Monday, 27 November 2006
Welshmen in blazers
TYPICAL! YOU write an impassioned, idealistic plea for whatever it takes to be invested in making Welsh rugby the equal of the game played by New Zealand (see earlier post - Let's invest in a winning Wales), when the men in blazers immediately remind you of why it might be a bad idea to give them more money and influence.
As a Welsh rugby fan, you know if you pay good money to see the boys play New Zealand, part of the entertainment will involve the men in black doing a little dance before the kickoff. It has always been so. Always - even when we played them at Wembley.
But on Saturday, the hapless, posturing, self-important "village idiots" who run Welsh rugby - the very same people who are still in their positions despite the humiliation they heaped upon their country by mishandling the Ruddock fiasco - ruined proceedings with their points of protocol, which attempted to meddle with convention for no good reason.
What, exactly, was their objective in insisting that Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (the Welsh National Anthem) be played after the haka, apart from cretinous bloody-mindedness? Whatever it was, the board certainly managed to hand New Zealand a massive psychological boost, although I don't mean to suggest that this may have changed the outcome of the game.
The usual suspects fell over themselves in trying to cover their backsides, claiming variously that; Maori chiefs told them to do it, that Kiwi academics had approved their scheme, that it was all to do with Graham Henry playing mind games, that the original haka had been changed to include an offensive throat-cutting routine and that the Kiwis had not objected to the arbitrary reversal of tradition until the last minute.
According to The Western Mail, Roger Lewis, the WRU chief executive, sounded particularly disingenuous in trying to distance himself from the debarkle by saying, "This kind of brinkmanship is not good for rugby and not fair on the fans. It's a great shame we did not see the haka on Saturday, we were all looking forward to it."
He's a master of spin, is Roger Lewis. He has chosen these words carefully to imply sympathy - indeed, empathy - with the fans while suggesting that New Zealand were solely at fault, without specifically saying so. This is slipperiness of the first order.
Lewis' attempt to deflect criticism by implying that the International Rugby Board would support the WRU's position on appeal was immediately scuppered by the IRB press officer, Greg Thomas, who told The Guardian, "If Wales want to raise the subject [with the board] they are free to do so, but what happens in a friendly is up to the two countries involved." He added that in the World Cup, "The countries that traditionally perform the haka - Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand - will be allowed to do so after the anthems." End of argument.
Shame on all the members of the board. What little credibility they had after Ruddock left has now been used up. They should all resign to make way for a more imaginative, honest, and responsible management. Until we have people with integrity running both the Welsh Rugby Union and the country, people who are prepared to take responsibility for their actions when things go awry as well as accept the plaudits when things go well, I'm afraid we'll be on a hiding to nothing.
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