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Mark Orders column: Meteorite wouldn’t stop them

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: June 13, 2012

Mark Orders

Mark Orders

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MAYBE, just maybe, a Tri-Nations rugby side would be there for the taking if their country was unfortunate enough to be struck by an asteroid that left only a handful or two of survivors, with three or four of them hospitalised.

Even then it might help if a Day of the Triffids re-enactment could be arranged locally, whereby people-devouring plants spring up everywhere, reducing the population even more.

But these points seemed lost on some last week as a mood kicked in that Wales were destined to beat Australia in the first Test in Brisbane.

The Welsh Rugby Union even reportedly tweeted to the world in the run-up to the clash at the Suncorp Stadium: “History beckons.” If that is right, and it was reported on national TV and in national newspapers, then the author of the tweet obviously hasn’t been paying attention these past 25 years.

For since their 22-21 success against Australia at the 1987 World Cup, Wales haven’t won a single away Test against one of the traditional southern hemisphere superpowers. In 55 games, home, away or on neutral territory, they have lost 51, drawn one and secured just three victories.

It’s a pitiful record that overblown confidence was never going to put right.

Worse still, in the run-up to the series opener there were fanciful headlines about Australia being there for the taking.

When will people ever learn?

Tri-Nations sides are never there for the taking. They can be beaten if the conditions are right and the effort is mighty, but even then the spoils are conceded only in the way a pack of wolves might be prepared to share their evening meal with interlopers from down the road.

Wales have previous in respect of misjudging the mood when a long way from home.

Rewind to 1995 when they convinced themselves, and maybe one or two inhabitants of padded cells, that they were going to beat the All Blacks, Jonah Lomu, Sean Fitzpatrick, Josh Kronfeld and all.

“We are bigger than New Zealand, we’re faster and more skilful,” said the team manager at the time, Geoff Evans.

Back on planet Earth, the All Blacks proceeded to hand Alex Evans’s team a 34-9 hiding.

“I thought New Zealand were there for the taking,” said then Wales skipper Mike Hall later. Soon after, Hall, the two Evanses and their squad were on the way home, no doubt bumping into other low-achieving teams, such as Ivory Coast, Tonga, Romania and Japan, at the airport.

If you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

Even Mister Magoo would have been able to predict that Wales were heading for a fall in Brisbane.

Their selection contained too many players who hadn’t played in recent months, people who were that rusty they looked more in need of a spray of WD-40 than a full-on game of rugby against the reigning Tri-Nations champions.

Astonishingly, Wales took the field with only one Osprey, despite the Liberty Stadium region having defeated three-times European champions Leinster in Dublin in the Pro12 final just 13 days earlier.

Too much faith was placed in players who were playing well for Wales three months ago.

Current form wasn’t properly recognised.

If it was, why wasn’t Ryan Jones, Welsh rugby’s player of the season, in the starting line-up?

Whatever the pick, there would have been no guarantees Wales would win the series opener, but they surely would have had a better chance with players whose confidence was high and form was bright.

Wales haven’t become a bad side overnight but they need to get selection right — and make sure they avoid giving the Wallabies extra incentives to play well. Careless talk costs tries, matches and Tri-Nations scalps.

Grand Slam champions should remember that, and start playing like the team they can be.

TAKE IT AS RED - SWITCH IS A SHOCKING DECISION

IF Cardiff City FC relocated to Mars, made Red Stripe the drink of the club and instructed every one of their players to shower in crimson paint, it still wouldn’t be enough for them to guarantee popularity in Asia.

They could spray the grass at their stadium red, make blushing compulsory for supporters and get the Red Arrows to fly over their base in Leckwith every other weekend. It still wouldn’t matter a jot when compared with the significance of the club reaching the Premier League and achieving significant on-pitch success.

For it isn’t playing in red that has earned Manchester United their popularity in the Far East. It is winning, and more specifically winning titles, and many of them.

Yet Cardiff’s Malaysian owners have pressed on with their decision to ditch a century of tradition and switch from blue to red shirts.

The change has been made, we are told, because red is popular in Asia and decking out the club’s players in the colour will lead to an outpouring of affection for all things Cardiff in the Far East. We’ll see.

There had been warnings that if the switch didn’t go ahead a supposed £100 million investment in the club would be reassessed.

We’ll put to one side the emotional blackmail of the club’s supporters. But what has been a surprise is there hasn’t been more fury locally. No call to arms by significant opinion formers. No séances to canvass the opinions of club legends such as Fred Keenor and Jimmy Scoular.

The reality is Cardiff will run out at the start of next season in red shirts with Malaysia emblazoned on the front and a dragon dwarfing the tiny bluebird on the crest. Short of a name change, tradition could hardly have been trampled on more emphatically.

From here, the episode looks a 24-carat disgrace, one in which the most important people at any football club, the supporters, have been treated with contempt.

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