Oh, just shove it up your arse then is it?

Taken-for-granted Wales rugby internationals have delivered a resounding f&*k off to the Welsh man in the street, after name-calling and confidence undermining reached a new low.

“I’ve had it up to here,” revealed Grand Slam winning Luke Charteris, pointing his hand somewhere thought to be near his hairline, beyond the vanishing point of most human eyes.  “You try playing a full 80 minutes against a bunch of somewhat shorter hairy bastards trying to kill you, spending your only bits of rest in a 16 man huddle with your head up stuck up Gethin Jenkins’ backside.  I just can’t see a way out!”

Having been barged over by the Argentinians, mown down by the Samoans and cream-crackered by the All Blacks, Wales are hoping to get through this weekend’s showdown against those insufferable bloody Australians without any more smart-alec, wise-cracking condescension.  And a win, thank you very much…

“Just shut up alright – just shut up,” said Grand Slam winning Rhys Priestland, who quite frankly has had enough of all this bollocks.  “You think you can do any better then be my guest, you ungrateful shower of piss.  Let’s just say it isn’t easy out there.  Try playing real international rugby against the top sides in the world instead of just watching the telly and playing with your balls.”

C’MON WALES!!

Talk about the passion

If, like me, you’ve spend thousands of hours (not to mention pounds) following your rugby team to some of the most famous sporting venues on the planet, you’ll instantly identify with many of the stories told by Carolyn Hitt in her new book, “Wales Play In Red.”

Carolyn is no ordinary sports journalist. For starters, she’s a girl, and more importantly, she’s a fan. She is bonkers about rugby, and it shows. Like her touring companion Max Boyce, her enthusiasm for rugby events and rugby people is infectious, and the personal quality of the writing brings the subject to life in a way which your run-of-the-mill rugby hacks can never manage.

The story of Welsh rugby has swung from high to low in ways the English chariot never could. Because in Wales, we don’t just watch rugby, we go mental about it. This book follows the story from the hysteria which accompanied Graham “The Great Redeemer” Henry’s arrival on these shores, to the dark days of Ruddockgate and Carparkgate, and all the other ‘gates which nearly destroyed our national game.

In an era where the voices of fans have been drowned out by the management speak of administrators and coaches spouting the bleeding obvious, it’s refreshing and encouraging to have real rugby fans like Carolyn writing passionately about the social phenomenon which is Welsh rugby. She’s picked up a fair few anecdotes on her travels and I bet there are loads more too “exotic” to make it into print. You’ll just have to ask her when you bump into her in Paris, Rome or Sydney.

“Wales Play In Red” is out now, published by Gwasg Gomer. For a chance to win a copy, follow @gwladrugby on Twitter. We’ll be tweeting details of the competition soon – stay tuned!

 

Oh Wales, how I love you

Defeat is hard to take. For a player, a team, a nation, losing always hurts and so it should for anyone with hope, with aspirations of better things. What is worse than losing in itself is losing to poor opposition, playing without skill, without passion. Over the years I’ve seen Wales lose a lot of games. I’ve watched them lose to Romania, to Canada, to Italy, Fiji, Argentina, Samoa (both Western and the whole island) and worse still Ireland. All teams we could and should have beaten. I’ve seen numerous displays of rugby ineptitude interspersed with moments of breathtaking, delectable rugby gold served “the Welsh way” – ie with a side order of infighting and melodrama. Defeat inevitably leaves me hollow, miserable, depleted.

But after Saturday’s game I didn’t feel that bad. Part of this is that I had already accepted that Wales had no chance of winning. Part of it is that unlike the abject misery of the defeats to Argentina and Samoa there is no shame in Saturday’s loss. There is no shame in losing to a side far superior, as New Zealand obviously are. They occupy an ethereal plane of rugby that Wales can only fleetingly attain, reached in a thumping tackle on Israel Dagg, a show and go from Jonathan Davies. Gone in the time it takes for Paul James to spill the ball or Mike Phillips to take 2 steps before he passes.

But more than this, something happened on Saturday to re-kindle the passion and joy of being a Welsh rugby supporter. Battered, bruised, down by 33 point to none with all hope of victory gone did they give up? Did they bow their heads and hope the man next to them would shoulder the responsibilities of a nation. No. They fought, they dug in they took the game back to the best team on the planet and gave them 30 minutes to think about. And if that wasn’t enough they gave us something both joyous and incredible. Something wholly bizarre and wonderful which in all my days of playing rugby I’ve only seen once before in an under 12’s game down the local park….the all-in-14-man-driving-lineout.

It was in that moment, glorious in defeat, that I rediscovered my love for Wales. This unlovely, baffling and most enigmatic of lands where watching your entire backline join a driving maul brings redemption. The roars in the stadium, the joy on the player’s faces, you’d have thought they’d won the game, not brought the score back to 5-33.

And so, from the steelmen of Port Talbot to the pizza makers of Flintshire I urge you to raise your heads, raise a glass, raise a smile and remember why we love Wales, oh so much. There is yet pride, there is yet passion and hope springs eternal. Bring on Australia and let’s take them down.

Seven Ways Wales Can Beat The All Blacks

Rugby pundits are blowing raspberries at our chances against New Zealand this weekend, without knowing the full facts.  We explore just seven of the many ways that the world champions can be overcome.

 

1. The law of averages

If the Faeroe Islands played the ABs enough times they’d eventually come up with a result.  This is the kind of positive yet pragmatic attitude Wales should take into their next game.

 

2. Bribes

Wales have a range of bribing options available to them and could consider deploying a combination to devastating effect.  This is in spite of the fact that Wayne Barnes will NOT be refereeing this weekend’s game, and the recent ‘de-corrupting’ decision by the NZRU to pay their players in currency other than imported television programmes and The Hobbit fridge magnets.

 

3. Malicious interference

Why is it that – with the high proportion of UK hotel, kitchen and bar staff coming from Australia – the instances of All Black tummy bugs, sworn affidavit bar room allegations and being awoken in the early hours by environmental health inspectors is so low?  All Wales is asking for is a level playing field.

 

4. Not pissing them off about the Haka

The All Blacks getting all uppity about the Haka is a Cardiff tradition and its resulting vengeful malcontent typically accounts for around 8 of the 25-30 point final scoring margin between the sides.

Wales should just listen intently, grimace and shake their legs about while linking arms in a disorderly line, like Ireland do.

 

5. Prayerfulness

Samoa solemnly dedicated their victory – and presumably each of the associated injuries inflicted – against Wales, to God.  With the only alternative strategy being to dedicate their victory to Rob Howley, for Wales to ape this approach only has upsides.  Not least of which would be a bigger stadium buzz for Calon Lan and Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, as well as eternal salvation from an everlasting hell for all involved.

 

6. Replacement of kicking game with tunneling game

Wales has invested much in its directionless and inept kicking game in the belief that no opposition teams in the world possess a video recorder with a pause button.

Committing these resources instead to a ‘tunneling’ game – whereby players employ a pod system to excavate underneath the opposition defensive line and on to the try line beyond – not only calls upon Wales’ proud digging tradition, but is just the kind of unexpected tactic that the ABs would succumb to (in fits of hysterical laughter).

 

7. Become very French

Blue shirts, lumpy faces and the scent of garlic are strong brain signals for All Black players, causing immediate physiological reactions such as shitting themselves and running in the opposite direction.  Red shirts, close harmony singing and the stink of shampoo meanwhile evoke a much less negative effect.

“Zis playeur Richie McCaw…  Ee iz – ow you say – a poooff?” commented an experienced Wales international, badly.

The Hague Warns Wales Over Box-Kicks

Lefty human rights judges at the International Criminal Court have issued a final rebuke to Wales over its persistent use of ‘the box-kick’ during rugby test matches.

First invented by sadistic Aztec druids as a forced punishment for those who refused to look directly at the sun’s rays, and perfected by such 20th century rugby connoisseurs as Pol Pot, Himmler and Matt Dawson, the box-kick is a complicated process of needlessly giving away possession under the pretence of actually trying rather hard to keep hold of it, typically while camped in your half in close proximity to the touchline.

“The evidence is there for all to see.  And it’s not just the human cost of suffering caused by these box-kicks, as individual Welsh fans descend into a state of mental stupefaction; chewing on their own tongues in despair,” claimed Duval van Grolsch, a noted member of the substance-abusing Dutch Belgian judiciary.  “It’s a crime against all humanity.”

But Temporary Interim Sub-Coach Solution Rob Howley has reacted harshly to the claims, stating unequivocally that the box-kick is about as big an act of charity and human compassion that you could possibly shake a dislocated AC joint at.  “Obviously, as a scrum half myself, I can sympathise with Tavis, Spike and the other fella,” he tried to say, despite his mandibles.  “There you are, the ball in your hands, all the forwards eager to stuff it up their jumpers, the crowd shouting “For pity’s sake, please don’t do it again!!”, and Alex Cuthbert eagerly looking at something in the opposite direction with his hands stuffed in his pockets.  It’s confusing, at least it confuses the hell out of me anyway.  So you think – why not, it’s Christmas after all – even though it isn’t.”

‘Twas on a dark and dismal day…

You may be surprised to learn that on 31st October 1972, Llanelli beat the All Blacks. I know. Amazing isn’t it? Scarlets supporters, always so quiet and keen to hide their light under a bushel, have kept this historic fact a secret for decades.

I should add at this point, removing my tongue from my cheek, that I’m a Scarlets supporter too, although I wasn’t at Stradey that day, but only because I was only 8 months old at the time.

Some people may also be surprised to learn that Llanelli aren’t the only Welsh club to have beaten the All Blacks over the years. In fact, Swansea, Cardiff and Newport RFC all managed it. So why does the Scarlets’ victory seem to be more significant and memorable?

Alun Gibbard’s lovingly-curated book goes a long way to explain the reasons why.

Could it be Max Boyce’s song, 9-3 (The Day the pubs ran dry)? Could it be the influence of possibly the greatest ever rugby coach, Carwyn James? Could it be the irresistable zeal of the young centre Ray Gravell? The quiet strength and presence of Delme Thomas, British Lion and conqueror of the All Blacks in their own back yard? What about the people of Llanelli and the surrounding area? Even outsiders from the other side of the Loughor bridge, such as J J Williams and Tom David had their own important part to play.

It’s probably all of these things and more.

As well as the tales of triumphant celebration, there are many poigniant tales in between. It’s the tinges of sadness which make the story all the more compelling. Players who had lived with tragedy, and those who were visited by it years later. The untimely deaths of Carwyn and Grav.

Alongside these there is the unhappy realisation that there will never be a day like this again. Rugby clubs don’t play touring teams any more. The regions which have taken their place don’t either, and even if they did, I doubt such occasions would hold a candle to the atmosphere and excitement of that Tuesday afternoon in October 1972.

That’s why this book is far more than a piece of nostalgia. It’s a reminder to us all in the modern era. It says, “This is what rugby can be.”

“Who Beat The All Blacks” by Alun Gibbard is published by Y Lolfa.