Wales Autumn International Squad

Wales Squad for Invesco Perpetual Series ’09:

Backs (13): Dan Biggar (Ospreys), Gareth Cooper (Blues), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets), Leigh Halfpenny (Blues), James Hook (Ospreys), Tom James (Blues), Mark Jones (Scarlets), Stephen Jones (Scarlets), Dwayne Peel (Sale Sharks), Jamie Roberts (Blues), Martin Roberts (Scarlets), Tom Shanklin (Blues), Shane Williams (Ospreys).

Forwards (16): Huw Bennett (Ospreys), Luke Charteris (Dragons), Bradley Davies (Blues), Paul James (Ospreys), Gethin Jenkins (Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys), Dafydd Jones (Scarlets), Duncan Jones (Ospreys), Ryan Jones (Ospreys, captain), Dan Lydiate (Dragons), Craig Mitchell (Ospreys), Andy Powell (Blues), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Jonathan Thomas (Ospreys), Sam Warburton (Blues), Martyn Williams (Blues)

Top 5 Peculiar Gaits of Welsh Rugby

Welsh rugby’s best talents are poetry in motion.  Like ballet dancers; perfectly balanced, graceful and effortless, the likes of Shane Williams are living embodiments of the beauty of the game.  Indeed, while at Amman United, excitable song and dance man Shane would often pelt down the left-wing in a top hat and tails, carrying a cane. 

However, some top players walk and run a bit funny, and we laugh at them.  But not to their faces, of course…

Here are a top 5 of Welsh rugby stars that stand apart.


1. Cai Griffiths
Since breaking into the Ospreys squad in the 2007/8 season, prop Cai Griffiths has improved his line-out support play by wearing high-heels made to look like rugby boots.  This can cause the 20st 4lb hulk to totter somewhat, and ‘mince’ from the defensive line into offside positions.

Since Gavin Henson’s shock sabbatical, Griffiths now uses his old locker.  According to Henson, three hairnets, a bottle of tan and a Remington Ladyshave have still not been returned.


2. Tom James
Still comparatively early in his rugby development, Blues wing Tom James’ hard-learnt capacity to carry a ball while running at the same time has come at a cost.  Dubbed ‘Chicken Run’ by sympathetic Blues fans, James will occasionally wear talons on his socks, and…well… runs like a chicken.

Wales attack coach Rob Howley’s success at stopping James from at least flapping his elbows mid-stride is listed as his greatest career achievement. 


3. Rob Sidoli
Back-in-from-the-cold Dragons lock and former Grand Slam winner Rob Sidoli earned his nickname on account of both his peculiar gait, and his dietary preferences.  Indeed, the marked dip in form suffered by ‘The Horse’ in recent seasons came as opposing fans exploited his passion for sugar cubes. 

Now fitted with blinkers, Sidoli is able to give his full attention to set-piece moves and no longer wanders off at the promise of a carrot.


4. Jonathan Davies (not that one, the other one)
Star Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies defies the laws of physics by accelerating to immense speed without appearing to bend either of his knees.  Nerds at the University of Narberth have used special slow-motion photography to ascertain that Davies does in fact bend his knees, which on closer inspection are only 4 inches above his ankles. 

“I could have told you that,” balked Scarlets coach Nigel Davies. 


5. Mark Jones    
According to legend, osteopath’s dream and Builth Wells boy Mark Jones learnt his tackling skills playing ‘sheepdog’ on the family farm.  Two knees later, and bionic Jones has developed a mental concentration technique to distract his pain receptors from the shooting sciatic agony pulsing into his brain stem.  At speeds of over 20mph, Jones imagines he is a dog eating a plate of hot chips, causing him to pull a succession of hilarious facial expressions.

To make him feel even more ridiculous, Jones’ regional playing contract includes a bonus marrowbone for every try scored.  At the end of the 2006 season, Jones earned the coveted Carwyn James Memorial Slipper.

A debt worth incurring?

Leighton Samuel, Tony Brown, Peter Pie Thomas, Roger Blyth, Mike Cuddy, Huw Woss-Name at Llanelli, that fella who used to manage Oasis but also owned Ebbw Vale (talk about rock ‘n roll); the old Welsh rugby benefactors have shrunk in number and there doesn’t seem to be a new breed ready to replace them.
Do we owe them a debt of gratitude?  Frankly, I wouldn’t want to owe them anything.  I mean, imagine getting behind on your payments with one of them.  Sheeesh…  It’s not that they aren’t pillars of their local communities or anything.  Every one of them gives loads to charity (probably) but then so did fellow rugby benefactor Bryn Cartwright off of ‘Twin Town’ and he was the sort of bloke who had people beaten to death in pub car parks etc., despite being a chiefly fictional character.

Fair play mind, they sunk their pennies in without hope of payback when the professional game was still finding its feet. 

Chucking a load of money at a rugby team must have seemed good for nothing except some local notoriety and a quick bit of money laundering, but in the very long-run it might prove a worthwhile investment.

These leathery old soaks must know that the WRU will buy all the player contracts out at some point in the future, and run the elite game in Wales centrally.  The only question is: does the WRU know it yet?

A lot was made during the close season about the Ospreys signing half-a-dozen of Wales’ scrum half contingents – something that would never be allowed to happen with central contracting and/or an NFL-style ‘draft’ system.   This incidentally, while the Scarlets make do with a very green Martin Roberts, up-and-coming Travis Bickle, and the ghost of Chico Hopkins; the Blues have a nervous looking Gareth Cooper alongside street urchin Richie Rees; and the Dragons have got….er…

Elsewhere at the Ospreys is the unusual case of double grand slam winning, once prospective future Wales captain, uber-athlete and utility forward Jonathan Thomas.  Most latterly playing second row for his region, Thomas has 3 better and more experienced Wales internationals ahead of him in the pecking order, with a further 2 highly experienced squad players snapping at his heels.  If the back row was considered a better option for his international prospects, he’d have a trio of All-Blacks, the current Wales captain, a few other quality squad players (and Steve Tandy too) to content with.

Meanwhile, the Blues are sweating over when Maama blinkin’ Molitika will be fit enough to pull his own boots back on… 

Some dry wit once compared the prospect of watching Scottish football to a couple of bald guys fighting over a comb.   It’s getting that way with Welsh regional rugby, and the WRU have got to press on from recent victories over the balance sheet by plunging themselves back into debt with a central contracting spending binge.  What the hell else are they going to spend it on? 
- Top international coaching team?  Check…
- Big, purpose built stadium?  Check…
- Training facilities and what-not?  Check…

Sure, they could spend more on age-grade rugby, bring back the Wales-A team, and invest more in North Wales and the women’s game.  But then, with respect, they could also drop ticket prices down to 20p a game and pay to steamroller everything within 200 yards of the Mil Stad in order to correct the skew in the tiered seating and install a decent car park.

Rumoured to be many hundreds of millions of Euros in debt, Real Madrid remain solvent because no-one doubts the shirts will keep being bought, and the tickets will keep being sold.  Aren’t we a slightly less sunny version of same thing?   

We’re Wales.  If it looks half tidy, buy it on finance and worry about affording it later.  Wishful thinking perhaps, but the benefactor boys might just be too old now to drive too hard a bargain…

Henson announces his retirement from rugby on X-Factor

Gavin Henson shocked fans when he announced that he and Charlotte Church planned to swap careers. Speaking at the launch of his pop career and hair gel product range on X-Factor, Henson revealed that he although he had decided to hang up his boots for good, Ospreys and Welsh fans would be cheered to find out that Charlotte has been training secretly with the Ospreys for many months.

“We’ve been planning this  for some time” explained Henson. “I’ve worked day and night with a full time voice coach, dance coach and personal stylist. Getting the right clothes, hair and fake-tan combination has been a bit tricky, but I think the long hours of preparation are finally paying off.”

Charlotte Church has also training full time, gaining “condition” in preparation for her spectacular reinvention as a prop forward. “Adam Jones is her hero”, gushed Henson. “She’s been modelling her training on Jones for some time, and it shows. She’s even got the same hair” beamed Henson, who described her as an “untamed beast” when she goes into contact.

Henson admitted that he and Church had intended to keep their training a secret for a while longer but circumstances have forced their hand.  “Adam’s unfortunate injury is just opportunity that Charlotte was looking for.  The Osprey’s need her and she’s ready to respond”, Henson claims.

Henson appeared tense when he explained that another reason that he and Church had to break cover at this time was to respond to media reports that team mate Mike “Pikey” Phillips plans to become the David Beckham of Welsh rugby with his latest rub, Welsh Diva Duffy. “It’s not on” spat Henson, “that role is for Charlotte and I, but we realise that we have to spice up our image to appear fresh to our fans.”

Turning is attention to Duffy, Henson  said, “I have much nicer legs than that Minger”.  She’s a Gog, too”,  he added, nodding in hushed tones. Henson also believes that Church’s rugby career will eclipse Phillips’s, adding that Phillips would always be second choice to Peel, O’Leary, Marshal or any other half-decent scrum half. “She’s just more physical than Pikey” stated Henson in a matter of fact way. “I’ve tackled both, so I should know”. “Admittedly, Phillips has nicer looking ankles”, he added. “Still we’re confident that we’ll see the bastards off and secure our rightful place with true stars such as David and Victoria, Wayne and Colleen and even Peter and Katy” Henson declared.

Henson didn’t actually sing on Monday nights programme citing a recurring larynx injury and a tight hamstring.  A nasty argument ensued when the judges threatened disqualification but everything was resolved following some tense commercial negotiations between Henson’s agent, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh.  It is believed that the multimillion pound deal covers two albums, a book, world tour and a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

IRB replaces replacement process with replacement replacement process

Under new rules announced by the IRB, specially trained medical staff will be required for all future rugby matches to guarantee the replacement process does not allow a repeat of Bloodgate. 

To ensure each game is conducted in the proper Corinthian spirit, an independent team of vampire, butcher and coroner will be appointed to support the referee and his two linesman (and in the case of Nigel Owens – his collection of Right Said Fred LPs).

The new medical troupe will consult on any player wishing to leave the field: tasting their blood for authenticity, determining the integrity of muscle injury using a tenderising hammer, and – if necessary – sanctioning the embalming process.  Players will not be allowed to leave the field unless they meet strict medical criteria, or alternatively agree to undertake a ‘dare’ proscribed by the opposing head coach.

IRB guideline 77, subsection E, paragraph 2, states:

“A ‘dare’ can be any jape or tomfoolery (note Welsh players may be more familiar with the term ‘playing silly buggers’) which seeks to denigrate the personal emotional and physical wellbeing of the player in question.  Examples might include: having one’s own flatulent gases ignited by a drunken spectator, eating a prop forward’s nasal mucus, or being naked for a prolonged period of time.  In the sport of Australian Rules Football, where the rule has been in force for many years, extreme cases necessitate the watching of ‘Neighbours’.”

Dean Richards was unavailable for comment.  In fact he sounded really, really angry when we rang him up.

Pickering tinkering in ticketing?

Softly spoken, black-gloved WRU enforcer Dai “With Your Boots On” Pickering has come within a gnat’s bumcrack of being embarrassed into relinquishing his discretionary match ticket allowance for a forthcoming Autumn international.

As WRU Group Chairman Executive Managing Principal Director Head, Pickering is legislatively entitled to first dibs on just 35,000 tickets for each Wales home game.  These are normally taken up by Pickering himself and ‘assorted VIPs’. 

In the case of the Australia match, a mysterious individual called “T. Master” was to be provided with around 34,995 of the total number.  However, a junior Millennium Stadium administrator – since killed in a freak hedge-pruning accident – found a minor oversight with the ticket registration process: WRU rules clearly state that the full name of the ticket holder be printed on the ticket stub, making Mr. Master’s tickets invalid.

“I have identified the error and taken steps to rectify it, OK?” whispered Pickering, threateningly.  “Mr Master, and his associates Mr Tickets, Mr Cheap and Mr Dotcom are all valued friends of myself and the union committee sub-group technical development team office committee group.  I have persuaded the PLC board to amend the rules, and they are now petrified…er…I mean committed to the new process moving forward.”

Asked if Dai did indeed do any diddling, WRU Co-Head and General Executive Chairman Director Group Chief Leader Roger Lewis was eager to gloss over the affair.  “The vaccination has no basis in tact,” quivered Lewis, reading from a prepared statement.   “Er… let me see…this next bit… er… the allegation is not blue, and we have found no eminence of in-podiatry.”