Wouldn’t it be great in Welsh rugby if for once we could well and truly celebrate a win, without there being serious structural issues in rugby roiling right below the surface?
Just a day after Wales retained their Six Nations title in such a superb fashion against England, reports emerged in the press that star Wales and Scarlets wing George North was now a target for Northampton Saints, with the Scarlets in a truly difficult position on whether or not they are capable of retaining him or not. This is a player who has played 37 times for the Scarlets in the last two years, and yet 31 times for Wales. All that time while he’s been playing for Wales, it is the Scarlets that have been paying his wages. The same Scarlets that are now going to struggle to be able to match any offers that he is likely to receive outside of Wales in order to keep him.
The underfunding of the regions compared to other top European sides is yet again raising its ugly head. Yet do we hear anything about this in any comments in the press from the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU)? No instead a report was issued on the BBC leading up to the Wales v England match indicating just how financially stable the WRU is and full of glowing praise for the Union in how it supports rugby from the grass roots up. This issue with George North and indeed many other top players in Wales seems to directly contradict that.
Add to that reports seen in The Rugby Paper of the issues clubs such as Maesteg are facing and the further reports on social media of yet more clubs in Wales folding it would seem that the actual reality of the situation in domestic rugby in Wales is completely different to that the WRU is looking to paint in main stream media.
But who to believe? Yes the WRU has done well to promote and support Team Wales, giving those 23 med in red the best possible preparation possible. An Autumn dip aside, and it’s actually been a hugely successful two years for them.
Their pathway structures also look promising and is a small step in the right direction, yet so much more is needed, and the frequency of reports on social networks of clubs struggling must surely be a concern. The WRU needs to step up their investment dramatically, not just financially in clubs but in promoting the need for referees and volunteers. They need to work much closer with the clubs and regions to help get the rugby structure in Wales all working together. The inability for the WRU to acknowledge the problems in domestic rugby in Wales is sadly a huge sticking point in these issues needing to be addressed.
This then brings me on to the latest problem to hit Welsh rugby.
The women’s team, fresh from having managed to secure Rugby World Cup qualification, and having run Ireland and England so close in this year’s Six Nations campaign ,they should have been riding on a wave of confidence.
However reports have emerged in the last few days of the proposals to change the structure of the women’s tournament going forward. Talk is that they want it split into a two tier system, with Wales being in tier 2 and only playing two games a season.
The fact that these women who already represent their country without pay, who sacrifice so much themselves in order to don the Welsh shirt, are now looking to have what limited support and funding they have slashed even further is an utter disgrace. The WRU has been boasting its secure financial standing recently, so why on earth would they slash the funding and support? Supposedly they already don’t pay for Wales’ Women to compete in the Canada Cup and other European competitions, so how on earth can they pull out of supporting them in the Six Nations now? Two international games a season is no way near enough for a team that is preparing to compete in a rugby world cup. Nor is it a sensible move to encourage the growth and support of the women’s game in Wales.
The WRU appears to give the impression that they believe that the job it is doing currently is enough to support the development of rugby in Wales. The reports in the media from club sides, and now this serious issue with reducing funding for the women’s game completely contradicts that view.
The WRU is in a position to really work together with the clubs for the benefit of Welsh rugby as a whole, especially as we now ride on the wave of confidence from the men’s senior side doing so well. Sadly it does not appear there are those at the WRU able to see the real issues facing the sport in Wales.