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.

Talented Full Backs

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With such a rich talent of young players such as Rhys Williams and Craig Morgan, it was good to see that the board failed in their attempt to lure a certain 31 year old to our club. With Rayer’s experience, these two players should learn from their mentor and go on to challenge for the Welsh full back position.

This week has seen another village-style farse with Eddie Jones being sacrificed on the pyre of amateurism. The ginger monster’s revealed that he’s always been a fan of our club but will there be any further recruits from the land of the Montego.

The departure of Lee Jarvis is a blow for the fans as another talented youngster leaves the club. Will he swap his Z3 for a Montego?

Good luck Justin at Newport – watch out for the high balls on 4th September!

A new captain and a new scrum half

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Two pieces of news came from our club today – one, the announcement of David Young as captain next year and another, the recruitment of Kevin Ellis.

Something that we called for in the middle of the season just passed, Kevin Ellis is an inspirational character whose guts and determination will bring a much needed motivating factor to the squad. Although not in the prime of his youth, his wholehearted committment to the cause, tenacious tackling and visionary attacking skills will give us a back up at scrum half sorely lacking last season.

The re-appointment of Dai Young as captain, however, is a bewildering decision. Rarely present for 80 minutes on the pitch, Dai’s contribution to the game is built around his world class scrummaging and abrasive approach to tight play. Mr Motivator, he is not. Rarely do you see him rousing his team to greater efforts, encouraging or admonishing where needed and leading from the front. He’s a private man and not an extrovert. Time and time again, our team has produced fragmented performances – playing as a group of individuals rather than as a team. Why doesn’t Humph get the captaincy? Can anyone explain?

European Cup Draw

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With the announcement of the European Cup fixtures, Cardiff’s group contains the French Champions, Monferrand a formidable team on their home ground, Harlequins, the team Cardiff did the doubleagainst last year Treviso. Montferrand are famous for bucketfulls of machsimo, so let’s hope for a strong referee in November!

Whilst there’ll be some tough games for Cardiff, Swansea’s group contains two ex-European champions in Bath and Tolouse as well as Padova.

Llanelli face last years champions, Ulster, though their group will offer less challenging games against Bourgoin (who Cardiff already beat at home and lost by a point away, two years ago) and Wasps. Lyn Jones will get a chance to prove that his players can do more than catch a plane in Europe, with easy games against Northamption(!), Grenoble and Edinburgh. The much weakened Ponty squad will face Saracens (Montego vs remote control), Colomiers and Munster.

Our first game will be at home to Harlequins on the weekend of November 20th with our trip to France planned for the following weekend. This is Cardiff’s game of the season – the real test of our team’s metal is winning away in France. Forget meaningless domestic games against beer swilling amateurs, can we win away in France? See you there!

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