Rugby Union: Davies wants to expand Anglo-Welsh relationship

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The Independent Online
ALAN DAVIES yesterday called for Welsh rugby to hitch its wagon to England in a conscious effort to emulate the Australians' long- term relationship with New Zealand which has done so much to benefit their game.

Only a man such as the Wales coach, free of the historical baggage of an ancient enmity, could have been so bold. First, he wants Welsh involvement in the Divisional Championship. The East Wales and West Wales teams being inaugurated at Cardiff Arms Park on 28 December would presumably be suitable vehicles.

Then he wants a re-establishment of meaningful club relationships through an Anglo-Welsh Premier League. It would be following a trend, as next season the Scottish district and Irish provincial competitions will be combined.

Davies has already had his way with the expansion of Wales's representative structure - a development squad and increased B fixture list - but dreaming up nice ideas is rather easier than getting them into practice. The long gestation and chronic birth pangs of the Heineken League in Wales make the point, and even the Courage Championship in England, though subject to far less trouble and strife, began years after league rugby had been proposed.

Nevertheless, Davies believes it would be mutually beneficial for England and Wales if their representative sides were thrown together, thereby taking a lead in attacking the antipodean dominance of world rugby.

'This might seem as heresy but I think Wales has to select another country to develop with,' Davies said. 'That could be France but it would seem more appropriate that it is England, just as Australia set its stall out many years ago to develop its rugby with New Zealand. They even have an inter- relationship on committee.

'By the same token there's no love lost between the Australian and the New Zealander, but it has enhanced the performance of both countries. That's got to happen between Wales and England. Our teams should play in the Divisional Championship, and certainly I would like to see an Anglo-Welsh Premier League.'

Bob Dwyer, the Wallabies coach, has often said Australia would never have reached their present eminence without constant contact with New Zealand and a readiness to take a few hammerings along the way.

Not only do the Wallabies play the All Blacks at least once a year, but Queensland and New South Wales annually meet Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington - a connection that in 1993 will include South African provinces in the new Super Ten competition.

Since Australia became the world's best, New Zealanders have looked ironically on their trans- Tasman philanthropy, and many question whether the All Blacks have really benefited from the Wallabies being dragged upwards.

The successful English might well feel similarly. But Davies feels both countries need each other - and his present position coupled with a curriculum vitae that includes coaching England B, the Midlands and Nottingham does give him an unsurpassed Anglo-Welsh insight.

As things are, Wales need England more than England need Wales - which really would have been heresy in the days when beating the English was all that seemed to matter to the Welsh. Remember Clive Rowlands, Wales manager, after New Zealand had beaten his side 49-6 in the 1987 World Cup semi-final? What would Wales do now? 'Go back to beating England every year,' Rowlands famously, and fatuously, retorted.

Davies, who has made his views known in the Welsh Rugby Union's player development committee, is contrastingly practical: 'There would be no diminution in the passion of our rivalry, nor should there be. But the northern hemisphere has to get its act together and realise it's light years behind the southern hemisphere.'

The England management would beg to differ, though Davies bases his assessment on England's defeats by Australia (twice) and New Zealand in between their consecutive Grand Slams. Now, his ideas need friends in high places. 'Let's get it sorted out,' he said. 'The sooner we get on with discussing things like this, the better.'

Clark taking off, page 29

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