the very real danger that any of the regions making the jump could find themselves rooted to the foot of the table where the virtual obscurity of the English rugby Championship awaits. Week after week of arduous away trips to places that sound like they were dreamt up by Tolkein.

 

Ampthill, seemingly is a suburb of Center Parks. The only hope of an Ampthill v Dragons sell out is that King Charles funeral falls on a match day and evicted holiday goers seek refuge at Dillingham Park. Thousands of fans fresh from the “Subtropical Swimming Paradise” carrying lilos and wearing inflatable armbands - black out of respect of course - ruing having to leave “The Hugging Tree” bear witness to the game.


Hartpury is a University team and if every person in the village turned up at their 2,000 seater stadium on the same day to watch them play the Ospreys there would still be 358 seats available for the away fans.


However, that still won’t be enough to hold even a fraction of the supporters that have been drawn into the new Anglo-Welsh setup like moths to a flame or props to a buffet. People pouring down the valleys like the stampeding wildebeest in The Lion King, suddenly engaging with that game and bursting with affinity. Welsh team will apparently cash in on the age old tale of Wales v England that would arise on an almost weekly basis. Players themselves will be rebranded to add to their Welshness, Cardiff introducing their thirty-something fullback cover Deniol Pysgod.


Not to pretend the URC is without its issues; in fact there are many. Roc Nation finding a way to change the public’s perception of the league is now Jay-Z’s hundredth problem. Whilst chasing the credibility the league needs, it’s succeed in only collecting more nations who’s clubs compete within it. The league started in 1999 with only 2 unions involved, but by 2017 this had grown to 5 - an increase of 150%. At that rate of growth we can expect 13 nations involved by 2040 and total world domination at some point in the late 2080s, as veteran Jonathan Sexton in the twilight of his career, considering retirement ahead of a tricky away trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo.


But for now we focus on the positives. The URC has started with a kind of madness that it’s difficult not to revel in. Rejuvenated Italian teams, shock results, high scoring games; it’s hard to watch with anything but joy. Not least with Dragons RFC - with Dean Ryan notably absent - slaying the mighty Munster in a result predicted only by madmen and idiots. But that is the joy of this league, sometimes, you just don’t know. That’s part what makes it so much better than it ever gets credit for and I personally find it embarrassing that some fans think they deserve better than this, when so many don’t even deserve what they’ve got.


And whilst many smirk or sneer at those who still long for the days of old Welsh club rivalries or years gone by, those pining over a devil’s deal with the old foe are at best a different side of the same coin. Reminiscing over the same Hiraeth, only the venues and club colours change.


Whether the move would be good or not for Welsh clubs, I hope that Wasps and Worcester can overcome these woes. Losing a club would be heart breaking for fans, losing jobs inconceivable to employees and - whether Welsh clubs future lies over the bridge or in planning flights to Vanuatu - my thoughts go out to them.

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