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  • Writer's pictureRuck n Roll

When Welsh Rugby Dies...

A poem of sorts, I suppose

When Welsh rugby dies we shall be saddened, but not shocked. Welsh mamgus will chat over milky teas and in drizzly bus stops about its demise. “You’ll never guess” they’ll say, lifting a rich tea biscuit from a floral tea plate. “Well,” will come the response, “they’ve been ill for a while.”

A post-mortem shall take place in private, an enquiry that will conclude “death by committee.” Countless perpetrators. Murder on the Gravy Train Express.

Rugby clubs throughout the country will draw their curtains to grieve in private. Loved ones will arrive with hushed tones and knowing looks afraid to even utter the name. “Oh god,” one will whisper, “here comes Roger Lewis. I’ll go out the back way.”

For the funeral it’s club ties for those that have them. It’s is requested that mourners wear bootcut jeans and brown sheux - “it’s what they would have wanted.”

No flowers or wreaths. Donations accepted to keep committee men in the life style to which they have become accustomed. The wake is open to all. The buffet catered with overpriced hotdogs on the concourse and a free bar for board members only.

The roof shall be open to let the light shine down upon its final resting place. To an unmarked grave in The National Stadium’s corner where Gareth Edwards once dotted down the world’s greatest try. When Welsh rugby was in rude health; younger, fitter, invincible.

A fleet of polished hearses will parade down Westgate Street as fans line the streets like a melancholy Grand Slam day, vivid red swapped for morse black. Each remove their sparkly pink stetsons as a mark of respect. A deathly silence will befall the city. Shoppers in heels will stand silent still, fruit vendors muted on their stalls and Ninjah will stop playing the bins.

The coffin shall be carried on bearers shoulders, strengthened in Polish conditioning camps. Men shuffle to seats at the end of row dressed in black overcoats plucked from the wardrobe that morning; the pockets emptied of the used tissues and orders of service from the last funeral. The front rows are reserved for debenture holders.

Male voice choirs soundtrack the event. Arias and hymns filling the air, but not THAT song by Tom Jones. Match day programmes printers will spit out copies of hymn sheets instead. Max Boyce will take to proceeding with guitar in hand and sing out Welsh rugby’s final lament. Obituaries come by the dozen, delivered by the greatest in the game; they are passionate, beautiful and emotive, we all agree that none of them are as good as Eddie Butler would have delivered. Sir Clive takes to the podium; notes in hand, whiteboard prepared, he talks about England.

Once rugby’s greatest amphitheatre, the stadium becomes a monolith to times gone by and a playground for Ed fucking Sheeran. The ghostly echoes of Cwm Rhondda drown out by Galway Girl. Thousands of screaming fans stream past a statue of Tasker Watkins, but few of them know who he is… because somethings never change.

“It was a lovely service,” one mamgu - a funeral regular - will say from under hair that’s been lacquered to within an inch of it’s life so as not to waiver even slightly in the cold Welsh wind. Enough hairspray to endanger what‘s left of the o-zone layer.

Some players pack up their kit bags to move on to pastures new. Plying their trade on the sun soaked pitches of Toulon, Melbourne and… Ealing. Those that stay, move into new fields away from the game. Wales’ biggest exports become rum, coffee and hwyl. Rugby podcasters take to shouting their opinions to passing customers in supermarkets and attempting tannoy announcement’s through any unattended microphones. Jiffy becomes a bingo caller.

Terraces nationwide fall eerily tranquil. Underneath teenagers vape on brightly coloured sticks with stupid and meaningless flavours like ‘Blue Raspberry Ice’ and share a flagon of cheap cider bought from a dodgy corner shop. Crisp packets blow idly in circles in the damp corners of stands, spinning aimlessly, pointlessly; a metaphor all too on the nose for Welsh rugby’s governance.

Down the path the rugby club becomes a new bar that players who drank there in their pomp would describe as “trendy.” But still they come. Draining glasses of overpriced Italian beer, held in hands that once upon a time held a ball and bound on jerseys. Hands strong, but gentle with fingers that have been dislocated, broken and taped up time and again. Between sips of chilled continental ales - served in glasses on delicate stems - they reminisce about about “that time” out there on the field. The laughter, the tears, the moments they shared and they raise a glass to the troubled friend they all shared.

To Welsh Rugby. Taken far too soon.

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