Jonathan Davies: Wales' glory night – and not a rugby man in sight

If we needed any more evidence of how far Welsh rugby has fallen from grace it came last week at the BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year awards. The Welsh football team took the Moment of the Year award, the Team of the Year trophy and their manager, Mark Hughes, won the Sports Personality of the Year.

Mind you, they did beat Italy 2-1 in the Euro 2004 qualifiers and threw in a 1-0 win over Germany for good measure, so it should have been no surprise that they collared all the prizes. But what made the message sink home was that not one rugby man made the shortlist of eight for the top award.

That lack of achievement in our own backyard would have been unthinkable in any other year. It just shows how urgent are the talks about reforming the domestic structure and, I trust, it will help spur those still dithering on the brink of much-needed change.

Not that I have any complaints about Wales' football glory. In many ways, their success will take the pressure off rugby while the game attempts to put itself right over the next year or so.

This is where I think Wales are lucky. People think we have a one-track mind when it comes to sport, but that is certainly not the case. There may be rivalry between the two codes, and we certainly compete for the attention of youngsters, but generally we respond to both games. I do not know a top rugby player who doesn't follow football keenly and vice versa.

When the All Blacks had a bad time two or three years ago – I think they lost four games in a row – all New Zealand went into mourning. You normally cannot move without bumping into someone wearing a replica All Black jersey but people started leaving them in the wardrobe. When Italy lost to South Korea in the football World Cup, national morale slumped alarmingly. Wales did not help to lift it, either.

We are more fortunate than them because we have another team to rescue our pride. The night that Wales beat Italy produced the best atmosphere I've known in the Millennium Stadium. It was on a par with the Munster-Leicester Heineken Cup final, which was another superb occasion.

The point is that we have all become so worried about the result when the Welsh rugby team play. Our anxiety gets the better of our enthusiasm. They have lost the ability to inspire us like the football boys.

There have always been arguments about which is the bigger game in Wales. When it comes to the numbers playing it, I suppose football has the edge but that doesn't matter as long as one or the other does well because there's hardly a country who get so much feelgood factor from sporting success.

What's going to happen if Wales qualify for the Euro2004 finals in Portugal, as I'm sure they will? Mark Hughes will be winning the award for years. They'll stage the programme in his lounge.

Sport in Wales is all the more enjoyable because we're small enough for everyone to know and support each other. It was great to have a couple of drinks afterwards with Joe Calzaghe and Mark Williams. They were both a little disappointed not to have featured higher in the awards but that doesn't make them churlish. It shows how passionate they are about Wales. Even being world champions does not stop them wanting to please their countrymen.

Phil Price, who helped to win the Ryder Cup, finished third with the Common-wealth Games gold medal cyclist, Nicola Cooke, in second place.

How long before there is a rugby man back up there? The situation has become so complicated it is difficult to guess the outcome of the reorganisation talks but I'm convinced that we do not have the players for more than four top teams and that we would be better served with super clubs than provinces.

I would choose Llanelli, Newport, Pontypridd and Cardiff and the rest would take their places in a first division that could reach a far higher standard than many think. Whatever teams are chosen, the best players will go to them and I would fancy them to do well in next season's European Cup.

When we have created that platform, the standard of the Welsh team is bound to rise quickly. How quickly the Welsh footballers can be nudged off that podium will make interesting watching.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Amazon's drones were unveiled last year.
business
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Life and Style
Worth shelling out for: Atlantic lobsters are especially meaty
food + drink
News
i100
Sport
Gareth Bale
footballPaul Scholes on how Real Madrid's Welsh winger would be a perfect fit at Old Trafford if he leaves Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Lily James in ‘Cinderella’
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss