The technicians and the soothsayers of the game tell us that the challenge for Rugby World Cup 2003 started this weekend as the northern hemisphere attempts to play catch-up with our southerly foes.
At Broadacre, on the outskirts of Swansea, Dunvant, a bustling and successful rugby club from the amateur age, have concerns of their own as they try to keep pace and the bank balance necessary for professional survival.
They have generated their own success story in the last 15 years of vibrant local development in the shadow of their big neighbours Swansea. No fat cheque books or poaching for them, but emphasis on nurturing local youth.
They built their own ground, developed a structure from the first team to the seven-year-olds, and proved a model development system. But professional rugby has to date had no place for long-term planning and Dunvant are feeling the pinch.
After two decades in the doldrums, occasionally some way up a creek without any paddles, the Newport crew are expectant and ready to ride a wind of change that should sweep them along at some pace and ensure survival at the game's top end.
Rugby is all about people and at Newport the chairman David Watkins is as enthusiastic and enigmatic as ever. One back-row forward called the great fly-half as elusive as a demented clockwork mouse - poor old flankers. That enthusiasm, allied to the managing director Tony Brown's business acumen and deep pockets, has given them a new lease of life.
Stealthy negotiations in the summer declared their intent as Sean Howarth, Franco Smith, Gary Teichmann, Peter Rogers and David Llewellyn arrived at Rodney Parade. On paper they are again a force on the Welsh scene and, I believe, strong contenders for the European Shield.
This was a game of total contrasts - the haves and have-nots, professionals against semi-pros, the favoured, big, traditional club against the ambitious but dispensable Welsh minnows.
Newport were quickly into their stride, the centre Andy Marinos crashing over at the posts for Howarth to convert the first two of his 26-point haul.
Newport, unlike in recent seasons, are set on playing a quick-tempo game and in Llewellyn, Marinos and especially the brilliant Howarth they are well equipped. Penalties and line-outs were taken quickly and safety first was put on ice as they were intent on enjoyment.
The crowd certainly enjoyed Howarth's first try as he sliced through on the blind side after 10 minutes. Again he converted, and at 17-0 the contest was in effect over. Howarth added his second converted try and a penalty before the interval with the home fly-half Simon Daniel slotting a penalty for Dunvant.
With the match won, Newport took their foot off the pedal. Marinos, Neil McKin and David Gray managed second-half tries. The captain, Warren Lloyd, claimed a consolation try for Dunvant.
Rogers, Teichmann and Andy Gibbs were in fine form and far too good for Dunvant. Newport, while impressive, were not fully tested but they will be generally pleased with their outing.
The coach, Alan Lewis, will know full well that they are by no means the finished article, but they will prove a real handful as the season unfolds. The good old days are just about returning to Welsh rugby - Newport should not miss out.
Dunvant: G Davies; N Jones, D Evans, W Lloyd (capt), A Harris; S Daniel, A Killa; B Grace, E Evans, F Faletau, T Brott, E Katalau, K Guipulotu, A Thomas, C Thomas.
Newport: S Howarth (capt); N McKim, J Pritchard, A Marinos, B Breeze, F Smith, D Llewellyn, P Rogers, D Cummings, R Snow, G Taylor, S Raiwailui, A Gibbs, G Teichmann, D Gray.
Referee: H Lewis (Pontypridd).Reuse content