By Paul Williams
The most critical statement yet
The statements from the WRU and Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) continued unabated in February. It’s no surprise. In fact during the last six months both have issued more statements than a malfunctioning cash-point machine. However the latest instalment, issued by RRW on February 28th, was particularly noteworthy. There was a change in language, and in tone, which reveals the bone-deep cuts that exist between both parties.
“for any long-term partnership to succeed, the requirement for trust is paramount”.
‘the lack of trust between the WRU Executive and the Regional Organisations is at the core of the current dispute about the Participation agreement’.
‘The Regions believe that the inadequacy of the Governance of the WRU is at the root cause of the issues faced by the Regions’
The entire saga between RRW and the WRU is patently a major cause for concern. However, the most recent statement from RRW is far more serious. Issues of competitions, financial remuneration and sponsorship can, as a result of commercial pressure, nearly always be resolved by people sitting around tables. Rebuilding trust between two mutually distrustful parties, as many high profile boardroom disputes have proved, often means certain individuals being removed from those tables.
Rhodri Jones v Samson Lee
Rhodri Jones v Samson Lee. I’m not suggesting that as a battle. That would have enormous consequences on the geography of South Wales. The collisions could cause such an impact that it may split the continental crust of West Wales and leave Llanelli as an ‘island nation’ drifting in the Bristol Channel. However, the question remains. Why is Samson Lee the first choice at the Scarlets, yet not even second choice, after Adam Jones, for Wales? Yet Rhodri Jones, who is very much a squad player at the Scarlets, is the second choice tight-head for Wales.
The advantages of the shorter backed Samson Lee have been obvious this season and the new scrummaging protocols suit him down to the ground – he was man of the match against Munster. Equally, the gargantuan frame of Rhodri Jones clearly represents a significant advantage in the loose – although maybe not so much under the new scrummaging protocols. The Welsh squad has a few selection dilemmas that dominate the headlines at present – Biggar v Priestland and Webb v Phillips etc. But perhaps one of the most important, Rhodri Jones v Samson Lee is being overlooked.
Olly Barkley. Astute signing
It seems like a long time since Wales imported a quality Non Welsh Qualified player. The days of Xavier Rush, Casey Laulala, Justin Marshall and their ilk are a long and distant memory. However, Olly Barkley’s arrival at the Scarlets may have just bucked that trend. Admittedly, Olly Barkley may only be a on temporary contract and many will argue that his arrival doesn’t carry the same gravitas as Regan King or David Lyons .However, he has already had a significant impact at the Scarlets – Barkley was instrumental in the Scarlets win over Munster.
He has an accurate passing game and has already helped to open the backline with a series of simple miss two’s and three’s from inside centre – a backline that is missing its marquee names through test call ups and injury. One cannot question Barkley’s commitment to the Scarlets cause either. Unlike many who arrived in Wales for a paycheck, the former England man isn’t shy of trucking the ball up the 10/12 channel or clearing out a few rucks. Many will hope that Barkley stays past May. Sadly, I doubt he will but hope I’m proved wrong.
Darren Edwards departs the Dragons
This season the Dragons have adopted an intricate offloading game on the field. But the offloading doesn’t end there. The Dragons are continuing their offloading game off the field too. Darren Edwards is the latest to be released from Rodney Parade. Many will question the release of Edwards, who has numerous supporters within the Welsh rugby public and media, however, thus far the recruitment strategy at the Dragons has been effective.
The Dragons are now seventh in the Pro 12 – four points ahead of Cardiff Blues. And their recruitment policy has made a dramatic contribution to their league position. Lyn Jones and Kingsley Jones have scorched a very clear brand on Dragons’ rugby. So has another recruit – Richie Rees – who has had a dramatic impact on the Dragon’s overall ruck speed. Whether the reported signing of Gavin Henson has the same impact remains to be seen. Interestingly, the mosquito-like Matthew Morgan may also be looking for a new club…
Senior Welsh test players’ deserve praise
It’s tricky being a senior test player in Wales. When things go wrong you get all of the blame. When things go right you don’t necessarily get the praise – supporters expect you to perform at that level without exception. But it isn’t always possible. Sometimes it takes senior players to have an ‘off day’ to appreciate their ‘on day’.
Against France, Adam Jones, Gethin Jenkins, Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton executed their core skillsets to test level – and then some. And whilst they were admittedly playing a below average French test team, Wales went beyond that. They made a below average French team look not fit for purpose at test level. On that note Philippe Saint Andre is a long way from deserving praise – it will be interesting to see if he survives beyond this campaign.