Eddie Butler: ‘Rugby is a false symbol of what Wales is all about’
The game of rugby is a “false symbol of what Wales is all about”, according to the commentator Eddie Butler.
The former Wales international rugby player, who was capped 16 times between 1980 and 1984, made the suggestion while giving the inaugural Gwyn Alf Williams Memorial Lecture for YesCymru Merthyr Tydfil.
The former Pontypool player suggested during Wales’ internationals that you “bring out your Welsh defiance and you put it on display briefly, and you take it down again”, adding there’s “something hollow about all this”.
He said: “Rugby has this hold on us. I remember when I first joined Pontypool the wonderful Ray Prosser said to me ‘Edward’ he said, ‘rugby is in Pontypool is much more than a game’, and in a way he was right, so that it shaped our lives and it defined the town of Pontypool. But ultimately it is only a game, and there are greater forces at work.”
He recounted the clash between Wales and England at Twickenham in 1980 which became infamous for its bloody violence. It went down in history has the game that ‘shamed rugby’
Eddie Butler said: “I remember in 1980, I was fresh into the Welsh team and we went to play in England. My second game was away in England, 1980. It went down in history as the Paul Ringer game. It was spectacularly violent. Even for somebody coming from Pontypool, it was very violent.
“The match in 1980 coincided with a steel strike back home and so you can imagine in the dressing room, the talk, it’s almost cliched now, but the talk was ‘the English do this do that to us, they take that from us, and we do hate them, and let’s get out there and smash them’, and the game went its way. We lost by a point.”
He went on: “But afterwards I remember the very next day talking to the lads, I said ‘all that stuff about the distinct defiance of Wales in the face of England, is it heartfelt, is it serious?’.
Eddie says he was told: “Oh no Eddie. It’s just all part of the theatre, all part of the drama of the weekend.”
Eddie continued: “I remember feeling distinctly disappointed that somehow it’s like, it’s like Christmas lights, or you know a mothering Sunday card. You bring out your Welsh defiance and you put it on display briefly, and you take it down again.
“There’s something hollow about all this and so rugby in a way is a false symbol of what Wales is all about. So it begs the question then, well what are we all about and where are we?”