At one stage in this ‘A’ international the Saxons led the Wolfhounds 17-5, despite never having any real dominance. Ireland fought their way back to a more respectable – not to mention reflective – score with well-taken tries from Tomás O’Leary and Simon Zebo, but they had leaked too many soft points to take home the win … in a totally meaningless match.
The Mole has previously questioned the import of games like this. The match was enjoyable enough in its own right while never threatening to combust – spontaneously or otherwise – into a raging inferno of hard-fought, high-skill international rugby; it’s the one-off nature of it that is so unsatisfactory.
Players like Stephen Archer, who was absolutely plowed on the tighthead side at scrum-time, don’t get to make amends or improve their showing the next week, nor do we get to see how another young contender would do. On the other end of the scale, a guy like Dave Kearney, who had an extremely accomplished match, doesn’t have the chance to show that he’s capable of producing that form on a regular basis and really push the coaches to consider him for full international consideration. It’s a game played between two scratch sides, and it relates to nothing else in the season.
It should also be said that it was a game distinctly played below the skill and intensity of HEC rugby. Not that there was a lack of effort or endeavour, but when the final whistle blows, there’s nothing up for grabs. What have you done? Won a trophy? Played well enough to keep your place in the side? Put down a performance for future opponents to worry over?
This was the Wolfhounds only scheduled game this season – is that viable? Is it worthwhile?
The French are playing a full schedule of their Top 14 this weekend, and the English and Welsh clubs are engaged in their Anglo-Welsh/LV Cup. Noted Guardian hack and BBC commentator Eddie Butler has previously written that there’s still a big appetite in Wales for games against English clubs, but to the outside observer the competition has all the appearances of a straggler to the season proper that could do with a good brisk culling.
Maybe there’s something to be said for youngsters getting a competitive game against different opposition, as both teams are generally full of academy graduates – although if a team is struggling in the league and on the lookout for cheap silverware, they may field a strong team and put a whomping on the other crowd’s childrens’ crusade, just like Bath did yesterday against Northampton.
Does their involvement in the Anglo-Welsh/LV Cup explain why the Welsh don’t field an ‘A’ team, and instead have nominated their U20s as their second string for IRB qualification purposes? Or is it that they want to brand every player who plays for Wales at U20 as Welsh for life?
Is there any future for ‘A’ games? If you have any thoughts or comments on the matter, post ‘em below. Feel free to post withering, provincially biased assessments of the participating players as well …