37 hours ago
'That's entertainment' says David Watkins
Rugby Union should be studying Rugby League's recent history! That's the claim made by Newport Gwent Dragons President David Watkins MBE.
And the 66-year-old should know what he is talking about because among a string of many records and honours he holds in both codes of rugby, he is still the only man to have captained both the British Lions Rugby Union team and the Great Britain Rugby League side.
Speaking frankly Watkins said: "Union would do well to see what happened in League during the 1950s and 1960s because that's the state of affairs we have in Union at the moment.
"Back in the 50s and 60s Rugby League was plagued by negative play when the best sides could dominate games by recruiting big players who could hold the ball for long periods and simply grind the opposition into the mud.
"Take a look at Rugby Union today and what do you see? The top sides signing up the best players and able to hold the ball for long periods which stifles open play and crushes their opposition.
"Don't misunderstand me Rugby Union has come a long way in a very short space of time but when it comes to producing fast, flowing, fluid rugby in most of their games then Rugby League is still out in front."
And Watkins added: "If anybody needs any convincing then they should get themselves along to the engage Super League 2008 'Millennium Magic' event on Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium".
Millennium Magic is when the engage Super League stages the entire Round 13 of their fixture list at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium over two days, with three games on each day.
"Because Rugby League has successfully addressed the issue of having possession of the ball dominated so easily their players are brought up to develop their attacking, open play skills," says Watkins.
"It's a far more colourful game while Union still has problems behind the scrummage that we need to address.
"I watch League on the television and their games continue to deliver high quality of entertainment because it's not so easy for one team to dominate another in any of their games".
Watkins believes that Union has shown that it can hit the heights and that was shown when Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam this year. He said: "We've just got to allow our players to show what they can do by giving both sides in any game a fair share of the ball.
"As it is at the moment any club with a huge pack of forwards can completely shut out the opposition."
Watkins, who besides his Rugby Union position is an official patron of Wales Rugby League, said: "I think the Rugby League should be applauded for their decision to stage 'Millennium Magic' in Wales.
"The sport never has it easy in Wales and this year they've had to contend with Wales winning the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown.
"But perhaps they can benefit from the fact that so many grass root Welsh rugby supporters have not been able to see as much top rugby this year.
"It's a fact of life that there is a section of the community who are attracted by success. They are the folk who want to be associated with a winning team and be seen at all the top events.
"And then of course there is always the increasingly important corporate hospitality market.
"Both those factors make it harder for the ordinary rugby supporters to see the best action. It prices them out of the big, important matches.
"By making ticket prices affordable and offering so many packages like all-day tickets or weekend tickets the Rugby League have made 'Millennium Magic' accessible to everybody.
"It's a great concept to play six matches over two days and, while not every match can be a classic, you can bet that you'll see something special in most of the games."
Tickets to Millennium Magic are still available priced