Rugby Union Diary: Webbe still works wonders on the wing

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The Independent Online
A RECORD may be in his sights, but Glen Webbe, the Bridgend winger, is hardly pinning back his ears and making a charge for the try-line every time it beckons. 'Record? What record's that then?' he asks. Well, Glen, if your try rate continues this season as it has for the 13 before, you'll have scored more for one club than anyone in Welsh rugby history. 'Oh, well how many have I scored?'

Webbe's try tally is 283. Only one man before him has crossed the 300 mark - Andy Hill, the Llanelli winger of the 1970s, who made it to 312. Webbe was chuffed to hear the news, though Steve Fenwick, the former Welsh centre and now Bridgend's director of rugby, is circumspect about Webbe's record-breaking chances: 'He's recently married. And his lovely wife seems to have slowed him down by five yards.'

Webbe has evidence to the contrary here. In the pre-season Snelling Sevens, in a quarter-final tie against Bath, Simon Geoghegan failed to score despite having a five-metre start. Also in Webbe's favour is the fact that he has scored 30 tries in a season before.

Were the record to fall to him, it is hard to imagine anyone ever being at one club long enough to take it from him. The 32-year-old Webbe's loyalty is a throw-back: he never even wanted to leave Canton, his junior club which was run from a pub in Cardiff, and he was determined to prove his international worth without leaving Bridgend.

This he did 10 times, though he feels it could have been more were his temperament more suited to the gnashing of teeth when the heat is on - the rugby norm - rather than to laughing and joking. As in 1988, when he was one of four right- wingers picked for Wales: 'The selectors said there was a position for me on the left-wing. So I suggested they move Ieuan Evans across. I thought I was making a joke but it fell on deaf ears and I got dropped.'

And so ended an international career worth five tries. There are more in store at Bridgend, especially now he knows there is a record to go for.

NO Scottish granny necessary. That is the ruling from the Scottish Rugby Union, which all week had the national media brimful of bile from Disgruntleds of Kelso over the decision to qualify overseas players to appear for the national side after one year's residency - Scottish ancestry or no. In England and Ireland, three years are still required; in Wales, it is six. A poll of Scottish First Division club secretaries does not favour the SRU decision. Of the 14 men, not one supports it. No 'foreigner' is likely to be picked this season, but about 40 have been cleared to play in Scotland, some of whom may stay for a cap or two. Next year, then, look out for Steve Hirini, the Glasgow HSFP Maori centre, and Shane Williamson, Stirling County's full-back from Natal, the first possibles to be stumbling through 'Flower of Scotland'.

STUART BARNES, ever the cool man under pressure? He was described as 'very nervous' when his debut as Sky Sports' rugby host neared two weeks ago, a state hardly helped by a call at 1.25pm, five minutes before transmission of the Bath v Bristol build-up, to say the BT lines had gone down and they could not transmit. 'That's a very poor joke. I'm not feeling very happy anyway,' he said. For the next 28 minutes, the joke wore thinner - BT resumed full service 12 minutes before kick-off.

SHOULD Alan Davies, the Welsh coach, have to defend his comment that last week's 93F conditions in Bucharest were 'potentially life-threatening', he ought to look to our own Clem Thomas. In 1954, Thomas led the first British team to play in Romania, captaining Swansea against the national team in the same stadium. Swansea levelled the two-leg series after demanding an evening kick-off for the second match, but the first took a heavier toll than just a 22-11 defeat. Two players did not play again, never recovering from the strain of the afternoon heat. One of them, Morwyn Morgan, died a couple of years later from heart failure.

(Photograph omitted)

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