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Posts Tagged ‘Wales’

I vaguely remember writing a similar title a few months ago, but with “England” instead of “Ireland” in the title. Well, this time it is our Celtic cousins who have impressed me, and Wales who have continued to disappoint and frustrate. On Saturday (5 November), we played Australia in the first of our 4-match autumn test series. I blogged about the series here. To say that we got off to a bad start would be an understatement, Wales were woeful and lost the match 32-8. We were 20-3 down at half time, totally outplayed in the first half by a better, faster, more creative Australia. Things improved very slightly in the second half, but not by much really. It is one of the worst performances by Wales of the last 5-6 years.

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Wales slumped to a 32-8 defeat to Australia in the first of their 4-match autumn test series. We were woeful in the first half, but not really that much better in the second.

Later on Saturday, Ireland played world champions New Zealand in the first test of their autumn series. But, not in Dublin as one might have expected, but instead in Chicago! As part of the International Rugby Board’s attempts to broaden the interest in rugby, the match was played at Solider Field, home of the Chicago Bears. When I worked at the University of Chicago I drove past Soldier Field on dozens of occasions. I wonder what odds I would have got on a bet that it would be where Ireland would get their first ever victory over the mighty All Blacks! I am thrilled for Ireland, and as they play New Zealand a second time, in Dublin, in a few weeks’ time I hope that they can repeat it in front of their home fans.

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Ireland beat New Zealand for the first time in 111 years of trying. The game was played at Soldier Field in Chicago, part of the attempt to increase the popularity of rugby in the USA.

But, back to Wales. Where on earth do we go from ┬áhere after such an abject performance? It is just because it is the first match of the series, and we will get better as the series progresses? Is it because interim coach Rob Howley needs to get his players to buy into his way of doing things? It is because Australia are a very very good side, and we just were outclassed? Our next match is against Argentina, who thrashed Ireland in the quarter finals of last year’s world cup. I await to see how we get on against them, Japan and South Africa before I come to any conclusions, but we could not have had a worse start to the series ­čśŽ

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50 years ago today, on 21 October 1966, a tragedy happened in a small mining village in Wales which horrified the world. At 9:15am, Pantglas school in a place called Aberfan was engulfed by a river of coal debris. 116 children (more than half of the school’s pupils) and 28 adults were killed. Dozens more were rescued from the horror, with people from Aberfan and surrounding villages digging with their hands in a desperate attempt to save some lives.


The tragedy was due to a tip of coal waste (“slag heap” as they were often called) which had been piled on the side of the mountain against which the village nestles, and was entirely preventable. For months the local council had been warning the National Coal Board (NCB) of the risk, but the NCB had taken no notice. 

In a tribunal held after the tragedy, the NCB were found guilty of negligence and of corporate manslaughter. However, they never paid a penny of compensation to the families, nor did they pay to have the numerous slag heaps rendered safe. Local families had to raise the money to do this themselves. After years of campaigning, in 1997 the newly-formed Welsh Assembly government finally repaid the families the money that they had raised. Some 10 years later the Welsh Assembly government paid the families a much larger sum, to correct for the inflation in the intervening 40 years. 

I have been to the cemetery and memorial park in Aberfan. It is a beautiful tribute and memory to the tragedy that happened that wet October day in 1966. 

Here is a very moving poem simply called Aberfan by Vera Rich, an English-born poet.  

I have seen their eyes, the terrible, empty eyes
Of women in a glimmerless dawn, and the hands
Of men who have wrestled through long years with the dark
Underpinning of the mountains, strong hands that fight

In dumb faith that what was once flesh born of their flesh
And is earth of the earth, should rest in the earth of God,
Not that of the devil’s making…

The Tip had crouched like a plague-god, with the town,
A victim in reversion, held beneath
A vast, invisible paw… Not a lion to toss
A proud, volcano-mane of destruction, crouched
Like a rat, it waited…

I have seen their eyes, and the empty hands of men,
And they walk like victims of a second Flood
In a world no longer home, where the void of sky
Between tall mountains looms as a cenotaph
For a generation of laughter… 

                                      I have seen them
Walking, near-ghosts, wraiths from a half-formed legend
Of this more-than-Hamelin, where, on an autumn Friday,
Between nine and ten of the clock, death raised his flute
And the children followed… 

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Today I thought I would share this poem by Wales’ most famous anglo-welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. I have blogged about Thomas before; in this blog I shared the opening passage of his radio play for voices, Under Milk Wood. The poem I am sharing today is one of his most famous – “Do not go gentle into that good night”, which he wrote in 1947 when he was 33 years old.

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Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night” in 1947. He would be dead himself just 6 years later, at the age of 39.

The poem deals with death, or rather the refusal to fade away in old age. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Profound words for a 33-year old to write, and ironic that Thomas himself should never live to see old age. He drank himself to death just a few years after composing this poem, when he was only 39 years old.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Here is a video of Thomas reading his poem. What a beautiful voice he had. Enjoy!

Which is your favourite Dylan Thomas poem?

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After last weekend’s matches we now know the line-up for the Euro 2016 semi-finals. This evening (Wednesday 6 July) at 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT) Wales play Portugal, then tomorrow evening (Thursday 7 July) the hosts France take on the World champions Germany.

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Wales play Portugal this evening (Wednesday), France play Germany on tomorrow (Thursday). Both matches start at 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)

Wales’ match against Portugal is in Lyon, whilst the second semi-final is in Marseille. We in Wales are incredulous that we’ve got to the semi-finals, but we are also grateful to be facing Portugal and not France or Germany.

Of the teams to reach the semi-finals, Portugal have been by far the least impressive. They qualified 3rd in their group with three drawn matches. Then, in the round of 16, they only beat Croatia 1-0 in extra time. In the quarter finals they beat Poland, but this time only on penalties with it being 1-1 after extra time.

Of course, any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo in its ranks cannot be written off. With his brilliance he can turn a game around in a flash. But the contrast with Gareth Bale is interesting. Both play for Real Madrid, both are the stars of their teams, but there the similarities end. Bale is a team player, down to earth and a very popular member of the squad. The very opposite of a prima donna. Ronaldo is petulant, greedy and, one gets the impression, does not consider himself ‘one of the lads’. He is like a preening peacock; if he weren’t so brilliant he would surely be universally disliked.

Wales are, of course, riding on a wave of euphoria. The team will be bursting with confidence after our thrilling 3-1 win against Belgium on Friday evening. But, I am also confident that we will not take Portugal for granted. Chris Coleman is far too wily a coach to allow his team to do that. We will be missing midfielder Aaron Ramsey and defender Ben Davies, both suspended after picking up second yellow cards in the match against Belgium. But, we have such a structure  and game plan, which the team all believe in, that I am sure their replacements will step up admirably to to the high standard Ramsey and Davies have set.

It is going to be a very tense countdown to the big match in Wales! Dere ‘mlaen Cymru!!! (come on Wales!!!)

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What an amazing match! We beat Belgium 3-1, and now we are in the semi-finals where we will take on Portugal.

It is like being in a dream. This is the furthest Wales have got in an international football competition. It is the first time we have been in one since the 1958 World Cup, where Brazil knocked us out in the Quarter Finals.

This time we have gone one step further, and Portugal are eminently beatable.

Come on Wales!!!! Dere ‘mlaen Cymru!!!! #togetherstronger

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We may have voted to leave the EU, a disappointment from which it will take me a long time to recover, but Wales are still in the 2016 Euros. On Saturday evening we beat Northern Ireland 1-0 to advance to the Quarter Finals. The dream is still alive, and Wales, who have never been in the Euros before, are now in the last eight. In the Quarter Finals we will meet Belgium, who were in the same qualifying group as us. We beat them in our home game, and held them to a draw in the away game. So, we should not be afraid of them.

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Wales beat Northern Ireland 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the Quarter Finals. We play Belgium in Lille on Friday at 20:00 BST (19:00 GMT)

Belgium advanced to the Quarter Finals with an emphatic 4-0 win over Hungary, and certainly they looked very good. The Wales win over Northern Ireland was much more scrappy, but although Northern Ireland are not the most attacking of teams they are also a very difficult team to break down, as we discovered.

Wales are already in dreamland, but it is far from inconceivable that we can beat Belgium. If we do, we would play either Portugal or Poland in the semi-finals. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time. We first need to beat Belgium, and we showed in qualifying for the Euros that we can do that.

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I am writing this on Friday (24 June), the day that the result of the referendum to stay or leave the European Union (EU) was announced. I assume everyone reading this knows the result, the citizens of the (Dis)united Kingdom have voted by 51.9% to 48.1% to leave the EU. To say that I am shocked and disappointed would be an understatement. And, I am also ashamed. I am ashamed that my country, Wales, voted by 52.5% to leave. That is a higher percentage than the DUK average. I am ashamed to be Welsh at this moment.

Scotland, not surprisingly, voted to stay, in fact 62% of those voting in Scotland want to stay in the EU. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has already said that a fresh referendum for Scottish indpendence is “highly likely”, as she feels it is totally wrong for Scotland to be forced out of the EU against its will. And, I agree with her. I only wish I could say the same for Wales, but we actually voted to leave. 

As anyone who reads my blog (all two of you) will know, I am a massive rugby fan. Tomorrow, Wales will take on New Zealand in the 3rd and final test of their summer tour. We have not beaten New Zealand since 1953. Also, later tomorrow, our football team take on Northern Ireland in the 2016 Euros; if we win we will get to the Quarter Finals.

I would love us to beat NZ for the first time in 63 years, and for us to advance to the Quarter Finals of the 2016 Euros. But, I would willingly give up all of this to have had Wales mirror Scotland and have voted to stay in the EU. I have always thought of my small country as outward looking and inclusive, but it seems I was wrong. A majority want to turn their backs on our European neighbours. I would bet my mortgage that Wales will regret this decision in 5-10 years’ time and wish they had voted differently.

By 2020, I predict, Scotland will be back in the EU as an independent country; whilst Wales becomes an increasingly economically poor western part of the rump which is left of the (Dis)united Kingdom. With Scotland independent, the London government will be perpetually a Conservative one, and do the Welsh people honestly think people like Boris Johnson (the most likely person to become Britain’s next Prime Minster) or Michael Gove give a damn about the poverty blighting the South Wales valleys? The poverty that Maggie Thatcher set in motion when she dismantled the coal industry in the 1980s? They probably don’t even know where Wales is.

I have just seen this on Twitter, and so thought I would add it. Although I’m a little too young to be a baby boomer, my generation voted overwhelmingly to “leave” too. “Sorry” doesn’t seem adequate……


I am sad, I am angry, I am shocked. But, most of all I am ashamed. And envious of Scotland, a beacon of sanity in a sea of madness…….

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Tomorrow (Thursday 23 June) the (Dis)united Kingdom is holding a referendum to decide whether its four constituent countries should stay as members of the European Union or not. The fact that I refer to the “United” Kingdom as the “Disunited” Kingdom may suggest that I want out of the European Union. But, I don’t.

I think Wales benefits hugely from being a member of the European Union (EU). At the moment, Wales cannot make the decision about our membership on our own, it is decided at a (D)UK level, which means England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all pooled together. So, it may be the case that Wales (and Scotland) decide they want to stay in the EU, but the overall DUK vote is “out” because most of the DUK’s population is based in England.

I am not sure what the reaction to such a scenario would be in Wales, but I am fairly sure that in Scotland it would trigger another referendum for independence. In September 2014 you may remember that Scotland held a referendum to decide whether they wanted to leave the United Kingdom. The “no to independence” won by 55% to 45%; but it is widely thought that a vote to leave the EU when Scotland are overwhelmingly in favour of membership of the EU would trigger another referendum for independence from London. Personally, I would love to see both Scotland and Wales gain independence from London, but I would prefer that not to happen because the DUK votes to leave to EU. 

I particularly like this graphic.,”mewn” is Welsh for “in”

Scotland is not only far more independently minded than Wales, it is also more pro-EU. I think Wales is more pro-EU than England, but not by as much as I would like. Which surprises me, because Wales benefits hugely from being a member of the EU. We are too small a country to do a lot of things on our own, and working at a European level to deal with big issues is just the kind of Europe in which I want to live. Wales also receives more back from the EU than we pay into it; EU grants have helped rebuild the ruin caused to Wales by 11 years of Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister.

There have been a huge number of lies and misinformation during this referendum campaign, but one  of the things I wanted to take issue with is the lie about how our lives in the DUK are now governed by “unelected officials in Brussels”. First, let me say something about the system of government in the DUK for those not living here who don’t know how it works.

The general election, which was held in May of last year (2015), saw the Conservative party win an overall majority in the House of Commons, even though they only got something like 20% of the popular vote. That is because of the “first past the post” system that is used in British general elections. Even though 80% of the adult population didn’t vote for them, they can pass any laws they wish to in the House of Commons because they have more seats than the rest of the parties put together.

Hardly democratic!

Secondly, the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament, has some 800-odd members, not a single one  of whom is elected! The House of Lords has law-making and law-modifying powers. True, there is the “Parliament Act”, which allows the House of Commons to rail-road something through even if the House of Lords opposes it, but the point I am trying to make is that the so-called “home of democracy” (Britain/England) is one of the most undemocratic countries in Europe!

And, this lie that laws are made by un-elected officials in Brussels really bothers me. Who votes for these EU laws? The European Parliament, that is who. 

They are elected by member states of the EU. Ironically, in the DUK, the EU elections are done by proportional representation, far more democratic than the first-past-the-post system used for the London government. Yes, the laws may be proposed by “unelected mandarins” in Brussels, but most of the laws brought before the British Parliament are proposed by unelected mandarins in Westminster – the civil service. 

If a majority of the EU’s parliament pass a proposed law, each country’s representative (usually the leader of that country’s government) makes the final “ok” about that law. It is a far  more democratic system than we have in Britain. So, the argument that we are ruled by un-elected officials in Brussels is just a lie, and does not stand up to any level of scrutiny.

It is possible that the main issue on which people will decide how to vote is immigration. Some people feel that the DUK is drowning under a tide of immigrants. Let me again explain some things to readers who do not live in Europe, or do not know how the EU and Britain’s immigration works. The EU has the principle of free movement of people. So, any one in any  member state can go and live and work in any other member state. The only restriction on this, as far as I am aware, is that you may not be able to claim welfare benefits from a country which is not your own, and you may not be allowed such free movement if you have a criminal record. Britain is not in the Shengen zone, so even EU citizens coming into the DUK must show a passport upon entry. Thus, they can be refused entry if there is a legitimate reason to refuse it.

There was a man on BBC Radio this morning who was saying something which has been shown time after time to be true – Eastern Europeans are prepared to work much harder than “British” people. If it were not for these hard-working people, a lot of the menial jobs in Britain would not get done. The British economy depends on such hard-working people, be they from Eastern Europe or beyond the EU; and if these people were not here who knows who would pick fruit and clean office buildings and work in fast food restaurants, because “British” people largely shun such jobs.

Also, more than 50% of the immigrants to Britain come from beyond the EU. The DUK Government has complete control over who it allows in from outside the EU. So, to think that leaving the EU will somehow stop the “tide” of people coming to work and/or study in the DUK is a fallacy. 

Study after study has shown that immigrants, be they from within our beyond the EU, are a boon to our economy. They add far more to the British economy than they take. The DUK’s economy would suffer if these immigrants were not allowed to come here.

As of my writing this, the polls are neck and neck; within the margin of error there is nothing to choose between the “remain” and the “leave” camps. I sincerely hope the undecided will realise what a massive error it would be for the countries of the Disunited Kingdom to turn their backs on Europe. We should be working with our European neighbours for a better, safer and more prosperous Europe. Not throwing our toys out of the pram just because the EU is not perfect. 

Of course it’s not perfect, but it is far more democratic than the Houses of Parliament are! And, by staying in it we can help improve the EU so that more of its citizens (all 508 million) feel that it is a model for how to cooperate internationally.

 

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About an hour after this blog is posted, Wales will take on New Zealand in the 2nd Test of their summer tour. As I blogged about on Tuesday, we lost the 1st Test 39-21, after leading 21-18 with some 15-minutes to go. After the first test, I fully expected us to lose the 2nd and 3rd tests, but hoped that we could put up a good fight in each one.

But, in the middle of the week Wales were thrashed 40-7 by the Chiefs, one of the Super-rugby franchises. Admittedly it was Wales’ mid-week team, but such a thrashing has surely battered the moral of the Welsh camp. I fear that┬áthis tour may have turned into an exercise in damage limitation…..

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Wales take on New Zealand in Auckland in the 2nd Test of their summer tour, after losing the 1st Test 39-21 and being thrashed 40-7 mid-week by the Chiefs

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, England will be going for a historic series win against Australia. England soar, Wales sink…. It pains me to write it.

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On Saturday (11 June), Wales played New Zealand in the first test of their 3-test tour. Later the same morning, England played Australia in the first test of of their 3-test tour. Wales lost, England won. And therein lies the different trajectories the two teams seem to be on this last 6 months.

Wales were 18-15 up at half time, and even 21-18 ahead with 15 minutes to go. But, New Zealand overpowered Wales in the last 15 minutes, racking up 21 unanswered points in the last quarter of an hour. Wales were left thinking what could have been.

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Wales were 21-18 up with 15 minutes to go, but were then overpowered by New Zealand, who won 39-21.

Later the same morning, England took on Australia in the first test of their 3-test tour. The match was in Brisbane, a place where England have never beaten Australia. Australia got off to the better start, quickly scoring two tries, but England stayed calm and won a pulsating match 39-28. It sets them up to be on course for their first ever series win in Australia, something their Australian coach Eddie Jones would relish.

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England beat Australia to not only win the first test of their 3-test series, but it was also their first win ever in Brisbane.

The second tests are next Saturday (18 June). England could clinch the series, and Wales will try to narrow the gap between themselves and the All Blacks. But, to me, Saturday’s results just illustrate the different paths Wales and England have been on since that memorable game in the World Cup in October. Wales narrowly beat England in that match; partly by being fitter, partly by maybe wanting it more, and partly because of poor decision making by England in the last 15 minutes.

Since then, England have been transformed. Eddie Jones has been brought in as head coach, and they are now playing a style of rugby which is difficult to beat. They have won 7 from 7 under Jones, whereas Wales have gone backwards since their win over England in the World Cup. It was good to see Wales try to play some expansive rugby on Saturday, and maybe playing such rugby against almost anyone but New Zealand would have led to a victory. Two more tests, which i expect us to lose, at least gives the Welsh team and management a chance to play agains the best and to work on improving their game so that we can have a successful 6 Nations in 2017, and a successful Autumn test series in November.

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