“we have the ability as a club to compete with the best in Europe,”
New AU President Tom Brown gives us the lowdown on all things BUSA. Page 23
After promotion we look at how Cardiff City are coping with the 1st Division. Page 22
Sam Hammam, Page 22.
September 1 2003 - Issue 742 Lonely: Hansen feeling the strain on and off the field
Swans and Robins off to a flyer WITH THE new football season underway, it is clear that Welsh club football is in a good state of health. Along with Cardiff City s impressive start, both Swansea City and Wrexham have begun the new term by recording some exciting performances both home and away. After only clinging to their league status by a whisker last season, Swansea, under the management of Brian Flynn have gone from rags to riches. And, after securing the services of players like Roberto Martinez and Leon Briton, Swans fans are guaranteed another rollercoaster season. James Thomas hat-trick on the last day of
last season was followed up by another from Brad Maylett, one of Flynn s signings from Burnley, on the first Saturday of the campaign in a 4-2 win over Bury. This was followed by another hat-trick from former Wrexham striker Lee Trundle at Cheltenham. His strikes came in the nick of time as the Swans recovered from 3-1 down to win 4-3. The Jacks then went top of the third division after a 3-0 win over Boston at the Vetch Field which saw over 9,000 fans go through the turnstiles, a reflection of the way the side has approached the new season, with attacking play at the forefront. Wrexham, meanwhile began with three
cleansheets and then followed that up with a superb 3-2 win against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Denis Smith s side, which now includes former Spurs striker Chris Armstrong and Welsh international Chris Llewelyn, are looking to make it two successive promotions after third place in division three last time round. With the attacking play of Carlos Edwards on the right wing Robins fans could be seeing a lot of goal action this campaign. With Wales on the cusp of Euro 2004, it looks as if it will be another exciting season for the Welsh. David Williams
Hansen’s men flop to eleventh straight loss NOTHING IN Welsh rugby ever seems to be straightforward, and preparations for this year’s World Cup appear to be going the same way. Following defeats to Ireland and England, Coach Steve Hansen and his side are now facing a struggle to qualify from their World Cup pool, something, which should be a formality. If the regional upheavals of the Welsh game hadn’t caused enough problems for Hansen, his side could now face embarrassment at the hands of Canada, Italy and Tonga. The humiliation after the 43-9 loss
to bitter rivals England at the Millennium Stadium was felt by most of the 60,000 plus crowd, very few of which had also witnessed an experimental Wales lose 35-12 in Dublin. And, if things weren’t going to plan for Steve Hansen on the pitch, relations with the public and the press off it are at an all time low. The desperation of match ticket promotions at Tesco, an expletive fuelled press conference before the England game and a fruitless, some would say pointless tour of Australia and New Zealand, have all added to the low levels of confidence of the team and the
By David Williams, Sports Ed. public. On the playing side of things, morale couldn’t be any worse after a full strength side were demolished by an England side which didn’t feature any of the team who won both of their Tests down under. A five try to nil margin in favour of Clive Woodward’s second string XV will give the England coach a number of selection headaches due to the massive competition for places. For Steve Hansen, selection problems are on a totally different level. It
would seem that not even Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett or JPR Williams in their pomp could save such a weak Wales side. From their World Cup warm-up matches so far it is hard to see in what areas Wales don’t need to improve on. With a constantly changing squad for each match, the consistency, obviously, is a major problem. Whilst very few of the players have played in all of the ‘friendly’ matches so far, teams such as Australia and New Zealand have been competing for top honours in the Tri Nations at a higher intensity of rugby.
And, after losing 55-3 to the All Blacks earlier in the Summer, Wales can look forward to the daunting prospect of another meeting in the pool stages of the World Cup against a side who can afford to leave the likes of Lomu, Mehrtens and Cullen at home. Only time will tell whether Wales will rise to the challenge that faces them in the World Cup, but it’s going to be an uphill challenge that lies ahead of Steve Hansen’s men. With the game’s major powers surging ahead, the Welsh will have to be careful not to slip into the precipice.
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Published on Aug 31, 2003