Munster beware of what lies be-Neath

A DISTRAUGHT Neath supporter runs amok at a WRU committee meeting, dousing the committee in petrol before setting them alight.

Two security men charge over, jump on top of him and wrestle him to the ground.

One bellows at him: “What the “f***” do you think you are doing?”

He replies: “About 15 to the gallon.”

Yes indeed, these are stormy times for Welsh rugby, and Neath, as one of their premier clubs, are swirling about at the centre of the maelstrom.

Those who can recall the valleys’ glory days in the 1970s and early 1980s will also remember the insufferable arrogance of their supporters after each ritual victory over the home unions.

Yet, it is hard not to feel sympathetic for the Taffys. Many of rugby’s most romantic images are closely linked to Wales - the Baa-Baas try in 1973 (begun by Phil Bennett, finished by Gareth Edwards), the Barry John-inspired Lions series win in New Zealand in 1971, the genius of Edwards, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Jonathan Davies.

And now, the bedrock for Welsh success is about to be dynamited.

The proposed four-province blueprint will do away with 130 years of history and force Neath’s All Blacks to merge with Bridgend or even with arch rivals Swansea under a new West Wales banner.

In his column on Wednesday, Donal Lenihan (isn’t it great that we finally get to pack down together?) called it perfectly when he said that this is like asking Cork and Kerry to merge for the All-Ireland Football Championship.

The reason our own provincial system has worked so well is that it is rooted in history. When Queen Maeve took on Cúchulainn and his Red Branch over the Bull of Cooley, it was, essentially, the first Connacht-Ulster clash in what was later to become the interprovincial championship.

After the game went professional in 1995, the Scots created district-based franchises which have singularly failed to capture the imagination. We’ve had Reivers, Reds, Caledonians and Border collies and, collectively, they’ve had about as much success as a drunken Jock at an ICA meeting.

The lesson is there for Wales. One suspects they would be better off if they picked their top four or five clubs and pooled their resources with them, harsh as though that would be on the excluded clubs.

Anyway, what do we care in ‘I’m all right Jackville’?

Well, if you support Munster and feel they deserve some silverware to reflect their wonderful achievements over the last four years, then you should care a great deal.

For Neath are a wounded animal, not only is there all this merger talk, there is also the revelations that the club is not owned by the WRU as was originally thought.

SO, THEY go into the Celtic League showdown with their future in doubt, knowing that this is possibly their last major outing in the famous All Black jersey. They will be spitting fire tomorrow afternoon.

Munster, on the other hand, were 80 minutes away from a distinctly average season and suddenly they are being talked about as world beaters. The older heads and Alan Gaffney will be doing their damndest to keep the team focused, but all the hysteria and back-slapping which followed their phenomenal win over Gloucester seeps in and Neath will be banking on an element of complacency from the favourites.

Munster deserve this trophy, now they just need to grab the game by the Pountneys and take it.

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