Paul Williams (Llanelli Programme Notes)

Divided Loyalty

Six nations, four ‘regions’, twelve clubs… it’s a busy time for your average Welsh rugby club supporter with competing demands for attention from the numerous ongoing competitions.

Of course the fortunes of Wales tend to take centre-stage at this time of the year, although I’m not too sure that the assertions expressed in past years that the results achieved by the Welsh team has a major bearing on the country’s overall mood – Friday evening’s match against France, albeit resulting in defeat for the men in red, has been hailed by just about everyone I’ve spoken to as a great game. This, perhaps, is down to our collective talent for expecting the worst… a dogged, if somewhat limited, performance that prevented the high-flying French from recording the expected resounding victory, leaving we Welsh with an odd combination of relief and optimism, with tomorrow’s attention now being focused on the sideshow of Wales v Italy along with the French bid for their first Grand Slam in a dozen years, during which many, if not all, of us will exercise our talent for supporting “whoever’s playing England”.

Far, far closer to home is the club scene, so important to those of us for whom following local rugby forms a huge part of our lives – something that I often feel has never been understood by the powers that be. Here at the Talbot Athletic Ground this strange somewhat stop-start season got back on track last weekend with a solid victory over Carmarthen Quins – a team who have tended to cause us quite a few problems in seasons past, so to record a third win of the season at their expense was something of a rarity.

In between these two, of course, is the European/South African professional tournament – the United Rugby Championship. Despite the extensive television coverage of this, it does tend to sometimes get overlooked in our household, not least due to some strange kick-off times that clash with daily life.

The net result of all this is, for me, the reinforcement of a long-held sense of priority that has Aberavon RFC firmly at the top of my list of rugby-related activities. Personal involvement at the Talbot Athletic Ground plays a big part in this, of course, as does a lifelong commitment to supporting a club with which I also have ancestral family connections, that the ‘family’ atmosphere that pervades the club and has down the years fostered so many close friendships with like-minded people.

Talking of strange kick-off times (and please forgive the sudden return to discussing an aspect of the Six Nations), but I have yet to speak to anyone who supports the concept of Friday night internationals. Hopefully the powers that be will take the broad hint provided by thousands of unsold seats at the Wales v France encounter. With the limitations of the transport infrastructure, it’s difficult for working people to get into Cardiff, even more difficult to get back out again, it’s not in the least bit family-friendly – parents don’t want to be taking their children to such an event when the prospects of getting home at a child-friendly time are nil.

So to this evening, and if the kick-off time is somewhat at odds with much of the content of this article (well done for managing to read this far down, by the way!), we must remember that it’s the Welsh climate that must shoulder the blame, having put paid to the originally scheduled Saturday afternoon slot with a night and morning of torrential rain.

Enjoy the game.