CHRIS KIRWAN SAYS: WRU’s fixation is so short-sighted

South Wales Argus: REGIONS MATTER TOO: Team Wales has become too important at the expense of Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets REGIONS MATTER TOO: Team Wales has become too important at the expense of Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets

IT’S no wonder that regional rugby is in such a mess when its priorities have become so skewed.

The battle for independence rather than central control is being lost and the obsession with Team Wales is harming the sport.

It is a problem that is highlighted at this time of year when the Six Nations is looming.

Take your pick out of Dan Lydiate, Leigh Halfpenny, Alun Wyn Jones and George North – they are all said to be in fitness battles to take part in the defence of Wales’ crown.

It seems their international participation is more important to some than them aiding their misfiring regions in Europe.

The brain-washing has created an obsession about the prime existence of Newport Gwent Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets being to produce players for Wales.

There is no problem with that being an aim but it should be a by-product of their on-field success, which must be objective number one.

This week Newport Gwent Dragons head coach Darren Edwards said: “Our goal is to bring players through for Wales and the regional game is the vehicle for the national team.

“We have got to make sure we bring them through and it’s up to the Welsh Rugby Union to support us in doing that.”

But with financial backing comes demands and we are already in a situation where everything is driven by what Team Wales wants; the whole set-up seems geared towards what goes on at their Vale of Glamorgan base.

The power has even been taken out of the regions’ hands when it comes to Under-20s players – this season national academy skills camps have been deemed more important than talented teenagers getting game time in the RaboDirect Pro12.

As the jousting between the regions and the WRU continues, wrestling some control back from the Millennium Stadium should be a priority for the quartet.

They must have more freedom in player recruitment, who they have on their coaching staff and when it comes to their own business decisions.

Wales will fare best if its teams are producing the goods in the RaboDirect Pro12 and in Europe.

The key to that is not being quite so obsessed with development and churning out new talent – that will look after itself if a side is winning.

The Dragons are a case in point. They are currently exposing an extremely young side to professional rugby but defeat upon defeat is not the best way to develop.

Invest in some experienced overseas talent and the most will be made of the burgeoning talent that is on the books.

We are frequently told about the success of the Irish model in which Connacht are labelled a development province.

Yet take a look at their recent results and you will see that they aren’t all about Team Ireland.

It has been seven hours and 50 minutes since an Irishman scored points for them, a streak that goes back to a pushover try on December 1.

They have Dan Parks pulling the strings backed up by Miah Nikora, George Naoupu is a commanding presence in the back row while Fetu’u Vainikolo and Danie Poolman have been finishing off their tries on the wings.

And when it comes to football a glance at the recent travails of Aston Villa provides more evidence of sporting talent struggling without a large dollop of experience to guide it through tricky times.

So if Roger Lewis and the Welsh Rugby Union do want Team Wales to thrive – after all, it does help pay the bills – then they would be well advised to let the regions off their leash.

THE SIZE of the Dragons’ catchment area shows why it would be farcical and short-sighted for the Welsh Rugby Union to downgrade the region.

The Dragons, both on and off the field, haven’t helped themselves in their bid to avoid the chop. It has been a miserable season.

But it would be a hammer blow to the sport in the area if Rodney Parade takes a hit in order for others to try and compete more fiercely in the Heineken Cup.

Firstly, concentrating slightly more funds elsewhere is no guarantee for success – French clubs will still have far deeper pockets than the regions.

Secondly, it won’t lead to Wales developing better players as nobody will fancy being sent to the runt of the litter for heavy beatings.

And thirdly, completely killing off ambition in the region (on and off the field) will lead to apathy towards rugby whether it’s Newport, Caldicot, Pontypool or Tredegar.

Even by the WRU’s standards, thinning the potential player pool at a time when the sport is struggling against football and the might of the Premier League would be a madcap decision.

The Dragons are miles away from being competitive in Europe but they need to at least have an incentive to improve and the chance to hope and dream of better times ahead.

Comments (5)

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9:37am Thu 10 Jan 13

speakoutnow says...

Excellent article, well thought out and spot on....but will anyone who matters agree?
Excellent article, well thought out and spot on....but will anyone who matters agree? speakoutnow
  • Score: 0

4:13pm Thu 10 Jan 13

steve'o says...

Seems to me that the WRU have not cared very much about rugby below international level for several years. If they can fill the Stadium and therefore help to manage the deficit, they are happy. Never mind, it won't be long before there is not regional or club rugby - we'll probably have internationals every week.
Seems to me that the WRU have not cared very much about rugby below international level for several years. If they can fill the Stadium and therefore help to manage the deficit, they are happy. Never mind, it won't be long before there is not regional or club rugby - we'll probably have internationals every week. steve'o
  • Score: 0

5:16pm Thu 10 Jan 13

Robert Shillabeer says...

steve'o wrote:
Seems to me that the WRU have not cared very much about rugby below international level for several years. If they can fill the Stadium and therefore help to manage the deficit, they are happy. Never mind, it won't be long before there is not regional or club rugby - we'll probably have internationals every week.
It's the obsession with paying off the debt of the Millenium Stadium that's doing the damage to the regions and premiership in Wales. The MS is well ahead of the timescale for repayment so more can be put into the two top evils of the game in Wales before it all goes pop in front f our eyes. There needs to be more money put into regional and premiership rugby or the MS will become just another rock concert arena.
[quote][p][bold]steve'o[/bold] wrote: Seems to me that the WRU have not cared very much about rugby below international level for several years. If they can fill the Stadium and therefore help to manage the deficit, they are happy. Never mind, it won't be long before there is not regional or club rugby - we'll probably have internationals every week.[/p][/quote]It's the obsession with paying off the debt of the Millenium Stadium that's doing the damage to the regions and premiership in Wales. The MS is well ahead of the timescale for repayment so more can be put into the two top evils of the game in Wales before it all goes pop in front f our eyes. There needs to be more money put into regional and premiership rugby or the MS will become just another rock concert arena. Robert Shillabeer
  • Score: 0

6:27pm Thu 10 Jan 13

phantom14 says...

Roger Lewis wants to be known as the man who paid off the stadium debt, and have it on his c.v. for his next job, but he is such a muppett he cant see that Welsh rugby is dying under his feet! He will be known as the idiot who killed the game in Wales!!!
Roger Lewis wants to be known as the man who paid off the stadium debt, and have it on his c.v. for his next job, but he is such a muppett he cant see that Welsh rugby is dying under his feet! He will be known as the idiot who killed the game in Wales!!! phantom14
  • Score: 0

7:01pm Thu 10 Jan 13

corpardguy says...

This pyramid is built upside down!
As was the case with all the great Wales teams, strong National rugby is built on strong Club, (now regional) success. The Wales team is stacked with good individual players, but in many cases we are one deep. In others they are good regional players.... but internationals?, How many would be in your World 15?
I can't hardly remember any English side coming to RP or anywhere in Wales and going away with a win, other than rarely (Gloucester and Bath are all that come to mind). and to loose to a tartan tribe was unthinkable.
I agree with RS on this, screw the millenium debt for a while and POUR money at the regions. Its the right thing to do!,
What are they (Banks) going to do even if Wales default?( which we won't) have car shows and boot sales?
This pyramid is built upside down! As was the case with all the great Wales teams, strong National rugby is built on strong Club, (now regional) success. The Wales team is stacked with good individual players, but in many cases we are one deep. In others they are good regional players.... but internationals?, How many would be in your World 15? I can't hardly remember any English side coming to RP or anywhere in Wales and going away with a win, other than rarely (Gloucester and Bath are all that come to mind). and to loose to a tartan tribe was unthinkable. I agree with RS on this, screw the millenium debt for a while and POUR money at the regions. Its the right thing to do!, What are they (Banks) going to do even if Wales default?( which we won't) have car shows and boot sales? corpardguy
  • Score: 0

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