James Le Hooker, non?

Cheese sucking rugby money-men with sweaters draped over their shoulders are counting their losses having taken delivery of mis-sold goods in the pre-Six Nations transfer market.

Beach fronted rugby pension scheme, Perpignan are particularly aggrieved at having mistaken Wales’ most mercurial ball-handler for an aged blues guitarist.

“We all luurv ze tru bleus sound from ze deep sowtz,” explained a fat, rich bloke in a beret. “Wiz Bo Diddley dead and B.B. King in advanced contract negotiations wiz Racing Metro – we fought we ad found ze perfect playur to orchestrate our backline. Owever, it turns out zis guy is – ow you say – Welsh?”

Earlier reports had mistakenly indicated James Le Hook had been enlisted into a French ‘bleu’ movie called ‘James Le Hook et La Grande Peaches’. However, an un-named French benefactor does remain locked in talks with the Ospreys on the basis they hold the registration of a flaccid John Thomas measuring 6’ 5″ in length, and who can play anywhere in the back row.

James Le Hook himself appears similarly confused about having been made Wales’s 15th richest professional sportsman. “Signing for Portmeirion is a dream come true for me,” claimed Le Hook, at a press conference in Portmeirion. “I really want to start at 10, but whatever time of day training happens it’s up to the new coach to decide.”

Ospreys Trash Laibach

Super-crisis-club Ospreys FC have become embroiled in a potentially damaging rift with Laibach. The avant-garde band were SLAMMED by forwards and backs alike when their music graced the Neath-Swansea based team’s Christmas Charity fun night. “I dunno what the DJ was thinking!” said Cai Griffiths, on Twitter. “I was expecting a little bit of Phil Collins or Rick Astley, not that acquired taste nonsense.” he tweeted. Another member of the Galacticiau to complain was Lee Byrne. “It’s just avant-garbage if you ask me. Their cover album of Let It Be was an insult to all that hold Ringo Starr’s memory dear. Do you want to buy some gold?”

A Pessimist’s Guide to the 2011 Six Nations

It’s February, and the people of Wales are throwing themselves into our annual feast of bi-polarism with all their usual outspoken joie de vivre. In the pubs and bars of Cardiff, on the streets of Swansea, in the crèches of Llanelli, and even in some places north of the M4 corridor the usual merry optimism of the Welsh is in full flow. In several small towns, admissions to casualty for self-inflicted injuries have actually increased by a lower percentage than predicted. In a futile attempt to pour some of the cold water of realism onto this raging fire of Assembly-sponsored happy-clappiness, Gwlad contacted a spokesman for True Wales to run his eye over the lines up ahead of the England game.

He told us that Wales should be grateful to lose, that English people are simply more intelligent and inventive than the Welsh, and that if we revealed his name, he would be mown down in cold blood by Welsh-speaking killing machines from the Assembly.

Once we’d got rid of him, we decided that we could count on our own pessimists to provide the necessary calm counterbalance.

Wales vs England (inspired but not sponsored by Turks are Infidels)

Obviously enough, we don’t need to discuss whether or not Wales will win – we just need to put a ball-park figure on how badly we will lose, and what the most embarrassing moments will be. Forwards win matches, and backs decide by how much. In this case, the result was decided when Adam Jones joined Gethin Jenkins on the injury list, but the actual score will depend on how many generous interception passes James Hook decides to throw.

Our front row, of course, is decimated. Actually, if it had only been decimated, we’d be understandably happy – but since we’ve been two-out-of-three-imated, it’s got the potential to be like a re-run of the Keystone Cops. The two replacement props will be invisible around the park, Dylan Hartley will prove Gatland wrong by successfully gouging Matthew Rees when nobody is watching, and our scrummaging will make grown men cry. Unfortunately, they won’t be English.

The lineout, of course, we can depend on. It will be as much of a lottery as ever, and England will steal our ball any time we actually happen to find ourselves in their 22. We’ll throw optimistic balls to the tail of the line whenever we’re under pressure, and we’ll take the safe ball to 2 if England are down to 14 men at any point.

The all-important contact zone will be enthusiastically contested (we really have improved in this area) for at least the first half an hour. After that, Sam Warburton will go down with a groin injury that will keep him out of the rest of the championship, and we will start to produce more turnovers than a Breton crêperie. The score will begin to look stomach-churning at about this point, and weaker souls may well vomit over your shoulder and into your pint.

The backs, meanwhile, having been touted as the most dangerous unit in the northern hemisphere in the run-up to the game (in the Wasting Mule, anyway), will have been giving every single piece of possession they get to Jamie Roberts on the crash ball (apart from when they have a two-man overlap, at which point Stephen Jones will kick for Halfpenny to chase, Cueto will take the high ball and Foden will score under the sticks). If he doesn’t start, Jonathan Davies will come on at the 60 minute mark having been told to give it a lash on the off-chance we can get back to within 40 points; he will produce four bullocking runs which create overlaps, all of which will be wasted by little chips ahead from other players, and he will then try his own little chip ahead which will go straight into the hands of Chris Ashton. Foden will score under the sticks again.

With 15 minutes to go, the English supporters will break out into a four-part rendition of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and we’ll have to listen to them for at least five minutes. You’d be well-advised to take an iPod along with you to get you through this stage of the match – although the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) say it will probably make you deaf. No, really. With ten minutes to go, however, you’ll be given a level of temporary relief when Shane Williams scores two spectacular solo tries. The second of them will bring Wales back to within only 45 points, and convince the nation that we are, and I don’t quote, ‘going in the right direction’.

Warren Gatland will tell us after the game that Wales have shown they can be competitive with the best in the world for 15 minutes, and only need to keep that up for the other 65. The WRU will promptly offer him a contract extension and a holiday home in the Gurnos.

England will move on to their second Grand Slam in the professional age, while Wales look forward to facing Scotland at Murrayfield on the back of news that Matthew Rees will be out for the rest of the championship, and that Stephen Jones has an ingrowing toenail which will prevent him from travelling to Edinburgh. Some Welsh supporters will think this is a good thing, but they will be proven tragically wrong in the worst result for Wales since Llywelyn the Last took on Edward the Bastard.

Disclaimer: this article apologises for not having mentioned Gavin Henson. He will be injured at an autograph-signing session in Soho during the England game, and will spend the rest of his rugby career trying to break into the Saracens 2nd XV.

Gwlad isn’t shit

Nearly 13 years ago, a young Welsh rugby fan called Rhys decided to use his knowledge of the fledgling world of the internet to create a website for like-minded rugby fans all over the world. He called it Gwlad. At first the website consisted of Rhys’s scribblings about rugby and links to reports and features all over the web.

The site attracted a small, faithful band of followers, but what really launched it into the wider Welsh rugby consciousness was the addition of a Chat Room, hosted by insidetheweb.com. It was free, and very rudimentary, but it did the job. It was the first of its kind, and to many it is still the best.

The site has changed beyond recognition since then. Rhys recruited a bunch of drunkards from London Welsh RFC, and a vineyard owner from Ystradgynlais, and together they kept Gwladrugby.com going through numerous iterations.

The current site has been around for a few years now, and apart from the occasional funding crisis, it has continued to prosper and is held in high regard by the rugby fraternity. Hell, even Will Carling likes us, so we must be doing something right. The unique humour of Gwlad goes way beyond the world of rugby in its reach; some of the funniest people I’ve ever met are Gwladers.

Of course, even a virtual village has to have at least one idiot, and it would be a dull place without them. But there’s a difference between being daft and having a laugh, and just being downright rude, offensive, irritating or moronic. It’s like the difference between the slightly merry bloke standing at the bar telling jokes, and the sweary pisshead throwing pint pots around in the skittle alley. Every online forum has their fair share of these people. But for every boorish Andy Gray and Richard Keys, there’s an eloquent Eddie Butler and Brian Moore to balance things out.

The problem with success is that eventually it breeds contempt and complacency. Sure, you’ll get the odd newcomer who doesn’t quite understand the house rules and throws their weight around, but the natural order of things means they’re soon sent packing by the regulars. But there’s another kind of cyber-pest who’s far worse: the gnarled old regular who takes pleasure in winding everyone up and shoving his views into every thread he can find. I’ve been guilty of this behaviour myself. I took a break from Gwlad and came back (I hope) with a more optimistic view of the place.

Out in the real world, I’m often drawn into conversation with people on this very topic. Most are full of praise for the site, but the one issue that keeps cropping up is they are often put off by the level of angry, hostile abuse which gets dished out. For this reason many people lurk or just stay away altogether. It’s a real shame: imagine how much better the site could be if people felt they could post their views without fear of being flamed by the nasty old git in the corner.

“Use the Ignore button” is the often-heard cry at this point. The problem is, that never quite blots out everything you’re trying to ignore.

Having tried and failed to rid Gwlad of this kind of behaviour many times, you might think we’d be tempted to give the whole thing up. Quite often we are. The lights have gone off several times and we’ve not particularly felt like switching them on again. The constant nit-picking and abuse is tiring and we’ve all got real lives to be getting on with. “Gwlad is Shit” as we often observe, half-joking. But it really isn’t, and that’s why we’ve carried on this long. So we will continue to try to preserve what makes it good, and to eradicate what threatens to make it really shit.

How can you help? There’s a few ways. Firstly, if you read something you don’t like, report it. Please don’t run away. Bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated. If we think your complaint is valid, we’ll act upon it.

Secondly, if you think you can write something better, do it. Either on the forums or on the Front Page. If you fancy a go at writing for the front page, email us. We’d love your help.

Gatland possessed by the spirit of Steve Irwin

The wandering restless soul of Steve Irwin has taken up residence in Wales Coach Warren Gatland it was revealed yesterday.

The over-exhuberant Aussie entertainer died in 2006 as a result of over-provoking a stingray and had been assumed to have passed over to the other side, or come back as a water vole or whatever. The revelation that he has been occupying Gatland and exerting his will on the possessed will come as a shock to many – particularly those who firmly believe that once you die, you just sort of turn into a mulch of insects and bile.

However, those who watch Gatland closely – and there probably is a HND course in it somewhere – are now piecing together curious past behaviour and presenting the startling evidence that Irwin has been manipulating the silver-haired antipodean bulldog for a long period of time.

The assertion in 2009 that all his players ‘hated’ the Irish (and not just the socially acceptable revulsion of Ronan O’Gara) ahead of a daunting trip to Croke Park is, according to those who knew the Australian wildlife buffoon best, ‘Classic Irwin’.

“Stevo would go looking for the naaaastiest beasts out there” said a friend, “The really evil ones that could bite you on your toe and within seconds your organs would be exploding out of every hole. Stevo would find one and poke it the arse with a stick, call it a poof in front of its mates and laugh in its face when it got mad. What a fella!”

The latest in a series of “What is he doing?” moments came this week when Gatland decided to publicly point out to unlikeable liability Dylan Hartley that he is unlikeable and a liability. Experts agree that in the remaining days before the Wales v England game, even slow-thinkers like Hartley will make a significant effort to take such criticism on board, react to it positively and insert it – neatly packaged – firmly into Gatland’s fundament. Again, “Classic Irwin” says the Aussie lunatic’s cameraman.

“Everyone loved Stevo’s guts”, he reminisced. “Making a croc or a snake mad is the sort of telly everyone loves, and boy could he make ‘em lose it. What no-one saw was the bastard give it gas when the snake went mental, leaving me and the sound guy to lose another finger. Classic Irwin!”

Wales supporters are braced for expert predictions of more forthcoming ‘Irwinisms’. “Expect Gatland to claim the Scottish back row are a bit laboured, the Italians poor scrummagers, that O’Driscoll fella to be past his best and the French a big bomb of ill-discipline ready to go off at any point in a shower of yellow cards, garlic and poncey cigarettes. For him, it’s all about finding the biggest thing that can bite you, poking it with a stick, then finding the best seat in the house to watch your mates get chased by it for 80 minutes”.