Breathless bone-crunching

Rugby does offer something in the Cardiff cauldron       Wales v Australiathat football is rarely praised for… opposing fans occupy the same space hours before kick-off for banter and liquid refreshments. But my ‘In-house Rugby Correspondent’ tells me to make no mistake about pondering the cuteness of these cuddly Wallabies…

  they have a plan…

  … and the green and gold finery only masks a core of steel when it comes to slaying dragons. Australia have a historic stranglehold on this fixture… 25 wins to 10 for Wales. However, the real pain for the home team is the 20-2 in terms of wins for Australia since Wales beat them in the 1987 inaugural World Cup. And even further pain is heaped in the last couple of years where Wales have been within a score of winning with a minute or so to go on three occasions, only to miraculously snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on each occasion.

What makes today a real grudge match is the British & Irish Lions 2-1 series win over the Wallabies in their own natural environment earlier this year, particularly the mauling of the final test match. The majority of the Lions were Welsh players, but time is long overdue that they do it under their own colours. Make no mistake, fire-breathers versus furry cuddliness means only one thing… war!

It is time for this…   to smoke this…            Let’s not pretend that such an outcome will be easy following the Lions win down under. The Aussies arrive in God’s Own Millenium Stadium having lost 20-13 to England before cutting a swathe through Italy (20-50), Ireland (16-32) and Scotland (15-21) this month on their way to this extra fixture (not originally planned, so flavoured with a little extra spice!). Over 67,000 settle into their stadium seats, the roof is closed to add to the pressure cooker effect, and the rest of the home nation strap in ready to assault their TV screens with passionate advice and abuse.


Home expectations could not be higher, fuelled by images of one Welshman outnumbering the Aussies down under earlier this year, and the cuddly ones looking rather perplexed:


The game lives up to all the expectations, as first Wales take an early lead, then Australia are in the ascendency for the latter part of the first half. Australia extend their lead early in the second half before Wales make yet another heroic comeback. Then, guess what? Lightening really does strike in the same place many times… with breath-taking moves and bone-crunching tackles all over the pitch, and Wales having all of the cards falling in their favour, they manage yet again to fall one score short of winning. The final score is Wales 26 Australia 30, or more importantly for the visitors 9 wins in a row against the northern hemisphere champions.

Reports suggest the match was so good the result was less important… try telling that to the locals around here. Wales have two years before they meet Australia in the World Cup group to find that extra score; then the locals will accept a little more how great the match was.


I am still being Juno, as long as I avoid some of those rugby tackles until I speak with you again.

The Avengers

My kindred spirits the ‘pumas’ are in town, and the locals are a little bit edgy.


Wales have only won 9 out of the 14 meetings with Argentina, a record of success that the home fans would demand improvement on. The last time this match was staged, last November, Argentina won 26-12 here in Cardiff. The light blue and white pumas…

    … are now established players in the southern hemisphere annual tournament against the top three teams in the world, but will it be enough for the southern also-rans to compete with the northern hemisphere champions? The flags are fluttering their support along St Mary Street close to the Millenium Stadium:

Wales v Argentina [2]


v.        Wales v Argentina [3]





The anthems reflect the passion of both sets of supporters and the 2.30p.m. whistle blows to let battle commence. A penalty kick for Wales, a converted try, and a further penalty while still reduced to 14 men through one taking an early trip to the sin bin. Twenty minutes gone and Wales are 20-0 in the lead. Half an hour passes with Argentina having more than a couple of chances of their own before they score a penalty kick… 20-3. Its a half about taking your chances, as Argentina provide plenty of positive statistics, but with a further penalty as the last kick of the half there is only one important stat… Wales 23 Argentina 3.

       With two tries and the magic boot of Leigh Halfpenny, the majority of the crowd are happy to see the visiting pumas playing good rugby as long as the home team remain dominant on the scoreboard. The second half often sees a modern day Welsh team step up a gear against any opposition…

   Meanwhile the pumas start to tire, and are in desperate need for a new tune…

PUMA AND PIANO. B&W.  Picture on Modern BOX-CANVAS. A1, 20"x 30"

Los Pumas are soon looking more like Lost Pumas as Wales add a further two converted tries and a penalty with only a single penalty in reply.


The final score is 40-6, and Wales return to winning ways against southern hemisphere opposition after a long run of heroic failures. Triumphant dragons can retire to the hostelries of Cardiff and let the celebrations begin.

      Cymru Flag (wales) clip art

I have been Juno, and until we next meet let the local cats keep celebrating.

A Nation Expects

It is November, and once the fireworks of the 5th have subsided the whole of the Welsh nation expect nothing less than fireworks from their heroes. European champions for the last two years, still feeling robbed in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup, but woeful against the southern hemisphere giants. It is time to step up if they are to be taken seriously as a world power in rugby union again.


First up is South Africa, and if history is not your bag look away now (particularly if you are a student of Welsh history)… as the Springboks have won 24 of the previous 26, to one solitary Wales victory in 1999. It’s four hours to kick-off and the commercial machine is well cranked up in any available space…

Scarve stand

However, the commercial machine pales into insignificance compared to the liquid machine, as the City Arms helps fans of both sides to prepare for the occasion in the shadow of the legends:

City Arms [1]Two hours to kick-off and St Mary Street is rocking:

St Mary Street [2]St Mary Street [3]






The Welsh camp have been very quiet in the lead up to the match with their special tactics remaining a close kept secret, until now that is! A couple of hours to kick-off and Caroline Street is the scene for the Welsh backs to stoke up with the fuel of choice… chips and curry sauce are essential for any self-respecting fire-breather.

Dragons [1]

Then it is the expectation of any dragon that a watering hole close to the stadium should be visited as part of the final preparations:

Dragons [2]

But the real source of fear for the mighty Springboks will obviously be at the scrum; and the Welsh scrum is fighting fit and raring to go:

Scary scrum

The anthems have been respected, the stadium atmosphere is second to none, and the time for Welsh history to be made has arrived… will this be the scene of another heroic failure, or can Wales start their platform for an assault on the next World Cup? This is more than just a game, for these two nations this is about a religion, and where better than the Millenium Stadium to provide a cathedral…

Millenium Stadium 3

Wales take the lead with a penalty kick, equaled almost immediately by South Africa for 3-3. Wales retake the lead with another penalty before South Africa show why they are the second best team in the world by scoring two converted tries with their only two opportunities, 6-17. The ‘power’ of South Africa is exerting a toll, as three Welsh players are off injured within the first thirty minutes. The ‘finesse’ of Wales is ominously absent as three opportunities for scoring a try are all repelled by the South African defence. A couple of penalties to Wales keep them in the game, and a South African player is sin-binned for ten minutes. A breath-taking final ten minutes of open attacking play by both teams as half-time arrives… Wales 12 South Africa 17.

Superlatives are liberally distributed by various pundits over the half-time break. Wales have had more possession but not taken their chances. Get strapped in, here comes the second half.

Wales continue with the domination of possession but we wait for any further chances for points. Fifty-three minutes and a penalty to Wales… 15-17; then confusion reigns as both teams lose a player to the sin-bin. A tense final twenty minutes as everyone waits to see if history or tradition will prevail. South Africa miss a penalty on sixty-one minutes; is it a portent of what could be? Three minutes later and the South Africans show why they are the second best in the world… a lucky bounce of the ball and commentators seeing reasons why an opportunist try shouldn’t have been allowed. Wales 15 South Africa 24, and it begins to look like a familiar pattern of Wales losing just at the point they were about to win against a southern hemisphere team.

Seventy-two minutes and another try scoring opportunity for Wales repelled by the Springboks. Where is the famed singing of the Welsh crowd, the extra man has been tamed by the South Africans? The ferocity of the final minutes of the first half is ominously absent as the second is drawing towards a close. The great hopes and the dominance of possession for the home team still ends up with the all-too-familiar result, with the away team scoring three tries without reply… Wales 15 South Africa 24.


The celebrations will remain on hold with local passions muted, and my appointed beer taster says it is a night of the plastic glass, something to be side-stepped if at all possible. I have been Juno, and I will aim to get over my disappointment at my adopted nation before I speak with you again.


Wales 2026 World Cup Bid

Dear Zed Lister and fellow Sweet FA delegates,

I feel it is time that I launched the Wales bid to host the 2026 World Cup. After all, you have provided Qatar as the clearest of blueprints for success. Listening to my cortege of footballing pundits I could have been mistaken for thinking this once every four years prestigious tournament was a true spectacle of the peoples game put on as a festival of entertainment for the delight of the people of the world. However, you have enlightened me to the true realities that it is a complex front for your eminence and fellow crooks, sorry administrators of the game, to engorge yourselves in luxury at the expense of the ordinary spectators. Why didn’t I see that earlier, it is just like the life us cats weave for ourselves on a more permanent basis in the homes of our servants.

As leaders of the world game I am sure you will be steeped in its history, so I will launch the Wales bid on an example of the selfless generosity of its historical contribution to gamesmanship. We clearly surpass Qatar in our our World Cup pedigree and history. They weren’t even in Sweden on that 1958 day when we generously allowed Brazil a quarter-final 1-0 win for them to go on to eventually win the cup. We realised at the time that Brazil may never be good enough to grace the World Cup stage again, whereas we would undoubtedly become permanent attenders at all future tournaments.

The most important element of any worldwide competition has to be the official mascot… what else does anyone remember a few days after it has all finished? Qatar are unlikely to fool anyone with their diamond studded pot of gold mascot, whereas we have the ghost of John Charles

     to strike fear into all, and leave a memorable image of the gentle giant for the kids of the world to dream of emulating. Gareth Bale was in contention, but concerns publicly expressed by Harry Redknapp that “he spends most of his time working on his barnet” led my bid committee to be concerned about his availability outside of salon opening times. As for the constant playing with his hands and that heart thing… will someone just give him a mobile phone to play with!


As paragons of virtue and intelligence I thought you at the ‘Sweet FA’ were perfectly placed, in your plush Swiss offices, to be fully aware and on top of the necessary considerations about summer temperatures of 40-50 degrees. You offered Qatar and the football loving world a perfectly reasonable choice… an unnatural and phenomenal expense to provide an innovative green cooling system to reduce temperatures in all stadiums, or cause massive disruption to football leagues the world over by staging the tournament in winter. I promise you that here in Wales the summer temperatures are frequently 40-50 degrees, but a plan is in place to provide spectators with complimentary plastic macs and jumpers in their national colours, with the addition of the Welsh flag emblem as a gesture of multicultural friendship. I apologise unreservedly if this deprives you of an opportunity for skimming off the top any lucrative backhanders resulting from the need to impose grotesquely over-inflated and costly solutions to unnecessary problems. However, along with other cost-savings I will outline in our plan, this creates greater opportunities for us to lavish our expenses on you and your wives.

What about the cost of developing stadia? In the middle of the Qatari desert billions are planned to be spent on state of the art stadia, while here in Wales we will save all that money by playing most of the games at the Millenium Stadium, where the roof can be kept closed against the potential for steel rod like rain dampening the motivations of the young billionaires on the pitch. It is close to the railway station for teams and their supporters flying into the UK and then getting the train. It is also next to the river Taff, so we can extravagantly transport you and your delegates by Cardiff Bay pleasure boats from your hotel direct to the stadium.

Millenium Stadium 4

Cardiff City Stadium [1]

More lowly ranked countries can play at the nearby Cardiff City Stadiumparticularly those who are unsure what colours they should be playing in, and to avoid the sight of empty seats through smaller crowds in our national stadium. However, your presence would not be required at such a small venue… it would be so undignified in relation to your overblown image of yourselves.

Player accommodation at the St Mary Street Travelodge allows the majority of them to walk to the stadium; but an extra bus can be put on the route to the Cardiff City Stadium for players of teams who are not used to walking further than to their parked Ferrari’s. Of course, you at the ‘Sweet FA’ as world administrators of the beautiful game will be accommodated at the St. David’s Hotel and Spa at no personal expense.

St Davids Hotel [8]For your many unnecessary visits we will meet you at the rebranded Wales International Airport, at Heathrow, and pay all of your fees at the Severn Bridge toll booths. During the competition all players and spectators will be directed through the clapped out Cardiff Airport, not to burden you with the need to meet or speak with the lesser subjects of your sport.

All of the money-saving initiatives are carefully designed to increase the pot available for bribing, sorry, entertaining you the world leaders of the professional game at the ‘Sweet FA’. As highly respected visiting delegates you will be provided with free use of the City Sightseeing Bus, with commentaries about all the cities in warmer climates where you would currently prefer to be. Your wives will be offered free gifts from their personal choice of stall in the Cardiff Central Market, with free shoe repairs while they wait thrown in for good measure. As a re-think on the Bale heart thing, commemorative hearts will be cast in gold for each delegate and their wives… wrought from the iron ore of Merthyr Tydfil, smelt by the power of purest Welsh steam coal, and borne of the sweat and toil of our working man, if he can be found or isn’t on a health and safety imposed permanent tea break. In this event there is always Plan B… a plastic replica made in China (helping to secure their vote). Free bags of Welsh cakes will be available throughout the period of the bid and tournament, but only to ‘Sweet FA’ personnel and their families.

We are fully aware of the tactics needed to win the strategic votes from around the world… a Welsh Baptist Minister in Patagonia is working on the Americas vote, with South America in the bag, and dispatched to target the bible thumping mid-west. Threats to sue over the title New South Wales should bring in the Oceania vote. The Cardiff City FC connections with Malaysia should easily secure the Asian vote. Craig Bellamy‘s predicted role as a future African President will guarantee the African vote. Europe as our home region initially appear a stubborn convert… but when we seduce Scottish support with our plaque at Cardiff City Stadium the vote will surely follow.

Cardiff City Stadium [8]It is surely to our credit that we have many useless sporting administrators here in Wales, which should endear us to your core philosophy and ways of thinking; and with further mentorship from your delegates we should proudly ensure that nothing deviates from the main ethos established in your corrupt, sorry open and transparent, commitment to leadership. What we have learned most from the experience of Qatar is that we don’t need any relevant history in the game, or existing stadiums full of passionate supporters, or a climate suited to sporting exertion, or even respect for the ordinary fans. Whatever the available budget, as long as we demonstrate that the majority of it is directed to the comforts of you, the world administrators of the ‘Sweet FA’, and your shopping obsessed wives, then we can fill our boots and have ourselves a tournament. Where in Switzerland do I send the suitcases of unmarked bills?

I have been Juno, demonstrating my bid-leading credentials, and I am open to any bribes, I mean constructive suggestions, before I speak with you again.