Fantasy Rugby

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With the start of the season only six weeks away and the transfer merry-go-round well under way, based on a salary cap of £1.5m, here’s our estimation for how the present squad structure breaks down and how we would spend the money. Most of the salaries are guess-work, but some we know for sure. As for our Cardiff team, what we think we’re lacking are two French backs – Stefan Glas and Christope Lamaison would be money better spent than the moeny wasted on Jenkins’ form last season. In the forwards, we’ve gone for Rubens Kruger as an essential experienced head in the back row.


CRFC’s spending Tom and Phil’s spending
(Based on a budget of £1.5m)
Back Three
Paul Jones £20,000 Paul Jones £20,000
Rhys Williams £30,000 Rhys Williams £40,000
Mike Rayer £25,000 Mike Rayer £25,000
Craig Morgan £25,000 Craig Morgan £25,000
Nick Walne £40,000 Nick Walne £40,000
Richard Newton £15,000 Richard Newton £15,000
Gareth Thomas £100,000 Gareth Thomas £100,000
Pieter Muller £60,000 Pieter Muller £60,000
Jamie Robinson £25,000 Jamie Robinson £25,000
Stefan Glas £75,000
Half Backs
Neil Jenkins £200,000 Christophe Lamaison £120,000
Lee Davies £25,000 Paul Burke £60,000
Robert Howley £150,000 Robert Howley £150,000
Ryan Powell £25,000 Ryan Powell £25,000
Back Row
Greg Kacala £25,000 Greg Kacala £25,000
Emyr Lewis £40,000 Emyr Lewis £40,000
Owain Williams £25,000 Ruben Kruger £80,000
Martyn Williams £35,000 Martyn Williams £35,000
Phil Wheeler £20,000 Phil Wheeler £20,000
Dan Baugh £25,000 Dan Baugh £35,000
Second Row
Craig Quinnell £125,000 Craig Quinnell £85,000
Martin Morgan £15,000 Martin Morgan £20,000
Mike Voyle £100,000 Steve Williams £40,000
John Tait £25,000 John Tait £30,000
Steve Moore £35,000 Steve Moore £25,000
Spencer John £50,000 Spencer John £50,000
Dai Young £80,000 Dai Young £80,000
Gary Powell £20,000 Gary Powell £20,000
Damien Geraghty £20,000 Damien Geraghty £20,000
Andrew Lewis £60,000 Andrew Lewis £60,000
Jon Humphreys £60,000 Jon Humphreys £60,000


Tom and Phil’s Lions XXXVII

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Everyone’s at it – so here’s our Lions XXXVII. Thirty seven players is a very large party, but the flexibility of players to play in a number of positions could be the key for this tour. England have demonstrated that an over-dependence on skill in one position limits attacking potential.

To give balance, we went for a non-English captain, and Keith Wood is one of the few players guaranteed to be in the starting line up for the tests.

The English full backs pick themselves with Perry the starter for the first test. We’ve gone for speedsters on the wing (who can tackle – of course) instead of the donkeys Gunner Woodward likes to pick. Craig Morgan is chosen because he’s better than Shane Williams. Our test wingers would be Robinson and Healy

Gibbs’ days are past – crash ball inside centres are a thing of the past. Likewise the ponderous and clumsy Greenwood is omitted. We prefer the option of Townsend or Catt in an extra SH role at inside centre. O’Driscoll is class and looks to start with Catt.

FB Perry, Balshaw
WTB HealeyRobinson, Craig Morgan, Hickie, Thomas
C CattO’Driscoll, Townsend, Henderson, Taylor
OH Wilkinson, Jenkins
SH Howley, Dawson, Bracken
Props SmithVickery, Morris, Young, Leonard
H Wood (c), West, Greening
SR JohnsonGrewcock, Murray, O’Kelly, Davidson
BR DallaglioQuinnellBack, Hill, Charvis, Poutney, Wallace

Four half backs are so far ahead of the competition, they pick themselves, though we’d start with Wilkinson and Howley.

Tight head props in the Six Nations have been thin on the ground, and we’re banking on Smith-Wood-Vickery as our Test front row. Dai Young get’s the nod for the tough mid-week dirt tracker fixtures.

Competition in the second row is very tough indeed with any two from five likely to make the tests, though we’d probably pick Johnson and Grewcock.

Our back row looks as strong as any the Ozzies can put on the park, but we’d probably start with Back, Quinnell and Larry.

What will decide the test matches will be the platform the forwards give and that extra bit of unorthodoxy and inventiveness that players like Healy, Robinson, O’Driscoll and Howley can provide.

No Celtic League next season

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With all the concentration on the incompetance of Gethin, Peter Owens, Trevor James, David Pickering and yes – unfortunately – Graham Henry we’ve all failed to notice that the Irish Rugby Union has rejected a Celtic League next season.

If players are dropped for poor performances and not winning points for Wales in the Six Nations, what sanction should this gang of five suffer for their incompetance and amatuer approach to checking players’ eligability?

So within the space of a year, the WRU has precided over the decimation of a winning squad and failed to deliver a competitive structure for next season.

Why do we need this bunch of parasites? Their rank incompetance is destroying our national game and making us a laughing stock on the world stage. Their abysmal organisational skills have produced an imbalanced domestic league where overweight and overpaid players are not capable of competiting with the best in Europe, let alone the world. And where has that 14 million gone …..?

Our only hope is with club leaders with business sense who can run our clubs on a professional basis. Whilst the heart of those running clubs like Neath is to be admired on one hand – putting their hand in their pockets to help the club – this is surely not the answer. Professionalism in Wales is not only lacking on the pitch – it is clearly lack in off it as well!

We need a system where players and administrators are accountable to the fans – for it is we who pay their wages. All power to a Welsh Supporters Association!

Whilst in the wake of the string of defeats we’ve suffered this year, many people have said “we’re simply not good enough”, no one seems to have worked out why the same players who beat South Africa have fallen to such poor levels this year.

The answer is clear. It’s the lack of real domestic competition. So-called “top games” this season have been woeful in the standard of rugby played. Players can coast along 2 stone heavier than they should be (where are all those people who said Pies Snr would play Dillydallyo off the pitch?) in the Village League, but against AD Premiership players, they can’t handle the pace.

Last year, our players were either in the AD Premiership playing rugby for English clubs (Howarth, Bateman, Rogers, Pies Snr and Jnr) or playing against them (Thomas, Taylor, Howely, Charvis, Young, Jenkins).

The WRU are to blame for this defeat. They had the opportunity to have five teams in a British League this year and they turned it down. Now the chance may be lost forever as the English say “why do we need Welsh clubs?”.

Without a British League, Welsh rugby is destined for the second division.

Will the Union ever change?

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The pasting handed out to Swansea by Leicester should ring alarm bells in WRUin Head Office. The Committee should assemble, bringing the best of Ammanford, Aberystwyth and Talybont Rugby Clubs to solve the problems associated with the professional game in Wales.It’s alright Peter Thomas – the boys in Morriston Rugby Club will solve all your problems and make sure that Welsh Club Rugby will be strong for years to come.

So we have the problem of the Welsh/Scottish League leaders being embarrassingly outplayed and basically anhilated by the leaders of the Zurich Premiership in England. Or is it a problem?

The boys down in Narberth have a new club house with a nice bar, Morriston will have a new scrummaging machine, so of course the ticket revenue and sponsors money is being well spent.

Hence the problem that Peter Thomas faces.

He wants his club to play at the highest possible standard every week – and that means the Zurich Premiership. To allow this to happen, League rugby in Wales must admit to being weak and, therefore, making the players ill prepared for the big European games.

So all that needs to happen is for the better teams in Wales – the Candy Assed Four + One – to approach the Committee and say “Send us on our way and Wales will be saved!”.

But this will never happen.

Because, should this meeting ever occur AGAIN, it will mean that Mr Morriston does not have his new scrummaging machine, and Mr Narberth will no longer have his nice new bar to prop up.

In short they will vote themselves out of existence. Money generated from sponsors and international ticket revenue should be spent supporting an elite of no more than 120 professional players in Wales, or 4 squads of 30. This money is presently available, but is spread across too many teams.

The Zurich teams will be guaranteed £1.8m per team if they agree their deal – the Welsh teams receive less than £500,000.

To guarantee that the Welsh teams would be on sure footing, the WRUin would have to find an extra £1m per season for its top teams, and this will be done from saving the money it wastes in Division 3 and television sponsorship deals for games played in Wales.

Then Welsh teams could compete on an equal level, Peter Thomas could compete at the level he desires, but Mr Narberth wouldn’t be able to pay his wobbling prop £30 a game . . . . . . . . . oh dear!

Corporate Sponsorship

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There’s been a lot of rubbish written in the press lately about corporate sponsorship and the way the strawberries and cream set are running off with our tickets. The evil Mike Burton is pictured as depriving the good honest fan of tickets for the big game. But all this is far too superficial.

Let’s look at the real cause of the problem, and once more, its our friends in the WRU.

Can clubs be blamed for selling their ticket allocation on to people like Burton, or to allocating tickets to sponsors? The money raised is pumped back into the club, whether to maintain wages for the type of players we, as club supporters, want to see, or to maintain club facilities. Either way, the money is used for the benefit of the club. As rugby supporters, do we really expect it any other way? Should we expect magnanimous clubs to guarantee their supports all the tickets allocated by the WRU? Wouldn’t this deprive the clubs – all clubs – of a valuable way of raising revenue to invest in the game?

No, the real cause of the problem here is the WRU. If they were really committed to looking after the typical supporter – those that loyally follow their club week after week – and not so-called rugby fans who wouldn’t know one end of a club house from another, then why don’t they legislate that all tickets released to clubs must be sold to members and not the likes of Burton and his ilk? So the press attacking Burton misses the point. They are attacking the symptom and not the root cause of the problem. The WRU is quite aware of the service Burton and other corporate sponsors offer smaller and poorer clubs. They condone the selling of tickets to non-fans. That’s professionalism, progress and capitalism for you bois! If you’ve got the wad, you’ll get the ticket and the WRU is quite happy with the situation, thank you very much.

Yet another area where the WRU have been quite happy to take the back seat and do nothing about next year’s fixture list, has been their Trappist silence on the attitude and actions of the RFU. The talk in the press recently, was that the Celtic Nations may only get £12m of the Sky money that the RFU unilaterally secured. The RFU have also unilaterally decided the winners of the Tetley Bitter Cup will qualify for Europe. Now they’re deciding to move the Six Nations. But what’s worse, they’re deciding on our fixture list for next season and there’s no one from the WRU standing up for Welsh clubs at their closed door meetings.

So let’s look at what we’ve got in Wales. A sponsorless Premier Division, a sponsorless knock out competition and a future devoid of any leadership from the WRU. On the pitch, in Llanelli and Cardiff we have two of the best teams in Europe, but what will happen next season? If the WRU allow the RFU to dominate and decide next year’s structure, then how long will the money last in Wales? Unless Welsh clubs get a hold of some television money, their future is bleak. If the RFU sign a multi-million pound television deal enriching the English clubs further, how long before the wealth they will accumulate will result in a talent drain of Welsh players across the border? Already the national press and television is dominated by English club rugby, can Wales continue to hold onto its best players in the future? Our view is that we either create a British League now (as proposed by the Scotsman Walkinshaw) or the gap will widen. The 57 old farts are determined to hang on to their privileges, so unless real pressure is put on them from the start, they’ll pick up the ball and run away with it!

Our plea to the WRU is talk with the RFU now, try and influence them now, before they set the agenda and the English dominate our domestic rugby, not by beating us on the pitch, but by beating us in the board room and the wallet.

European Quarter Finals and Henry’s meaningless trial

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So Cardiff are laying to waste all those who stand in front of them in the European Cup. But what will happen if we beat Harlequins next week? Well consulting the rule book, it seems that the top team in each group and the two best second-placed teams will go through to the quarter-finals.

If two or more teams finish level on points the most tries scored in all pool games will decide the rankings.

The six pool winners will be ranked 1-6 and the runners-up seventh and eight. The pairings for the quarter finals will be …

1 vs 8
2 vs 7
3 vs 6
4 vs 5

So as things stand now, the most likely scenario will be

Tolouse (23 tries) vs Wasps (7 tries)
Munster (16) vs Montferrand (13)
Northamption (14) vs Stade Francais (18)
Llanelli (13) vs Cardiff (11)

(This assumes Cardiff win against Harlequins and Llanelli beat Wasps at Stradey). The only way Cardiff will get a home draw is if Neath beat Northampton! Otherwise there’s a chance for more revenge in the quarter finals. Either way though, this is bad for Welsh rugby as the idiots in the WRU have agreed to a system where unless two Welsh teams reach the semi-finals, our representation will be cut to two teams only from next year!

We were disappointed to read the comments of Leighton Samuel of Bridgend who is not in favour of the much needed British League – unlike Fran Cotton amongst others. His view is that all Welsh clubs are not ready for it! Speak for yourself, mate! Judging by your position in the league and by the amount of corrugated iron in your stadium, you lot sure aren’t ready. As for Neath, well, whatever Lyn saysthey can’t even catch a plane in Europe. Despite Pontypridd’s arrogant assertion that they could win the European Cup this year, they just seem content to concede record scores each week – alright in your own valley, but can’t travel. Swansea have disappointed this season, and there seems to be a real lack of enthusiasm for the fight. Gibbs seems to have lost interest in the Village League and with his and Arwel’s contracts end at the end of this season, no British League with Swansea in it will definitely see them leaving! That leaves us with Llanelli, and however reluctantly we say it, they’ve done even better than Cardiff this season. They may have had a better draw than Cardiff did, but nevertheless they’ve won away in France – something we quite clearly failed to do. Here’s the latest French League Table.

Finally, turning to the Village League, Graham Henry totally unnecessary trial match is going to force another mid-week game for Cardiff. If this game – against Llanelli – goes on during the Five Nations, we’re going to be without our best players. Whilst we admire your comments on the neanderthal from Sardis, what is the point in this game? What do you hope to learn? Not only have you buggered up our fixture list, you could injure half our team in a meaningless circus. Is that the sound of ego we can hear?

Tom Walkinshaw’s British League

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There seems to have been a lot of villagism written lately about Uncle Tom’s proposals for a British League. He seems to have created alot of antogonism amongst the natives who are content to watch rugby on rice paddy pitches, trench warfare toilets and deserted terraces. Thank God for Uncle Tom, we say! Nob’s busy maintaining the power of the 57 old farts and hanging the rest of us out to dry (should we have expected any thing else?). So how about the future? Well there seems to be two scenarios.

1. The English go their own way and form their own league. Insufficient funding wrecks the Welsh game, Peter the Pieman and that bloke from Newbridge Networks move their wads elsewhere. Top players can’t earn enough to fill the petrol tank of a Lada, let alone drive the Beemers they all want and they leave across the border. We’re left with another wasted generation of talent (this time going east instead of north) and Welsh rugby once more plumments to sub-Romanian standards.

2. Uncle Tom and others stick a collective two fingers up at the Buffers in the English Rugby Union and the Welsh village luddites (what a strange alliance!) and set up their own Premier League. We get to watch top stars, whether they’re playing for Gloucester, Bath or Bristol. We get huge crowds and a real atmosphere and see the likes of Pat Lam, John Preston and Henry Honiball playing every week. TV sponsorship means we get decent pitches. Professionalism and increased competition means sub-standard effort is not tolerated and the players performance levels increase. Coaches are judged on results and not on whether they’re good buddies with the national coach.

Can’t see much of a choice here! One means the death of the game in Wales and one means top rugby each week.

As for which teams should join the league, why not put the supporter first, and set minimal standards on facilities – access to the ground, seating, toilets, ground capacity? Assuming these are met, then qualification should be meritocratic – top four in the league please!

What’s all the fuss about? Next year’s rugby is suddenly looking rosy again ….. thank you Uncle Tom.

No respect

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So Wales’ World Cup dream has finally come to a crushing end. The squad gave their best, but were beaten by clearly the better team. It was a shame that refereeing decisions marred such a big occasion. Though we’ve mentioned the woeful standard of domestic referees on this page before, it was disappointing to see a global fall in standards.

Now that the World Cup’s over for Wales, we’re now all aching to see Cardiff’s first XV bannish the memories of Stradey and turn on some real rugby prior to the start of the European campaign.

On the team that has fought its way to only four points behind the present league leaders (who still have to play us in two four pointers, home and away), players likeSteve Williams and Paul Burke have done us proud in the absense of so many first team players.

It was very disappointing to see that despite Owain Williams appalling lack of respect for the punters who pay his wages, his obscene jesture to a fan at Caerphilly went unpunished. This comes as little suprise though, and it was rediculous – but wholely predictable – that Robert Norster and other back room faceless individuals have done nothing to fine or suspend Mr Williams. Such indiscipline and arrogance will store up trouble for future amateur performances.

We are disappointed with your lack of respect for the fans.

Conflict over co-operation

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With the season kicking off with Newport’s biggest crowd since BBC Radio Wales were impartial, Cardiff’s season kicked off with a whimper. As predicted, a lack of firepower up front resulted in the first loss of the season. With games against Bridgend and the WRU, sorry Llanelli, away to come, September looks like being a miserable month for us. More pain and little gain.

Although Cardiff missed 13 of the their first choice players, what was most disappointing about the afternoon was the lack of high class rugby that we got used to when watching Cardiff play away last season. OK, so most of the class was coming from the opposition last season, but at least we got more “ball-in-play-rugby-minutes” for our money.

The Welsh Village League is overly controlled by sub-standard referees who far from trying to keep the game flowing and enable the crowd to get their money’s worth, they want to impose their “presence” on the game. In short, they think they are bigger than the players. Pains us as it does to say this, Gareth Jenkins, one of the best coaches in Wales, called it right when he voiced concern over the lack of communication between coaches and referees so far this season.

Instead of aiming to improve the entertainment value of rugby and improve standards, referees seem to still want to maintain the school-teacher approach to refereeing – conflict over co-operation.

Welsh rugby needs more investors

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With more big money signings by Newport, it’s good to see that our traditional rivals are building a squad that will take them into the British League in the autumn of next year.

Far from wishing they’d rot in hell (as a certain ex-coach of Newport wished on our club), the more high class players that play for the opposition, the more meaningfull games we’ll see.

For too many years, domestic (nee village) rugby in Wales meant an opposition playing negative rugby with matches plagued by inept referees only interested in raising their profile.

With a stronger Newport next year all we need is referees whose decisions are made with the spectator in mind, and not their own publicity, and we may get value for money from our season tickets.

What we need are officials who reward teams who try to move the ball wide, and penalise teams who constantly slow down the ball at the breakdown.

We don’t want constant scrums when the ball fails to emerge, we want penalties against teams who infringe at the breakdown.

Fast open rugby is the only way forward for Welsh rugby – both at club level and at international level.

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