Welsh rugby has seen many rises and falls throughout its history, yet the current troubles facing the Welsh game appear to be from such a deep rooted systematic problem, it’s difficult to see how it will be resolved easily.
Roger Lewis, Chief Executive of the WRU, gave an interview yesterday on The Wales Report which one can only assume was an attempt to produce some positive PR for the WRU after yet another dismal international display, and with grumblings rife throughout Welsh rugby that the WRU are simply not pulling their weight.
Whilst viewers would no doubt agree with Lewis’ end point of the need for a long term plan for Welsh rugby, alarm bells will have been ringing from the other sound bites he came out with. With all intents and purposes he still seems very much focused on “Team Wales”.
Playing for Wales is the pinnacle in Welsh rugby, and rightly so, yet again Lewis and the WRU seem to be missing the point about the support that is needed from grass roots level and upwards, specifically at regional level.
The comment about the WRU needing control of where and when the players play is of concern.
What incentive does it give to the regions to develop their own if the WRU will then take the player that a region has invested so much in, to place them elsewhere?
Another problem is the WRU talking about “playing their cards” in possibly putting in place the rule that if a player doesn’t play their rugby in Wales, they then cannot play for Wales. Wales simply does not have enough strength in depth to enforce such a rule and not suffer for it at all levels of the game.
We have seen in this Autumn Series so far what injuries to key players Adam Jones, Dan Lydiate and John Davies have done. We need our best players, ideally yes to be playing in Wales, yet if they choose to go; can Wales really afford not to pick them?
Some of what Mr Lewis said was good; creating a better environment in Wales for the professional and international players for instance. Yet concerns are there yet again in that everything he came up with was purely for the benefit of the national side – there seemed very little in what he revealed that would benefit the regions.
Fundamentally there was not much substance to what Roger Lewis said. He states that the regions and the WRU are close to an agreement, but then again he said back in March of this year that things would be sorted before the new season – they weren’t.
It is positive that it appears that the WRU and the regions are talking, but if you compare Roger Lewis’ comments with that from those involved in the regions in the press, there appears to be very little correlation.
Welsh rugby will await with bated breath this new deal which is supposedly due before Christmas. For those that are hoping it will be the new lifeline Welsh rugby on a whole needs, judging by Roger Lewis’ comments about it strengthening Team Wales, and very little about how it would help the regions, they might well be set for a disappointment.
Welsh rugby needs to sort itself out from the bottom up, not put in quick measures to stabilise the national team in the short term. All this will do is to cement the top heavy approach that is already showing alarming signs of failing.
Wales take on New Zealand this weekend. It should be one of the biggest games of the year yet for once this writer is not all that interested. There is a bigger issue in Welsh rugby at the moment then simply that of Team Wales not performing. The hope is that maybe for once Welsh rugby really has managed to work together to come up with a credible long term plan. It will be an interesting wait.
This article can also be found here: http://www.rugbyfancast.com/2012/11/blogs/welsh-rugby-on-the-brink (please note there may be advertisements on this page)