Welsh rugby gets its house in order
The Welsh language was removed from the list of endangered languages in July. Until August, it looked as though Welsh rugby may have been added to the list of endangered sports. Thankfully, Welsh rugby now has a new Rugby Services Agreement (RSA). The details of the agreement have been widely reported and are now largely academic. What matters now is that the blueprint for rugby in Wales is strictly adhered to – by both parties. No pulling a ‘fast one’, no sleight of hand and no stabs in the back – and hopefully no more spiteful press releases. Welsh rugby cannot afford another 6 months of infighting – it simply can’t. The last 18 months have been horrendous and have delivered the type of scenes that you would expect to witness in the Big Brother kitchen, not one of the oldest unions in the game.
Adam Jones signs for Blues
August saw Adam Jones signed for the Cardiff Blues. The move raised so many eyebrows that it looked like the entire Welsh rugby public had received Botox – en mass. But it shouldn’t. Like Sam Warburton, Jones is one of those unfortunate players who were dragged into the Welsh rugby’s bun fight. The final bun was thrown by the Ospreys who released a statement highlighting their disappointment that Jones has signed for the Cardiff outfit. However, the final deal tabled by the Ospreys was dependant on the signing of the new RSA – which at the time didn’t exist. It is therefore no surprise that Adam Jones took the job offer from Cardiff Blues. It offers one year of financial stability and guarantees that he remains in Wales during the build up to what will be his last Rugby World Cup. It was the right move for Adam Jones at the time. Whether fellow Cardiff Blues tightheads, Craig Mitchell and Scott Andrews, feel the same is doubtful…
Gatland proves his worth off the field
Gatland’s influence on the field has never really been in question. He has filled Welsh rugby’s trophy cabinet on numerous occasions and will hopefully repeat the achievements during this year’s Six Nations and, with a leap of faith, maybe even the RWC2015. However, August saw Gatland’s influence extend beyond his core role – Gatland has been praised for his involvement in the signing of the RSA. It’s hardly surprising that Gatland has managed to help drive the political situation in Wales towards a resolution. When he speaks, you listen.
He is used to controlling men some of whom stand at 6ft 9in and weigh 125kg. The sight of 12 stone administrators in pinstripe suits isn’t exactly a daunting scenario for Mr Gatland and there is no one in Welsh rugby who can articulate the country’s on-field needs better than the head coach of the national team. When Warren Gatland finally leaves Wales, which he will, his impact shouldn’t be judged on trophies alone – without his influence the landscape of Welsh rugby as a whole may have looked very different.
Positive friendly results
Yes of course, friendly results aren’t an accurate barometer of a team’s potential for the season ahead – some teams rotate almost an entire squad during the course of 80 minutes. However, there have been some notable results for the Welsh regions during August. The Scarlets beat Gloucester who have spent biiiiiiiiig over the summer and the Newport Gwent Dragons beat Northampton Saints who started the game with what many may regard as their first XV. Both results should come as a genuine confidence booster for both regions. The Newport Gwent Dragons, whose pack has come under criticism in recent seasons, managed to beat a Saints squad with one of the most intimidating set of forwards in the Aviva Premiership. Whilst the Scarlets rolled over a Gloucester setup that has attracted the coaching credentials of David Humphreys alongside the playing talent of John Afoa, James Hook and Richard Hibbard to name but a few. These friendly victories obviously shouldn’t be dwelled on. But equally they shouldn’t be ignored.
August points to November
August saw the start of The Rugby Championship which will have given the Welsh squad a glimpse of what they can expect to face in November – and with regards to the All Blacks a mere glimpse of their performance against the Wallabies in Bledisloe 2 will have been enough to induce a panic attack. In just eight weeks Wales will play the big three and get a genuine picture of where they stand in world rugby before the big event in 2015. Whist Welsh rugby has spent the last 18 months shooting itself in the foot (hand, arms, thighs, back, stomach and face), rugby has moved on in the Southern Hemisphere – particularly in New Zealand. Their execution in all aspects of the game against Australia in the second Bledisloe test was remarkable. They made the third best team in the world look like a SWALEC Divison Three outfit. The level at which the All Blacks are currently playing is 20% higher than anything that the Wallabies and Boks are able to produce – let alone Wales. August has shown that November could be a long month for Welsh rugby.