Fraser Watson features all that's good in the local rugby scene

In this week's column, Fraser Watson talks Stephen Varney’s perfect reply, youth rugby taking some limelight, lazy doping procedures, and adventures in Ireland…

Varney vents in Blue:

Stephen Varney was raised in Cardigan and came through the ranks at Crymych RFC. Circumstances later took him to Hartpury College where he earnt a place in the Gloucester RFC Academy.

His form for the latter became well publicised, and yet a call from Welsh age group selectors never came.

It was an oversight those selectors may now regret. On Friday Varney, whose mother is Italian, lined up for The Azzurri Under 20s against Wales. Not only did the No 9 help his side to a shock 17-7 win, he was named man of the match in the process.

Varney comes across as a level-headed character and opted against firing any shots in his post-match interview. But deep down, he’ll know he’s delivered the perfect riposte to those who ignored him.

By the way, he’s still eligible to switch to Wales at senior level……

Youth teams take some limelight:

With no local senior rugby to report on the weekend, it was a refreshing change to be able to prioritise youth games.

Fishguard v Tenby, Milford Haven v Narberth, and Haverfordwest v Whitland – all fixtures that managed to squeeze in 80 minutes despite it being an international day.

It proved worthwhile. At all three grounds there were decent crowds and elder players and coaches took the chance to watch those coming through.

A youth side is arguably the most important one in any club. It bridges the gap between junior and senior rugby and gives players a taste of a more physical, intense playing environment. It’s also the age where the social aspect of rugby first comes into play for youngsters - in other words waking up on Sundays in spew stained club shirts.

It’s vital youth rugby in our county is kept sustainable, and Saturday suggests there is enough interest to ensure that.

Lazy lists:

Last week, the drug testers turned up unannounced at a couple of Pembrokeshire clubs.

For the record, I’m all for that. It’s no secret that for a decade or two now, the amateur game in Wales has been plagued by boys on the ‘gear’. Every club in the WRU League system should at some point be subjected to testing during a season with a hard line policy for those who fall foul.

That may not sound cost effective or practical, but you’ll never eradicate a culture if you don’t stamp it out at source.

But I was amused to see Dan Birch disclose that for the third time, authorities rocked up at The Obs in Milford with the exact names scrawled down on a sheet as their previous two visits.

Random testing means you test at random. You don’t just keep pointing fingers at the big guys.

As for Birch, he’s clearly training too hard at Crossfit Dynamic. The bloody cheat.

The craic of the Irish:

This weekend I’m off to Ireland. My other half is coming with me though, so let’s say the trip from Fishguard Harbour may differ to that of years gone by.

But for any junior, youth, or senior rugby side, there really is no better place to tour (without other halves).

I remember going to Dublin with the Pembrokeshire Schools’ Under 15s in 1999, back when you were able to drink underage in pubs as long as you said please. We somehow came home unbeaten and managed a win against the highly regarded Blackrock College, mainly because Nathan ‘Gully’ Williams (then a No 8) was as good at bulldozing defenders as he was sinking cans.

I won’t disclose what else went on, but even lads I’ve barely seen since I remember from that tour.

I don’t think that annual trip goes on anymore. In fact, the concept of a proper rugby tour has all but died out in clubs. Some may have an annual fixture away or an overnight stay somewhere, but the days of players enduring a long weekend of hungover matches and kangaroo courts are in the distant past.

Whether it be the social and economic climate, the lack of playing numbers, or the reluctance to travel, it’s a real shame.

There are a few better ways to bond a grassroots rugby squad, young or old, than a trip to Dublin’s fair city.