Paul Williams reports on the usual month of trials and tribulations in Wales, where he turns his focus on the WRU EGM, Gareth Anscombe and IRB windows
Probables v Possibles was a success.
Many may question the on-field benefits of the Probables v Possibles fixture – however the off-field benefits were undoubted. The fixture was a sell-out – a rarity during the 2013/14 season in Wales. This year you would have found it easier to sell Austin Healey’s autobiography in South Wales than a ticket to watch rugby at one of the region’s grounds. But sell the tickets they did. All of them.
It was a valuable marketing exercise, one which followed the Aviva model where flexible ticket pricing gets bums on seats. And bums on seats look good in front of the camera. And bums on seats in front of cameras attracts sponsors. And so on and so forth. Hopefully a lot has been learned from the Probables v Possibles fixture – off the field at least.
WRU face an EGM
There will be no off season in Welsh rugby this year – it’s very much game on. David Moffett has forced the Welsh Rugby Union into an Emergency General Meeting. Forty-two clubs voted for the EGM which will take place on the 15th June in the Princess Royal Theatre, Port Talbot. It’s quite an achievement and one that shouldn’t be underestimated. Moffett’s campaign has almost become like Welsh Rugby’s ‘Wikileaks’. A deliberate drip feed of pertinent information, mostly via non-traditional media, that has made people genuinely re-appraise the situation in Welsh rugby.
Of course, whether David Moffett succeeds in his bid to gain a position on the WRU board remains to be seen. As do the legitimate reasons behind the 42 clubs calling for an EGM. It is possible that the discontented member clubs only take issue with the WRU’s proposed restructuring of Wales’ lower leagues and not the whole of Moffett’s manifesto. June will be a huge month in Welsh rugby.
In May it emerged that Warren Gatland was actively chasing Gareth Anscombe – the Chief’s outside half/ fullback. The decision to pursue Anscombe’s signature has been met with a degree of derision in Wales. But that’s very unfair. There are no fake passports. No-one has cobbled together a dodgy family-tree in Abercwmboi. This isn’t an embarrassing Shane Howarth scenario. Or even an often unpalatable residency qualification.
Gareth Anscombe’s mother was born in Cardiff. He has as much right to play for Wales as Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland or James Hook. In a difficult period for Welsh rugby where Welsh qualified players are actively leaving the country it may be foolish to oppose a genuinely Welsh qualified player arriving in Wales.
Slight change of tack with the Welsh squad
The Probables v Possibles fixture, the first public Welsh trial in 14 years, saw Warren Gatland name his touring squad for South Africa shortly after the final whistle. Aptly, the forwards selected show what will be ‘probable’ in South Africa – the absence of Wales’ two legitimately world class open sides mean that Gatland has opted for a back row mix of two No. 8’s, a six and two six and a halves. This policy could work very well against a Springbok pack that has the sort of mass that you would usually associate with water-based mammals, not those that roam on land.
But it is in the backline where Gatland has shown what may be ‘possible’. Whilst it may be true that a good big’un beats a good little’un in the pack – in the backs, on occasion, little’uns can make big’uns look like clowns. I’m not suggesting that Jordan Williams and Matthew Morgan will start the tests, but their presence on the bench, particularly the versatile Williams, would present Gatland with an option that he hasn’t had since Shane Williams retired from test rugby. Interesting selections Mr Gatland.
Wales don’t understand how windows work.
There are many complicated concepts and rules in rugby. The new interpretation of a forward pass being just one – forward is now the new backward, particularly in Super Rugby. However, whilst rugby is littered with rules and regulations that many understandably struggle with; there remains one rule which couldn’t be simpler. The IRB international window. We all have windows in our houses. They’re simple contraptions. They open and they close.
In the case of rugby the IRB decides when it opens and when it closes. Yet in Wales we still seem struggle with this basic concept. The recent squad that was selected for the Probables vs Possibles featured numerous players from Aviva Premiership clubs whom had absolutely no chance of playing that game. Of all the windows to mess with. The Aviva windows don’t even have a ‘safety feature’ so should you get your hand caught ‘mid close’ the Aviva windows snap your arm off and fine you a significant amount of money. Just ask Northampton, who got their arm caught in an Aviva window last season. It cost them £60,000 for allowing George North to play against the Wallabies. Ouch!