Fraser Watson's latest local rugby column

Scarlets U16s

In his latest column, Fraser Watson looks at Scarlets 16s, some 4G reaction, Sky's Six Nations threat, and Owen's big day at Bierspool.

Scarlet selection:

Congratulations to George Rossiter, Tom Cabot, Rhys Lewis and Jac Delaney – who this week were selected for the Scarlets squad at under 16s level.

The quartet have been rewarded for their performances and I sincerely hope they can all push on and represent the region at a high level. But equally, I trust those who missed out from Pembrokeshire will not now be discarded.

The academy format identifies talent at a young age and that is a positive, but since rugby went professional we have been slowly plagued by this notion that players who aren’t picked up early have missed the boat.

Rugby is a game that has to cater for late developers. Strength, pace, tactical knowledge, all things that can enhance vastly between the ages of 16 and 18.

Regional selection at any age has to be cut-throat and you can’t pick everyone. But any coaching group worth their salt should have the good sense to keep monitoring the progress of those who came close.

4G reaction:

Flagging up 4G surfaces last month prompted a bit of reaction.

Judging by the messages, some think they are essential and others a waste of time. But the most interesting perspective came from Crymych's Mark Davies, who project-managed the artificial surface at Treforest (home of Pontypridd AFC).

It was an expensive project but undoubted success. The Barbarians trained there in November as did the Italians for the Six Nations - and the All Blacks will be there in November. Not too shoddy then.

But he added council built ones tend to have inferior quality matting which causes burns. This is a budget issue, while there is also little guidance handed out on maintenance.

Surfaces like Treforest and Cyncoed have a shock pad installed under them to allow for rugby contact and help prevent injury – seemingly the ones based locally don’t.

Unfortunately, even in the amateur game, money matters. And here the lack of financial clout in Pembrokeshire seems apparent again.

Sky’s the limit:

And while on the subject of money……….

The news this week that Sky Sports is set to screen all Six Nations matches from 2022 has been met with widespread discontent. Watching Wales (and other nations) on free to air television has allowed so many more people to engage with the game in decades gone by.

Should the almost inevitable happen, the implications will be widespread. Viewing figures will nosedive and local pubs and rugby clubs who can’t afford a satellite dish will suffer. Youngsters, so often inspired by what they see on television, won’t suddenly be flocking to the garden to replicate a George North try.

But here’s the conundrum. In Wales, our regions struggle to compete financially with sides from England, Ireland, and France. Our women’s game is under-funded, and at grassroots level clubs are constantly calling for more assistance.

When the likes of Sky Sports come around offering unions extortionate amounts, they stick them between a rock and a hard place.

The WRU, and Six Nations as a whole, may feel it has little choice but to sell its soul.

Gareth ScourfieldOwen’s big day at Bierspool:

Saturday sees the much anticipated game between a Pembrokeshire County side and Valero. Gareth Scourfield has done a great job of organising a big day and a reminder to all local rugby fans that kick off at Pembroke Dock is at 1pm.

But the cause comes above the rugby. Owen James, Gareth’s young nephew, has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome and funds raised will be used to support him.

For all the talk of grassroots rugby dying, last Saturday we had St Davids and Llangwm players still dancing on tables at 10pm in the name of the late Johnny James - and this weekend a large portion of the county is set to unite (post-match at least).

Many say rugby around here isn’t what it was, and it’s a valid argument. But there is still no other sport like it for rivals coming together in adversity.