The Coronavirus crisis continues but, thank goodness, all the figures are heading in the right direction at last and maybe soon we will get back to near normal and a resumption of proper rugby football.
Main news this month was the publication of the WRU’s hopefully flexible “Return to Rugby” plan (see this web-site) which outlines key dates and modified laws.
Welcome as it was, a number of concerns have been taken up with our representatives – for example, why is it presumed “safe” to play friendlies and as yet unspecified “WRU Competitions” yet “not safe” to start our Leagues until March 2022 ? … a reply is awaited !
Delay could have dire consequences for some clubs and for player numbers as local players at all age-levels express the strong desire to get back to “normal” rugby next season as quickly as possible.
By the way, the “modified” laws referred to in the WRU document appear to be aimed at reducing the number of scrums which will still be awarded for knock-ons and, presumably, forward passes. The scrum option being removed from scrum/lineout, scrum/penalty and scrum/free kick awards.
The tackle area will be “speeded up” by referees whistling quicker (for a scrum ?) – no need for a law change here as this is what is supposed to happen.
In the meantime, Under-18’s are returning to non-contact rugby which is progress of a kind but, as a sportsman, it is frustrating that, judging by the latest restriction-easing dates, our Senedd evidently places greater emphasis upon outdoor alcohol consumption with its inherent dangers than it does upon healthy sporting exercise – enough said !
Quite a lot of rugby has been played across the world since Coronavirus struck. Maybe I don’t read enough but I have yet to see a player saying “I caught it playing rugby”.
Despite the elimination of all four Welsh regions at the first Euro-hurdle (Brexit or Wexit, perhaps ?), Welsh rugby supporters were cheered and are still celebrating the winning of the Six Nations trophy albeit a week later than planned.
After the fairly dismal Autumn internationals, the 6N tournament produced rugby of a far better quality and four nations (not states – although we are all in one) at least profited from it : Wales won the Triple Crown and championship, France were worthy runners-up while Scotland and Ireland finished in credit too if a little exasperated.
England achieved a sort of “reverse Triple Crown” losing to Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the same year for the first time since 1976 and Italy held on to the Wooden Spoon. So there was something for everyone !
At the time of writing, it appears that if the British Lions tour goes ahead it will be in South Africa with or (more likely) without supporters – underlining once again how TV money now dictates the Game’s destiny.
Sadly, Lions candidates in the Welsh camp came in for some nasty criticism post-Paree to such an extent that the WRU was moved to issue an immediate plea to stop. Yes, it was disappointing to lose to the final move of the game and even the best-paid players will accept constructive criticism but that is where it should stop.
Now the internet is a wonderful thing when used positively – where would we have been without it in this time of international crisis ? However, less appealing is what I call anti-social media.
Positive social media can be useful or at least interesting. Last month I was sent a list of WRU Championship “Twitter” rankings showing the number of followers each club has and it was nice to see NEATH RFC on top :-
Nice to see but Neath supporters will not be getting too carried away with it as we remember that the least-tweeted Maesteg Quins beat us as did a few others ! It is just a pity our “Twitter” status is not matched by our League ranking let alone through the turnstiles. Nevertheless, well done Neath twitters !
Incidentally, of the Premiership clubs only Pontypridd can better our figures. Mind you I am told that some people (not ours, surely) twit themselves and then answer under another name … statistics and lies, eh !
Now to a sad note – readers of this web-site will have read of the death of former flanker Peter Jones on March 12. Peter played 115 games between 1977 and 1981, playing his last game on Neath’s Canada tour in August 1981.
Briefly putting on my historian’s hat, it might be of interest that Neath won four of their five games with the following party :-
Jonathan Griffiths, Steve Powell, Geoff Davies, Robert Mogford, Kevin Hopkins, Jeff Price, Don Davies, Cerith Thomas, Carl Gnojek, Cliff Morgan; Guy Antoziazzi, Mike Richards, Lyndon Bowen, Doug Mills, Peter Rawlins, Steve Dando, Robert Hughes, Gareth Jones, Martyn Morris, Andrew Vaughan, Peter Jones, Carwyn Jones, Phil Pugh
Many good Neath men there but, ahead of the new season, Peter Jones departed for Llanelli, highly promising centre Kevin Hopkins headed to Swansea while Martyn Morris was claimed by South Wales Police – a time of two steps forward, one back for the Club.
Finally, back to the present and two things to look forward to this month : the Supporters Club will soon reveal their 150th anniversary range of items while our Clubhouse will be preparing itself for socially-distanced “outdoor” re-opening.
Keep an eye out for those and, in the meantime, stay healthy, safe and well-vaccinated.