Saturday 10 December 2016

Kidney's crew to call Welsh bluff and lay old ghosts to rest

Sean Diffley

Published 04/02/2012 | 05:00

Once it was Newport to the east, Llanelli and Swansea to the west and then those awesome citadels of the Valleys -- Ebbw Vale, Maesteg, Pontypool and Pontypridd -- whose appearance would bring on the collywobbles in our younger days.

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Remember that legendary Pontypool front-row of Charlie Faulkner, Bobby Windsor and Graham Price?

Later, in 1983 in Cardiff, Wales beat Ireland by 23-9 and that day five Pontypool forwards, for the first time, made their effective contribution. They were Price, Staff Jones, Jeff Squire, John Perkins and the No 8 who captained the Welsh, Eddie Butler.

Butler, as every couch-potato knows, has become a distinguished member of our highly respected body of writing correspondents, and also a BBC TV commentator.

Nowadays in these affluent, financial, professional times, the Pontys take a back pew.

Instead we are gifted with a large, broad-winged, fish-eating diurnal bird of prey with a dark back and a whitish head and underparts. (And look it up if you don't believe me). Around Swansea, they insist on referring to it as the Ospreys.

And at the other end of South Wales in the Newport regions we have the Dragons.

Welsh rugby, according to that fine volume 'Fields of Praise' is "a rainy night at the end of the Llynfi valley watching Maesteg drive forward on their table-top ground; it is a sparkling Easter Monday in Swansea watching the Barbarians on their traditional carefree tour; it is Pontypridd's grizzled veteran remembering over 750 first-class games for his club..."

No mention of an Osprey. Or a Dragon. It is, perhaps as Dylan Thomas remarked, "Land of my fathers? My fathers can have it."

Anyway, I suppose it's their business. The Irish in contrast have disdained suggestions of tampering with tradition.

There were indications that the world of sponsorship was striving to influence Munster to adopt a changed title.

They were brushed off with some typical Munster-style hand-offs. How dare they? To dispense with a great past, Brian Boru and all that?

And Munster's progress over recent decades proves the wisdom of their attitude.

Certainly the onset of professionalism and the necessity of adopting practices in cohesion with financial institutions has changed a lot.

One decision in Scotland surprises and disappoints -- the jettisoning of the Borders from the top echelon; the Borders were for so long the seed-bed of the game in Scottish rugby, Bill McLaren country.

It would be similar to the IRFU consigning Connacht to the nether regions -- which, we know, they wouldn't dare.

As for tomorrow, Wales are considered favourites but they have a few injuries to first-choice players.

In the World Cup, Wales coach Warren Gatland, won the game of bluff, hands down.

As they meet again at the OK Corral, it's a new game of quickest draw.

I have a slight fancy for Declan Kidney this time.

Irish Independent

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