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RUGBY UNION: Welsh identity and tradition sacrificed to Antipodean values; Michael Blair bemoans the modernising forces that have wreaked havoc in his beloved Valleys.

Byline: Michael Blair

If you include the summer circuses and the autumn auctions and the rest of the chronic falseness that passes for international rugby these days, Wales surrendered a sacred precedence in Cardiff on Saturday.

They were the only European country to have beaten the English more often than they had lost to them.

Now they are not. Is the shame intolerable? Losing to England, at any time, used to be a national catastrophe. Now it happens every time. But as we are constantly reminded, rugby football has moved on.

It has become a vastly different game from the one that Gareth, Barry, JPR and Gerald used to stuff England at.

It has evolved, naturally, in the professional era, according to many.

It is a hybrid if you listen to some. A mongrel cross between Rugby League, an Olympic sprint, Mr Universe and Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

Lots of people like it; not so many, as was the case, though, play it.

As it is still the cricket season and, as I write, a monumental Test series has still to be decided, not to mention some pretty serious golf tournaments, I will stay out of the argument.

But only for a while. I am forced to contemplate a new season in which the great game cannot sustain itself in its own image. A season in which we are forced to acknowledge that the greatest clubs of all time (in Wales, anyway) are no more.

Llanelli bloody Scarlets! Neath/Swansea Ospreys!

What in the name of Owain Glyndwr is going on?

How can you have a national team if all the component parts are shorn of their identity? A relevant question, or what?

In the frantic, shamefaced, attempt to stay with the modern pace, Wales has sacrificed its greatest asset. Its Welshness.

Its last two coaches, through the most diabolically awful phases in its history, have been New Zealanders (revenge for 1905 or what?). And the domestic game has now been restructured through the persuasive exertions of another Antibodean, David Moffett.

Get rid of the wonderful autocracy of the Cardiffs, the Swanseas, the Llanellis and the Newports of old, pool all the resources and the old place on the pantheon is assured.

Done.

Then the pride of new Wales is massacred by England 43-9.

No, not by England. By England reserves! Michael Blair is Welsh.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 25, 2003
Words:397
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