Get the latest reaction as Wales beat Scotland in Six Nations
It would appear PRO14 matches involving three of the four Welsh regions at the weekend have done little to stifle criticism from the league’s detractors.
The quality of rugby in the Ospreys’ clash and standard of refereeing during Connacht v Cardiff Blues came in for criticism, while the Dragons’ decision to settle for a losing bonus point against Leinster rather than go for the win didn’t sit well with many.
The Ospreys hadn’t played for a month before their clash, but the match – with a single try courtesy of Rhys Webb – marked their seventh win in eight games in all competitions. Still, it was pretty grim to watch.
As head coach Toby Booth departed the stands and headed for the changing room at half time, his frustration was clear even behind a mask as he shook his head on his journey.
Welsh rugby legend Jonathan ‘Jiffy’ Davies dubbed the game “dreadful”, with “no ambition, no intent [and] no creativity”.
“Kick kick kick. No wonder crowds don’t turn up.”
Another Welsh rugby legend, Mike Phillips took to Twitter on Saturday to ask: “When was the last time a Welsh region beat an Irish one?”
Among the chatter, one fan replied saying: “In all seriousness Welsh regional rugby is in a poor mess right now” – Phillips responded by saying: “It’s been for ages”.
A report in the Sunday Times dubbed the Ospreys game “of such low quality it was hard to believe” and “close to unwatchable”.
“CVC Capital Partners has invested about £120million for a 28 per cent stake in the Guinness Pro14, but if its powers that be had seen this game, they would surely be asking for their money back”, it read.
Booth himself admitted the performance was disappointing despite the win, at a time when rugby’s leagues are without some of their best players due to the Six Nations.
“I thought we were actually going to record the first 0-0 at half time in my career, which would have been very disappointing”, Booth told Scrum V.
“The result is everything and performance comes second. We’re greedy and want both.
“We’ve started on a new journey with young players. You’d have seen from the lineout, there was an exceptional number of young players. That’s part of the learning for them, but it’s much easier to learn when you win.
“Really important victory – as every one is – but the performance was pretty average.
“This game was around building pressure and converting pressure. You can’t build pressure if your set-piece doesn’t function – lineout in this aspect. When we got into the red zone and had the ball on the front foot, we didn’t convert.”
Cardiff Blues, meanwhile, came out the wrong side of a 32-17 scoreline away to Connacht.
Each game the four Welsh regions were involved in was refereed by an official from the host nation, but it was in the Blues’ clash that it proved most controversial.
The custom of having ‘home’ referees officiate a clash involving a certain region has long been a bugbear, even if it is enforced by coronavirus in the current times.
That won’t come as any consolation to Dai Young’s side, though, whose hopes of Champions Cup qualification took a knock in Galway.
His side admittedly were guilty of defensive lapses and handling errors, but questionable calls by referee Andrew Brace put the tin hat on it.
After an impressive Blues start, Connacht quickly pulled away. Under the microscope from the referee’s point of view were an incident where Cardiff were deemed to have pulled down a maul which appeared to have been taken down by the home side, Connacht driving over from a lineout that was seemingly not straight, and Abraham Papali’i forcing his way over despite Brace getting in the way of a tackle attempt from Max Llewellyn.
Young said afterwards: “You can see there is some promise there, but we’ve got to be better in a lot of the things we do, pretty much.
“You can’t turn the ball over 16 times and expect to win games.”
Leinster’s bonus-point win over the Dragons came courtesy of four tries plus a penalty try, while Dragons fly-half Sam Davies kicked five penalties, and Josh Lewis and Luke Baldwin scored late tries after Lloyd Fairbrother and Dan Baker were yellow carded.
Davies’ decision to kick the ball out at the end of the game with the final play to protect a losing bonus point rather than attempt to win annoyed many.
Speaking on Scrum V, Booth admitted fans could potentially be left frustrated by that decision, but insisted context was crucial.
“Possibly, it depends on the context of your season and the game. Unless you’re in that camp, you don’t know what conversations have taken place.
“But against Leinster from there, it’s very, very difficult when you’re going backwards.”
Director of rugby Dean Ryan, meanwhile, has demanded clarity over Wales’ player release policy, having been under the impression that Wales boss Wayne Pivac would be retaining all home-based players for the duration of the tournament due to Covid concerns.
But four players were released to Welsh regions: Scarlets pair Ryan Elias and Jake Ball, plus Cardiff Blues duo Rhys Carre and Lloyd Williams.
Ryan was without his four Wales squad members – Leon Brown, Elliot Dee, Aaron Wainwright and Nick Tompkins – but will be seeking clarity over the process, with Wales’ policy usually not to release players seen as key parts of the Six Nations match-day squad.
Prop Brown, hooker Dee, back rower Wainwright and centre Tompkins have all figured in the tournament and are strong contenders to feature in next week’s Triple Crown showdown with England.
“I don’t understand. I was pretty sure everyone was in the Wales camp for the whole of the Wales camp. Then I read the media,” he said.
“I was under the impression they were in the Wales camp for the whole of the Six Nations.
“I definitely want to gain an understanding of what the policy is. I didn’t ask any questions because I was of the understanding they weren’t coming out. It will be on the list.”
All this came amid reports the PRO14, could become the PRO17 in future.
We already know that South Africa’s Super Rugby sides – the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers – are set to join an expanded PRO16.
The current PRO14 season is coming to an end in March after being restricted to 16 rounds, after which a new Rainbow Cup – involving the PRO14 teams from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Italy, plus the four new South African arrivals – begins on April 17 and runs to June 19.
Now, there’s talk of Argentina’s Jaguares being added to the cross-border competition.
The 42 report that the Argentinian Rugby Union are hopeful that the Jaguares can be based in Bilbao, Spain, to compete in the competition.
With Australia and New Zealand having formed their internal Super Rugby competitions during the pandemic and South African sides defecting to Europe, the Argentinian side are currently without a league.
It’s reported that it could take up to two years for the Jaguares to be permitted to compete in Europe’s PRO tournament if they are granted the green light.
This content was originally published here.