Now that the WRU have indicated that rugby is back (see below), I sincerely hope that this is the last Coronavirus Newsletter I need to write.
It will certainly be nicer to write web-site articles and news about Neath RFC against a “live” rugby background again !
At last, “the science” which politicians say they are guided by suggests we might start again. Despite the Indian (sorry, Delta) variant, Wales has suffered no Covid-related deaths for ten days and the WRU are optimistic of a return to 15-a-side rugby.
Current WRU plans involve a “Championship Cup” played on a pool basis starting in August but, while all are keen to see the Game return, a number of clubs are unhappy with this proposal.
English rugby is often derided by Welsh supporters – but it is pertinent to note that the RFU are re-starting full-blown leagues on September 4th. What’s good for the English goose should be good for the Six-Nations champion gander !
In Wales, competitor sports like soccer and rugby league, even indoor ice hockey and netball, are getting back to their leagues so why not rugby union ?
If players and more supporters are lost to the Game by this delay, those who make these decisions will surely in time be adjudged as guilty as that doomed emperor Nero was in failing to dial 999 to summon the Roman Fire Brigade.
Later this month, our squad will be coming together again to commence preparations. Once we have firm news, it will be published here.
However, we can (guardedly) say that rugby there will be … And for clubs at Premiership and Championship level, spectators there must be too and The Gnoll will easily accommodate socially-distanced crowds.
Moving on to fixture certainties – Steve Tandy’s Lions will be in action starting at Murrayfield against Japan this month.
More international rugby is lined up when Cardiff Arms Park will host the entire 2021 Six Nations Under-20’s tournament, 15 fixtures in all, with Wales lined up to play :-
Saturday, June 19 Italy 8.00pm
Friday, June 25 Ireland 8.00pm
Thursday, June 30 France 5.00pm
Wednesday, July 7 England 8.00pm
Tuesday, July 13 Scotland 8.00pm
Neath supporters will have been saddened to hear that Ospreys hooker Scott Otten who played a few games for us has been forced to retire due to a neck injury. We wish Scott the best of luck in the future wherever it takes him.
You can’t keep Neath out of the news and it was good to read recently that legendary New Zealand All Blacks hooker Sean Fitzpatrick thinks well of us. At least, I think he was praising us in a recent interview when he said :-
“Goodness me. Neath at the bloody Gnoll. Oh my word. Honestly, the passion there was greater than I could have expected anywhere really.
“I actually went to a 20-year reunion of that game in 2009 with the Neath boys. That was a hard case evening.” – and I thought we were on our best behaviour … on both occasions !
Last month, I touched upon the historical inquiries I receive and the tale of Neath prop D.M. Evans whose loss on HMS Hood 80 years ago in 1941 was remembered on the website.
Neath RFC connections are wide and varied and never fail to surprise me. Last month I was contacted by Timothy Tolkien – a famous surname indeed !
Tim is the great-nephew of J. R. R. Tolkien, regarded by many as the inventor of modern fantasy fiction and author “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” etc. Tim’s interest was his grandfather David Lewis who propped for Neath from 1938 into the war years.
It was interesting to talk to Tim and his mother and pass on details of David’s Neath RFC career and to point them in the direction of a match report in my first “Images of Sport” book when David, a collier in Glynneath, scored a try in Neath’s win over an RAF XV in 1941.
It is almost certain that J.R.R. Tolkien ever found his way to The Gnoll but “Middle Earth” might have been a pleasant alternative for us all during the past 15 months or so !
Don’t forget that the Clubhouse is up and running again and will be open for all the big weekend sporting action involving Wales (oval and strange-shaped ball) and the Lions.
And finally, please keep an eye on this Web-site this month for all the news as RUGBY RETURNS.
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel – but please everyone keep yourselves safe, be sensible and continue to observe the Covid precautions.
It is too early to declare Kenneth Wolstenholme-like that “They think it’s all over …” and it would be a pity to ruin everything having come this far !
Neath RFC Secretary