I am fortunate that essentially as far back as I can remember Wales have been somewhat competitive or, at least, have not have any extended spells for poor performances and results.
Although I have vague memories of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, my awareness of the Welsh national team really starts with the 2005 Grand Slam. Although there has been the disappointment of the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and the continuous failure to get close to the All Blacks, on the whole the men in red have at least challenged for the majority of the Six Nations Championships over that 20-year spell.
That is in stark contrast to the 20-years preceding that when, with a few exceptions around the 1987 Rugby World Cup, a shared 1988 Five Nations and a 1994 outright Five Nations Championship, it was largely a lurch from embarrassment to embarrassment.
The unfortunate truth is that after Saturday’s loss to Scotland at Murrayfield it appears those tough times are well and truly back for Wales, backing up a tough 2022 with back-to-back defeats to kick off the 2023 Six Nations.
From an on-field perspective there is plenty to analyse around the performances of the young players drafted in after the loss to Ireland, the ill-discipline which continues to dog the side, the lack of a clinical edge to the attack, and a malfunctioning lineout. However, that all comes against the backdrop of off-field activity which is actively harming the on-field product.
As I write this an article has been published by Alex Bywater for the Daily Mail detailing that the Welsh Rugby Players Association are meeting in the next week to discuss the ongoing stalemate in negotiations between the Welsh Rugby Union and four Welsh professional clubs over future payments and the ability to offer any contracts at all, let alone fair contracts.
Part of that discussion will include whether strike action should be considered, potentially impacting Wales’ home game against England in two weeks, a move which should be fully supported by all supporters after reading about the mental toll that playing professional rugby without any certainty over your future beyond the summer takes.
Of course the common denominator across the disappointment of that 1980s and 1990s spell, and the start of this new spell, is the WRU who were out of touch 40 years ago and have done nothing to redress that in the intervening 40 years.
It’s a story of same old, same old on Westgate Street as the governing body of the game in Wales got lucky with a crop of world class players coming through together in the 1960s and 2000s, enjoyed a spell of serious success, and only ensured that their own gravy train was topped up and ready to roll rather than attempting to maintain that success and future proofing the game in Wales.
So here we are, a mere two years after the most recent period of success came to an end with players having to take anti-depressants, being turned down for mortgages, having to fight for fewer available contracts and being paid considerably less because the old white committee men in blazers are so incompetent that they don’t understand the need to re-invest into the game in order to capitalise on the good times.
The medium-term concern is that as the current players find that their performances continue to be impacted by off-field goings on, supporters and sponsors will vote with their feet and their wallets, and if the WRU goes to the wall then the game in Wales goes with that as the community game will not survive without the funding and insurance afforded to it by the governing body.
Ultimately, that is where rugby union is in Wales at the moment. On-field analysis feels purely secondary and pretty pointless in the current state of affairs. All energy should be pointed towards the WRU properly investing in the professional game as it gets it’s governance house in order.
Totally agree I don’t say this easily but think the players should go on strike Utimately they are professional working people who like so many been well and truly shafted and taken for granted by the WRU
Think like teachers nurses,rail workers they are left with virtual no option However like many of the above they won’t just be fighting over pay but the future of services and in this case Welsh rugby