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Social media reacts as Welsh regions hit European nadir

By Ian Cameron
Adam Beard (C), the Ospreys captain looks dejected (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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The gag doing the rounds this weekend was that Cardiff had defied to odds to become the first of the Welsh regions to secure a victory in Europe this season – and over the European champions Toulouse no less!

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Obviously, that ‘victory’ is off the back of an EPCR decision on Friday to award Cardiff a 28 – 0 walkover over the French giants. The odds on Cardiff coming away from Stade Ernest-Wallon with a win could at best be described as remote.

It’s been a dire campaign for the regions and impossible to hide from.

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To date, no Welsh side has recorded a win on the ground. Leaving the paper win over Toulouse aside, the Ospreys, Cardiff and the Scarlets have totaled just four bonus points between them in the Heineken Champions Cup.

It’s an abysmal total that even if they were treated as one team, would not be enough to qualify them for the 24 team competition’s round of 16.

Meanwhile, the Dragons have managed just one losing bonus point in three outings in the Challenge Cup.

Their collective points difference stands at minus 250. Together all four teams have scored 202 points, just four points more than Leinster’s individual points tally.

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Doom and gloom around the Welsh regions is nothing new, but their bleak experience this year has left many in the Welsh rugby family exasperated and calling for change, although there’s no agreement on what such a change might look like.

Former Wales centre Tom Shanklin struck a depressing note: “I’m struggling to see where the next crop of quality Wales internationals are going to come from.”

Andy Howell, former rugby correspondent for Walesonline and the Western Mail, posted: “Welsh regions largely have decent squads but seem to continually be undermined by devastating injury lists and keyboard warriors telling them they’re crap.”

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Some are still pushing the idea of an Anglo-Welsh league as a potential savior, although there’s little evidence such a ploy would be a success. Politician Samuel Kurtz wrote that on the evidence of the Scarlets Bristol game, which was close for 45 minutes, such a competition would be ‘incredible’: “This Scarlets versus Bristol Bears game is reason enough for the Welsh regions to join the English Premiership. Anglo-Welsh league would be incredible.”

Ex-Argus chief rugby writer Robin Dewey, made the point that there would be little in such a league for the English teams: “Ospreys following their West Wales rivals Scarlets in getting thumped by English opposition, trailing heavily against Sale. And some still say an Anglo-Welsh league is the best way forward for the regions. Why on earth would English teams want that?”

Some extremists seem to think the regions need to be got rid of completely, even if there is no viable alternative and a return to a Welsh Premiership style structure would see the playing pool stretched even further.

Many see the problem coming down to one of money. Welsh regional budgets are certainly significantly off the likes of the French giants and Japan’s corporate sides, although the gap between the regions and their fellow URC sides isn’t the chasm some like to make out.

Squidge Rugby launched a spirited defence of the regions’ player conveyor belt, suggesting talent wasn’t a problem for Welsh rugby, although he pointed out that the scoreline at the end of the Scarlets’ game painted it’s own grim picture, despite the aforementioned competitive display early doors from the Llanelli men.

“I think it says a lot that this is probably the most encouraging performance we’ve seen from the Scarlets under Dwayne Peel and they’ve conceded 52 points.”

The problem is clear and well described. The Welsh regions are currently struggling to be competitive. What the solution is, remains far more difficult to pin down.

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