CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: Regions must stick together
9:00am Thursday 3rd January 2013 in Sport
IT’S easy to imagine those in Welsh Rugby Union Towers quietly cackling to themselves, while the squabbling about the state of regional rugby continues.
It appears that they have adopted classic divide and conquer tactics – and there’s a danger of them working.
The WRU want more control and the regions seem to be bickering amongst themselves.
There are some in Gwent who have reacted with glee to talk of the Ospreys having their funding cut, ‘let’s see how they like it’.
And there are those who relish the prospect of having their pick of the top talent from the Swansea-based region, ‘imagine us with Adam Jones’.
Then there are those who react to talk of Toby Faletau being bought out of his contract by thinking how he’d fit like a glove at their region, ‘I could see him with Warburton and Navidi’.
These will be dangerous times if the soundtrack is ‘The Self Preservation Society’ when it should be Sir Clive Woodward’s (admittedly ghastly) ‘Power of Four’.
All parties would agree that action is needed to sort out the almighty mess that is Welsh rugby.
The regions need to be wiser and admit to their failures – the blame cannot be entirely laid at the door of the WRU.
They need to do what’s best for the game but they need to do so with a united front.
The regions cannot head into meetings of the Professional Regional Game Board with an A4 sheet of paper that contains their rivals’ shortcomings.
They must work together to find some answers, not just fight for the situation that would suit them best.
Sticking together is vital or the Union, with its short-sighted aim of protecting the best immediate interests of Team Wales, will stomp all over them and get what they want.
But the problem will come when the WRU says they are unable to provide funds to allow all four to thrive, that they can help only two.
Throw a tempting offer at one of the regions and they might just adopt an ‘I’m all right Jack’ approach.
And frankly the Welsh rugby public doesn’t want to put their trust in the WRU.
The impression is that they only care about the international scene and reducing their debt, not domestic rugby. It’s an approach that is riling plenty of clubs, particularly in our own District A.
WRU chief executive Roger Lewis can be a pretty good orator at times but he talks too much.
As with politicians – apt given his dabble into that world with the ‘yes’ vote campaign for Assembly powers in 2011 – people aren’t sure whether they believe what he is promising.
We are told that solutions will be for the greater good of Welsh rugby, yet the fear is that those moves will be geared towards merely looking after performances in the Six Nations and autumn Tests, to ensure the turnstiles keep clicking.
But that would be ignoring the disenchantment that has swept across the nation and it would be an absolute disaster, as well as an admission of failure, to go down to three regions and thin the player pool even further.
Those who wear tracksuits rather than suits have a seemingly insatiable appetitie for motivational phrases.
One from Dragons forwards coach Rob Appleyard is apt: “A pack is only as strong as the wolf and the wolf is only as strong as the pack.”
The four regions need to be a tight unit in the coming week and months.