We knew something like this was coming: Ben Wildsmith reflects on Wales drubbing in Dublin
Ireland 29- 7 Wales
‘It’s a braw bricht nicht the nicht,’ we all agreed as we left the Four Elms in Cardiff to return to our highland crofts after watching the day’s rugby. Sion from Carmarthen had remembered a Scottish uncle and proclaimed a newfound attachment to this part of his heritage. Freddie, who’s a steward at the Principality, recalled the kindness of Scottish supporters she’d encountered doing her job.
‘Flower of Scotland gives me tingles,’ she confided.
The Elms was selling two-pint, plastic glasses of beer and I thought it wise to invest before the game so I wouldn’t miss any action returning to the bar. Staring balefully into my half-finished bucket 10 minutes in, I found the answer to an eternal question: it’s half-empty, definitively.
We knew something like this was coming. Last year’s joy masked the gnawing suspicion that, for once, the national team had been lucky. Red cards happened at the right time, knock-ons went unnoticed, and the team had enough dog in it to ride games out to glory. Now though, with the world returning to normality, the true picture has emerged. It turns out that having poorly supported regional sides that routinely fail to challenge for titles is not irrelevant to a nation’s international fortunes after all. Neither is it a given that a gifted player can switch position simply because the team is lacking a specialist.
“He’s done it in training and in small doses at the end of a game. We think this is a golden opportunity to answer that question,” said Wayne Pivac about his decision to gamble on Josh Adams in the centre against a side coming off a victory against the All Blacks. Well, they have their answer, and we can only hope that it didn’t come at the price of Adams’ confidence, nor that of Owen Watkin whose defensive abilities were disregarded.
It’s true that the first half saw some questionable refereeing as Irish high tackles went unpunished. The Elms was up in arms about it whilst hope lingered, but as the second half revealed the gulf in class between the sides, talk turned to what was going wrong.
‘They aren’t as on it as they used to be,’ said Freddie. ‘After the game, they all used to be back out training on the pitch, really disciplined. All you saw in the Autumn was the lawnmowers!’
As the marauding Irish slipped through tackle after tackle, people were invoking Shaun Edwards, still confused as to why he was allowed to take his gifts to Paris. Whatever the trials this team are facing, it’s hard to believe they would have dared return to the dressing room having missed 21 tackles were he still on the scene.
By midway through the second half the queue for the gents reached to the bar.
‘Normally, that would be after the game,’ sighed Jake, ‘but everyone’s just thought f*** it.’
Freddie and Joseph were cheerfully betting pounds on Sexton’s kicks and the intensity escaped from the room to mirror the Welsh performance.
Taine Basham’s interception try barely registered a cheer coming, as it did, long after there was anything left to invest in. It’s not that people don’t care, this was a passionate, knowledgeable crowd, but you can’t expect people to risk heartbreak on a team that can’t repay the stakes.
When the action switched to Murrayfield it was rejuvenating. Eyes were back on the screens and the amateur referees called their opinions of each phase of play. Here were two matched sides delivering for their supporters and becoming Scottish for the evening came all the easier as they turned the screw on England and held their nerve for victory; it was a sight to see. They are here next week, though, and temporary Scotsmen across Wales must steel ourselves for that and pray the team are doing the same.
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As a Welshman living outside, regional Welsh rugby is seen, quite rightly, as being on a par with the Italian sides. English premiership sides in traditional non-rugby areas knock spots off Welsh crowd numbers. National team success in the last 17 years has been a sticking plaster for what lies beneath – a poor product, lack of players, dwindling crowds, and an overpowering union only interested in cold hard cash.
Welsh rugby is dying from the bottom up. My local club use to field 3 senior teams every week plus a youth side.
Now it struggles to put out 1 team and the youth section went a few seasons back to cut costs.
This was a club that had nurtured several big name Welsh internationals in the past but so called ‘regional rugby’ has killed interest at this level.
Meanwhile the WRU give contracts to women while starving the grassroots game of cash.
WRU ringfenced the money for the community game unlike Ireland which cut it twice and England which cut it in half. For someone who claims to be a fan you don’t know much but the misogyny is pretty advanced.
We mustnt allow player absences or the disruption caused by covid to mask the fact we were abject yesterday (quite how Ireland managed not to put 50 points on us im not sure). And the harsh truth is we’ve been abject for most of wayne pivac’s time in charge (it’s widely accepted we got lucky last year). But yesterday’s embarrassment isnt all on Wayne Pivac – it really was only matter of time before the catastrophe that is the domestic game in Wales was reflected at international level 😢
Scrap the regions, let the top players leave to join English & French clubs, let them pay them, while they play a higher standard of rugby every week.
Invest the regions cash in club rugby, from the bottom up, making rugby clubs the centre of the community once again, whilst having the recources to run the clubs properly, having multiple youth sides, through the age groups.
Breed the international players for the future.
Although yesterday’s performance was woeful by Wales, the idea by the press that Wales were thrashed by Ireland not true. Being beaten 96-13 by South Africa in 1998 was a thrashing. Besides Wales having experienced players missing, haven’t really been firing on all cylinders since Garland & Edward departure. The ominous signs were there last year during the Six Nations and Autumn Internationals. Wales took their regional form onto the international stage. Josh Adams yellow card didn’t do us any favours, as also numerous incidents missed by both referee & linesmen by Ireland against Wales players like chokeholds & high… Read more »
You can call it Sour Grapes but you can’t beat the Refere Dan Bigger didn’t have one shot at goal in the whole game why don’t we get any body too analysis the standard of the Referring??
Excellent writing by Ben Wilde Smith, I must say! As for the game? That hurt! However I’m half Welsh and half Irish. So the hurt faded pretty quickly.