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Neath RFC

It would appear that the only game of club rugby in Wales on Boxing Day will be the big derby clash at The Gnoll between Neath and Aberavon.

Ah, the good old days ! – Winston Churchill had a wise word for most things and he was not far from the mark when he said that “ love for tradition has never weakened a country.”

Time was when nearly all Welsh first-class clubs embraced the holiday period and charged into often robust action against traditional rivals.

Popular local derbies proliferated and brought together the good citizens of Bridgend and Maesteg while the proximity of the Gwent clubs meant that Abertillery, Cross Keys, Ebbw Vale, Pontypool and Tredegar rarely had to stray far for a winter “warmer”.

Others looked forward to an annual holiday fixture : Llanelli played London Welsh, Newport received Watsonians who travelled down from Scotland and Swansea hosted the collective student might of the U.A.U. (Universities’ Athletic Union) while Newbridge had a cross-border exchange with Bristol.

Strangely, it is only in recent times that Cardiff and Pontypridd have paired up as the Arms Park usually hosted clubs from across the border.

Either side of Boxing Day, Watsonians would play Swansea too but London Welsh playing Neath on Christmas Day then Llanelli, then Swansea was probably a case of “Christmas excess” – hell for the players, heaven for club treasurers !

This Christmas, of course, Neath and Aberavon take a rest on Saturday when (most of) the rest of the Premiership is in action.

But Boxing Day at The Gnoll will be a huge occasion – the game everyone wants to play in and the game everybody wants to watch.

Neath and Aberavon going at it hammer and tongs just like the good old days.

It is a strange irony that now that the club game is “semi-professional” the biggest revenue-earning dates are forsaken.

It does not take a Robert Oppenheimer to suddenly realise that not all progress is necessarily good.

It is easy to define progress as man’s ability to complicate simplicity.

Time to turn back the clock ?