Week 39: Hero – The Welsh Rugby Team

by Ray_North on September 28, 2015

hero_icon2This Week’s Heroes are the Welsh Rugby Team.

I’m grateful to the Allthatsleft Hero, Villain and Prat Sub-committee for allowing my nomination of the Welsh Rugby team to succeed – you see, they know how much that win means to me.

It’s a funny thing being Welsh, funny and not always particularly positive – and one of our many national foibles is that we take our rugby far too seriously and we take playing against England so seriously that it borders upon a national obsession – so, when we were drawn to play in the Rugby World Cup against the English at Twickenham, that fixture became just about the most important thing in the collective psyche of us Welsh.

I don’t mind admitting that I detest everything to do with English rugby – and this is from someone who spent six years playing for an English club, and would count English rugby players amongst his best friends, but it’s not that, and it’s not them. It is the unbelievable arrogance that is generated from the English press and some of their supporters, who seem to believe that the English rugby team are a hell of a lot better than they actually are. They also seem to misunderstand the game, focussing on ‘big hits’ and ‘heaving forwards’ rather than some of the subtler more instinctive aspects of the game, indeed the things that used to make Rugby a unique game that was played by men of all shapes and sizes.

In the run up to this game, the English press implied that this was a game where the Welsh would be plucky and spirited (‘because the Celts always are’) but the massive English would ultimately prevail. It was a view that continued to gain momentum when Wales were written off after losing a couple of key players to injury before the tournament began. I have to say that this misplaced confidence baffled me – after all, anyone who knows anything about the game could see that, even without their injured stars, Wales were able to call upon 7 British Lions and players with experience of winning three Grand Slams and Triple Crowns in the last decade. The Welsh players didn’t become world class, because they are ‘spirited and plucky’ – they became world class, because, just like their English counterparts, they trained for years to hone their bodies as athletes; they forsook the old culture of beer and more beer and worked hard on the training pitch to put together the very technical skills that are needed for this standard in this sport.

When Wales entered the cauldron of Twickenham on Saturday night, they did so as truly superb sportsmen capable to standing toe to toe with anyone – that is why, when the English threw the kitchen sink at them in the first half, they were able to withstand the pressure, and why, when the game was in the balance with minutes to go, it was Wales who were taking the right decisions, not England.

Success in Sport is brought about by your ability or your teams ability to deal with physical and mental pressure – in the 70th minute of this game, Wales had suffered so many injuries that their back-line was made up of players playing out of position, one of these was Lloyd Williams, a scrum-half playing on the wing – when Lloyd got the ball out wide, he knew instinctively that he wouldn’t have the pace to get around the English speedster, Watson, but, rather than die with the ball, rather than seek out the predictable ‘big hit’, rather than surrender to the physical and emotional pressure that he was under at that instant, he chose to put in a sublime little grubber kick that enabled Gareth Davies to score the winning try.

We like to think that that bit of inspiration is the Welsh way, but that’s bollocks, what it was, was one individual using the skills and instincts that he has honed and practiced since he was a little boy – and you have to respect that, you can never arrogantly dismiss that kind of talent and dedication.

I wasn’t at Twickenham, I refuse to go near the place after in 2004, when I was approached by a man wearing a barbour jacket and accompanying red trousers, the type of man (in my mind), who sees nothing wrong in fiddling the LIBOR lending rate and would rather die than give up his bonus, he looked at me and my friends who were rather disconsolately drinking away another defeat at the hands of England and said (this is a verbatim quote), ‘isn’t it funny how you Taffy’s never sing when you lose, come on Taffy’s give us a song, and we’ll pay your fare back to Cardiff.’

I only wish I could have found that man on Saturday night and (politely of course), advise him where he could stick his Sweet Chariots.

The Welsh rugby team are the true heroes of the week.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie_East_West September 28, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Great article, Ray.

As a Scottish rugby supporter – I share all of your sentiments about the odious components that surround English rugby.

The English rugby media are indulging in their usual introspective navel gazing this week. The usual narrative of England losing it rather than Wales winning it.

I have been to Twickenham many times – always to watch Scotland lose to England. But, I stopped going a few years ago, when I heard a bunch of braying chinless wonders chanting “born to rule” and “never trust a sweaty in a dress”.

Scottish rugby fans love to visit Cardiff, Dublin and Paris for the six nations, but the majority tend to give “HQ” a wide berth.

England singing “God Save the Queen” always rubs me up the wrong way. They should sing an English national anthem rather than a British one. But, I suspect that a few of the braying Barbour clad toffs at Twickenham probably think that England and Britain are the same thing.

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Eddie Kaye September 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Speaking personally, I enjoy the England rivalries on all fronts. However, I do not count myself with the chinless wonder brigade for a second. Let’s not fall into the same trap of thinking all Man U fans are partial to a prawn sandwich at half time though.

Unfortunately, the Press tend to go on their borderline xenophobic tract every time a team in white enters a world cup arena. I only assume their presumption against the England Cricket team comes from the fact that they take to their world cup stage in blue.

The tactics have been awful from England granted as you described. I am sure the establishment knives will be out for Sam Burgess before too long.

I do agree 100% Ray that the almost production line physiques of modern players has a lot to answer for – I do miss a tiny skinny flyer running down the wing for example.

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Jackie_South September 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm

The problem though Eddie is that it is a reasonable characterisation of England rugby union supporters in a way that is not true of Man U fans.

Charlie is right about the need for a proper English (as opposed to British) national anthem. As a South Londoner, I’m hereby nominating ‘Jerusalem’ for the job.

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