There are many famous landmarks related to Welsh rugby. So prodigious were the valleys north of Cardiff in producing world-beating number 10s they became known as the Outside Half Factory.
Pontypool Park gave the world its legendary Front Row while the Millennium Stadium has provided unforgettable scenes of passion and high drama, not least Wales’ last-gasp victory against Scotland this weekend. To this list can now be added an unlikely new location – J33 of the M4.
It was at this place, future generations of fans might recall, that Welsh star Andy Powell committed “contrary to the squad’s code of conduct” that led to his today being dropped from Wales’ Six National Squad.
The 28-year-old was arrested early Sunday morning after going for a joyride in a golf buggy while allegedly drunk, taking it at low speed for several miles down the hard shoulder of the busy motorway following extended celebrations to mark his team’s win.
Powell, who toured with the British and Irish Lions to South Africa, will appear at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court next month charged with “driving a mechanically propelled vehicle whilst unfit through drink”. The buggy was taken from the four-star Vale Hotel Golf and Spa Resort where the team had been preparing for the game. The hotel, popular with rugby fans, is situated a junction further west from the service station where he failed a breath test. A second man – a personal friend and not a Welsh player – was released without charge.
The international told police that he had gone to bed shortly after midnight on Saturday. He said he woke early when the friend arrived to take him back to his home in Brecon and decided to breakfast at the motorway service station when they found the hotel’s facilities shut. While those in the game admitted that Powell was not the first player to overindulge after taking part in a high-adrenaline victory – with others pointing out that top cricketers and footballers have also found themselves compelled to indulge in late-night sorties in borrowed transport – the sport’s governing body moved swiftly ahead of the team’s next match in two weeks.
Wales’ team manager Alan Phillips gave no indication when Powell could expect to return to the side and ordered him to apologise to hotel staff. He said: “Andy knows he has misbehaved and is apologetic, but he also knows that he must take responsibility for his own actions and accept the repercussions.”
Powell’s agent Mike Burton issued a contrite apology on behalf of the 14-times capped international who he said was “very sorry and embarrassed about what happened”. He said: “He got back to the hotel and got to bed some time after 12am, 1am time. He had a friend come to see him the next morning, a chap who lives in Brecon who was going to drive him home. He’s not another member of the team or anything. Andy got up at 6.30am, about 7am he went down for breakfast where the facilities were not ready so they said: ‘Why don’t we go down to the motorway services where we can get something there?’ They walked out of the reception area, there was a golf buggy there and they used that to get to the services where the police asked them how they got there.”
Welsh legend Gareth Edwards said the incident was too serious to ignore. “I can understand players wanting to enjoy themselves after an international, especially after being cooped up for weeks on end preparing for a game. Indeed the euphoria of that fantastic finish will have put everyone on a high but you cannot condone that sort of behaviour,” he said.Reuse content