Paul Williams (Cardiff Programme Notes)

Now is the Winter of our… erm… disappointment

Following a barnstorming start to the season amid (mostly) glorious autumnal weather, we have now collided head-on with a far less forgiving season, and with it comes one of those injury crises that tend to turn up every few years here at the Talbot Athletic Ground to make sure that we remain grounded. It’s almost as though nature wants to remind us to know our place, and not court too much success in case it upsets people.

The reality, of course, is more to do with us having watched a parade of experienced, top quality squad members leave the field (some bound for hospital) during that somewhat attritional encounter with Ebbw Vale a few weeks ago, leaving us having to send a somewhat youthful and unfamiliar-looking team to Colwyn Bay, where they, to their great credit, produced a determined and hard-working display to push the “Gogs” (as they apparently like to be called) all the way.

However, following last weekend it’s goodbye to any chance of cup success this season, and tonight (and a heartfelt personal plea to whoever’s in charge of such matters at S4C – switching us from a Saturday afternoon to a Thursday night in the depths of Winter does nothing for my – or anyone else’s health!) we have the small matter of facing the unbeaten league leaders (I seem to recall people referring to us with those words a matter of a few weeks ago, but there you go) while still anxiously awaiting the return to fitness of several of the ‘old heads’ in our squad.

Hey ho, that’s the way it goes. Shame really, as I suspect a match between our two sides whilst both at full strength would be something to behold. However, we can rest assured those who do take the field will do so determined to give it all they’ve got, and we, as humble onlookers, can ask no more of them.

Meanwhile, away from the intense environment of Welsh club rugby, there is much controversy rebounding around the intense environment to UK international rugby, with much being said about the ailing fortunes of both Wales and England during the recent Autumn international series, with every man and his dog now chipping in with a view on what should be done, who’s services should be dispensed with, who should replace whom etc. etc. ad-nauseum.

We Welsh are, of course, strangely intolerant of anything less than total success, and apparently, unlike exposure to certain illnesses, exposure to failure does not appear to increase our resistance to it. And so we find ourselves amid an almighty clamour of a million voices shouting for a million differing opinions to be heard. Those of us of a certain age who’ve seen it all happen before can at least sit back in the knowledge that something or other will happen that will make little difference to the big picture; Six Nations Tournaments, World Cups, Autumn Series’, Lions Tours and the rest will continue to go ahead and Wales, along with everyone else, will experience highs and lows which, in the great scheme of things, shouldn’t really matter as much as they do. I grew up in simpler times, and came to regard rugby as a pastime, whether watching or playing, and to me it remains as much a social pastime, for which I give thanks for the many friendships it has given me, as it is a competitive sport. Long may it remain so.

Enjoy the game.