Foot, One’s Self, Shoot, in-the … Oh, and Again!

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The powers that be have gone mad. Mad as badgers I say. On the one hand they want rugby league to grow in Wales and on the other they sabotage the attempt every chance they get. Stunning.

Do you sometimes get the feeling that you’re at odds with the world? That you see things in a different way to everyone else?

I just read yesterday’s announcement by the Rugby Football League (RFL) that Wales will Host England at Bridgend in a warm-up game ahead of their respective end of season international tournaments.

I say, what?

Me. I think the game is a majestic blunder. It’s stark staring raving bonkers and borderline callous indifference. What a time to put the boot into rugby league in Wales a

Whilst on the face of it that might seem a reasonable plan. After all, England have a tough Four Nations competition, whilst Wales will battle Serbia and Ireland in their group of the European Cup. Scotland, Russia and Lebanon battle it out in the other group for the right to play in the final on November 8th at Bridgend. That, is the sort of competition that ought to be backed. Not this outlandish mismatch.

But maybe the RFL’s way is the right way to view it. Maybe that’s how you view it too. Maybe the Welsh side will pull together, dig deep, face-up and downright sock it the English. Maybe.

Me. I think the game is a majestic blunder. It’s stark staring raving bonkers and borderline callous indifference. What a time to put the boot into rugby league in Wales and what an organisation to catch doing it.

If it was the WRU pulling a low down under-hand stunt like this then ‘leaguies’ everywhere would be up in arms and launching vitriolic email campaigns at despairing sports editors at national newspapers the length and breadth of the country.

You, see rugby league in Wales is in a very delicate position at the moment. The RFL, Celtic Crusaders and Rugby League Conference have all done a tremendous amount of grass-roots development. Heck that’s why we even have an engage Super League club there at the moment. But – and you may have heard this (but shhh don’t tell the RFL) – they’re having a tough time of it are the Celtic Crusaders. You know, with only picking up three wins, oh and having six of their players deported by the UK Borders Agency.

All that and having to move towns and all (Newport is still technically in Wales, right?), may lead some people to rationally worry about the club’s continued existence. From that stark corner it’s just a short stroll past disillusionment to being concerned about rugby league, as a game, ever convincing the Welsh nation to consistently stump-up and back it.

So, what to the RFL do? With all due sensitivity to the situation and In light of last England’s 74-0 thumping of the Welsh at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium last October, they go and set up another game. No doubt reasoning that every Celtic-blooded Welshman is longing to see a bunch of Anglos jump up and down on their national pride.

Quite apart from the fact that the likely low attendance at the game adds further fuel to the ‘struggling-code’ argument, they run the risk of injury. Now I’m not talking about the accidental roughing-up of some highly-paid pouting halfback with a tattoo and a quiff the size of his attitude either (although, you know, it could happen and that would really enhance our chances against the Aussies).

No. The injury that will doubtless arise is an injury to the game, to the development process that the RFL (and all followers of the game) rightly espouse.

Mark Rowley, executive chairman of Wales Rugby League, is rightly happy with the team’s involvement in the European Cup and his hometown’s part in that, saying:

“I’m delighted that a full international match will be played in my home town of Pontypridd. I spent many happy years at Sardis Road as a player and I know how much everyone from the valleys loves their rugby whatever the code.”

It’s great that RL is returning to Pontypridd and Taff Vale for the first time in seventy years, but will there be another welcome in Taff Vale after that? Or are we in for another seventy year hiatus?

There is nothing that can be said to convince me that this game has any positive merits whatsoever from the development perspective; zero.

If they English lads aren’t warmed-up after a season of Super League action, they never will be. And if all they need is a get-to-know-your-mate familiarisation game then let them do it against a Championship All Stars line-up instead. Who knows, it might actually raise the profile of that competition. Certainly it’d give Leigh Sporting Village a boost and who knows, one or two of the excellent players in the Championship might just dent some egos. Never a bad thing when you need a dose of reality.

The RFL having come over all gung-ho and announced the game, well, there would seem no turning back. Unless of course the UKBA manage to close off the Anglo-Welsh borders in time. We can but hope.

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