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Fascinating insights into the change from amateur to professional game,
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This review is from: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Rise and Fall of Pontypool RFC (Hardcover)
First half of the book charts the story of the Pooler with Ray Prosser's uncompromising fitness and need for southern hemisphere intimidation on field. I was surprised by the revelations about the "extras" handed out by my childhood heroes - it does explain why so many teams cancelled fixtures. I remember so well opposition supporters calling us animals - always thought it was down to our superior fitness, strength and uncompromising pack - but the book reveals that we set out to deliberately hurt the opposition, by fair means or foul. Having just watched the Autumn internationals, so much rings true - the first dilemma faced by WRU (and the Northern unions), to beat the SH, we've got to be willing to embrace the extras.
The second half jumps swiftly, and I think appropriately past the management issues on and off the field at Pooler - just a few facts covered in enough detail to not leave gaps, now we're onto professionalism in Welsh Rugby. From the outset, it seems like the WRU focused on the Welsh team, then the big clubs, then the players when implementing professional rugby. No mention of supporters. Just a basic analysis to say 30 elite players = 2 or 3 regions. A few parochial arguments later and we end up with 4 regions with the same supporter base that they always had. As long as the national team does well, then all is rosy in Welsh Rugby. This book explains the physics and economics of why this is unsustainable and a doomed plan. We can see it today with elite players following the money to the big English/French clubs.
All in all an easy read with contributions from great players and minds in valleys rugby - its great to know that the glaringly obvious solution to professional rugby in Wales is simple and known to everyone in Wales except the WRU.
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