Latest posts by Graham Thomas (see all)
Project Shitstorm – obviously hatched in a secret war room in Edinburgh Castle – appears to have done its job. You can hardly see Saturday’s Six Nations fixture in front of you, for all the muck that has been thrown around in the past few days. But Robin Davey insists Wales can rise above the stink, keep their noses clean, and gain the whiff of a Grand Slam in the air by the time they return to Cardiff.
Wales should have nothing to fear at Murrayfield this weekend – apart from the echoing bickering going on back at home.
Certainly, when you look at this Scotland team and compare it to Warren Gatland’s side then the form, the experience, and the quality stacks up clearly in the visitors’ favour.
But at a time when the nation should be focussing on the next stage in Wales’ bid for the Grand Slam the whole build-up has been tripped up and flattened by the runaway circus act known as Project Reset – or Project Inept as it has been dubbed.
The planned merger between West Wales regions, the Scarlets and Ospreys, looked on and now seems very much off, but the uncertainty has affected all players – including those in Gatland’s squad.
Catastrophic sums up the whole situation, made even more farcical by the timing, but it now begs the question where do we go from here?
Some sources say the merger in the west is now dead, but given that the WRU want to establish a fully professional side in the north, something may still have to give.
If the decision is to be based purely on playing record then the Ospreys wouldn’t be forced to combine or disappear altogether because they provide more players to the Welsh team than any of their rivals while their domestic and European record is pretty impressive, too.
But the region is struggling financially and the Scarlets and the Professional Rugby Board claim it was they – the Ospreys – who sought merger talks.
If the decision is still to get rid of one region in the south in favour of setting up a new one in the north then the Dragons could either merge with Cardiff Blues or be removed for they have been by far the worst performing team since the inception of regional rugby.
But they are now owned by the WRU who will certainly not want to write them off and on top of that they are in discussions with the Union about taking majority control of the region into private ownership, led by chairman David Buttress.
Another reasonable question to ask in this whole sorry saga is why a North Wales region at all? They do possess a Premiership outfit in RGC so it’s not as if they are being ignored.
At best it’s a massive gamble installing a region in the north, a large part of Wales for sure but where the focus is more on football with thousands crossing into strongholds like Liverpool and Manchester for their sporting fixes.
But right now it’s deadlock, stalemate and, as Gatland put it, a massive distraction with Wales about to head to Scotland seeking one more victory which would set up a Grand Slam showdown against Ireland at the Principality Stadium a week on Saturday.
Two years ago, Wales returned home with their tails between their legs after suffering a sizeable 29-13 defeat after leading at half-time.
But Wales had won five matches in a row against the Scots before that and have triumphed in 11 of the last 12 encounters between the Celtic rivals.
So, there should be nothing to fear, especially as their 12th win in a row in that heart-stopping clash against England makes them the most successful Welsh team in history with Gatland also declaring Wales don’t know how to lose.
That England triumph was a massive shot in the arm whereas Scotland have struggled, hard hit by injuries – star man Stuart Hogg is still out – and with just one win so far in the Six Nations against the hapless Italians.
They followed that up by losing 22-12 against Ireland at Murrayfield and then went down 27-10 against a France team who themselves had struggled.
Apart from one enforced change, Adam Beard for the injured Cory Hill at lock, Gatland has stuck to the team which started against England.
The wisdom of that remains to be seen. I would have started with Dan Biggar at outside half given that the Scots are sure to play their traditional fast and loose game and Biggar would have been more suited to Wales’ tactics which should be to adopt a tighter approach rather than risk playing into Scottish hands.
But Wales should still possess too much firepower for the Scots and while all the problems off the pitch have proved an unwelcome distraction, once the whistle goes the team will be focussed on one objective – beating Scotland and setting up a Grand Slam showdown.
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