Despite the publication of the Prime Minister’s “road map to freedom”, there is still nothing definite from the WRU as to when we can resume playing rugby football.
This week, we received an enigmatic, “We will work with clubs and coaches to provide specific support at all levels with regards to re-introducing the contact areas of the game gradually and correctly.”
There are also rumours that Under-18’s down rugby may come back first. Amateur rugby will return in England on March 29 – yet Wales still waits although our case-rates are lower !!
Perhaps it is time to remind our rulers of the World Rugby evidence that you are umpteen times more likely to catch Coronavirus from having a coffee in a cafe than you are from playing 80 minutes of full contact rugby union football under existing laws.
In line with the PM’s example, now it is time to set a road map for Welsh senior rugby’s return to freedom – “Gimme Hope, Jo’Anna” as Eddy Grant once sung.
After all, the RFU Championship has returned, low-level rugby league is on its way back and Welsh Premier soccer (which draws smaller appeal than our Championship) is back in action too.
Most supporters will probably see some sense in not getting anything much worthwhile underway this season. But why not a firm commitment, subject to no nasty mutations or variants of course, to start 2021/22 on time with warm-ups as normal in August ?
The Welsh FM is due to reveal some revisions next Friday. Almost a year ago on the 14th day of March last year, I journeyed to Ystalyfera to see Ioan Jones play so well for them against Cross Keys in what turned out to be the last club game in Wales.
Driving home, my (hopelessly) over-optmistic thought was that I had seen my last rugby for a couple of weeks – how wrong I was ! I ought to have remembered the old Roman saying which did for Julius Caesar … “Beware the Ides of March” !
What better way for the FM and the WRU to mark that anniversary than by giving Welsh rugby a clear path back to action ?
If everything goes as the PM hopes and, if our FM shows a bit more positivity, a prompt start to next season (with crowds) should not be beyond our collective ambition and wit.
According to the PM’s “road map” all restrictions should be lifted by June 21st – this would be a “many splendoured thing” for Neath RFC as our “SESQUICENTENARY” or 150th season will then be able to start on time.
The Supporters’ Club have been busy for some time preparing a range of 150th Anniversary items for general sale ahead of its commencement. As ever all Supporters’ Club proceeds will go directly to the rugby side of things so keep an eye on this Web-site and that of the Supporters’ Club.
Without stealing their thunder too much, items in preparation include a limited edition jersey and assorted supporters’ wear through to smaller items. They will consider other ideas too so contact any of the NRSC committee.
While on the Supporters’ Club, I’m not sure that we have thanked Len Kowalski properly for making available the Club’s collection of back photographs which have brought favourable comments from near and far. Thanks too to Colin Chapman who maintains the web-site without demur.
With an array of news and articles on the website, Neath supporters have had more than most to occupy themselves in lockdown. Just take a look at other clubs’ sites in the Premiership and Championship… you will see that we far outrun them.
I also have a few ideas regarding special publications to mark the 150th and, of course, there will be Anniversary fixtures too. Some are already pencilled in but, as with every season, we await international dates and league fixtures from the WRU before they can be inked in.
Now to what rugby is being played in Wales and, with a Triple Crown safely in the bag, March 2021 might well see Wales lift the Six Nations trophy – a bonus point win in Italy next week (2.15pm) could set up a grand finale (for Wales) against France on March 20th (8.00pm) but only if the French government lets them play.
Lady Luck seems to have smiled on Wales so far this year. And why not ? One does not need a long memory to recall the days when she seemed only to frown.
Perhaps England did not get the rub of the green and Eddie’s Under-Achievers cannot now earn a “Triple Crown” but they might yet win a “Triple Cringe” if they lose to Ireland after losing to Scotland and Wales.
If that happens, spare a thought for Warren Gatland as many of his Lions “nail-ons” seem to have dropped off the wall and are playing themselves out of contention if the tour goes ahead this summer (Australia has been ruled out as a destination).
Discipline – always important – may cost some players dear as it is essential against the juggernaut Springboks because, If you hand over possession to them, it might be a while before you see the ball again.
Later this month, there will be some regional rugby too with the Pro 14/12/16 final set for March 27th ahead of European competitions resuming the following week in knock-out format following the writing off of the pool stages.
Finally, I do have some fixture news : in 2023, Wales will play England (home – August 5th and away August 12th) and South Africa (home – August 19th) ! These are ahead of the Rugby World Cup when, in September 2023, Wales will play Fiji (10th), a qualifier (16th) and Australia (24th) in the group.
That’s a long way away – in the meantime, keep safe and well.