In his latest column, Fraser Watson loosk at the 'cash in hand culture' in grass roots rugby, a win for the Vikings, uncontested scrums, and a wasted weekend.

Cash in hand:

Technically, non A licence clubs in Wales who sign their ‘statement of truth’ are forbidden from paying players.

Yes, I just laughed too.

This week Welsh Rugby Union chiefs revealed this week only six clubs had opted out of signing the documents, therefore admitting to subsidising squad members and making themselves ineligible for certain grants.

Yes, I’m still laughing too.

Narberth RFC were among those to be transparent about dishing out wages, unlike hosts of others behind them.

Payments go on in practically every Division in Welsh rugby. Rules were altered to stop it a few seasons ago – so some now mask it as travel expenses, others arrange it externally through sponsors, and the more old fashioned just slip £20 in the back pocket.

Of course, some reimbursements are legitimate but let’s not bury heads in the sand and pretend to be oblivious to what goes on.

I concede it’s very difficult for authorities to monitor and the responsibility lies within clubs themselves. Rewarding boys financially because they run in a tries at the lower end of the Welsh rugby scale might earn you a promotion or two, but at the expense of the long term sustainability of both your club and the amateur game.

Whatever happened to just a few free pints for winning?

A victory for the Vikings – and for rugby:

On the contrary, I doubt the Pembrokeshire Vikings or Llanelli Warriors face the problem of players demanding cash……

In an age where social, inclusive rugby is essentially dying, it was a pleasure to be at their mixed ability match at Haverfordwest on Sunday.

Players of varying experience enjoying themselves – it was a throwback to the days where second and even third team rugby was prominent in our society.

Emma and Delyth Summons, Jeff Clout, and Simon Gardiner have taken charge of an initiative I hope will catch on, and the size of the crowd at Haverfordwest RFC suggests that for now at least, the Vikings are capturing the imagination.

Speaking of Gardiner, the occasion came two weeks after he played his 100th game for Llanelli RFC, albeit it over a period which spanned 12 years and included other clubs along the way.

I interviewed him in the summer and sensed I was talking to a much more mature, focussed individual than before. To see him now giving back to local rugby reaffirms that.

Uncontested controversy:

So the closing stages at Whitland RFC were clouded in controversy on Saturday when Penclawdd asked for uncontested scrums. The request was duly granted.

Ironically, the visitors then let a 12 point lead slip, but again the issue raised questions about tactical cynicism.

The WRU have altered rules in recent times so that a side that goes uncontested must drop a player and so it should be. Too many teams have played that card over the years in order to suit their own game plan.

So while the Penclawdd reasoning may have been genuine, it’s natural now for people to meet the scenario with scepticism. And you have to sympathise with referees who, with so much scrutiny on player safety, dare not question a player claiming to be injured.

Scrummaging is an integral part of rugby union. It’s time some teams stopped trying to avoid it. 

A break in play for ‘dead ball line’:

Social media allows for greater exposure for grassroots rugby nowadays – a notion that Joe Rogers has exploited brilliantly.

Known to most as ‘dead ball line’, his weekly videos, interviews, and reports have provided great viewing on Twitter and he’s built up a good rapport with the majority of clubs in west Wales.

Therefore, it was a shame to hear last week he is taking a break from his voluntary work for personal reasons. I’m unaware as to why but like many others, I hope to see him back soon.

Until he is, his contribution will be missed.

A weekend goes wasted:

We’ve had a month of rugby fixtures now decimated by rain, the Rugby World Cup final, and then more rain.

And now with the weather set fair this Saturday, everyone has an enforced break. It makes little sense.

Yes, I get Wales are playing the Barbarians. I get the WRU need a big attendance to negate a financial loss in 2019. I get there may be some lads who prefer a day on the pop in Cardiff to playing.

But let’s be honest, local rugby is paying the penalty for Anthony Joshua opting to fight in Saudi Arabia and not the Principality Stadium.

All this does is make the end of season backlog that bit more chaotic, and all for a game not even classed as a capped international. I understand no one wants to play when Wales have a Grand Slam decider with England with a 2.30pm kick off, but the balance to when grassroots games do and don’t give way to Welsh matches has long been distorted.

Having said that, for those craving local rugby this weekend – a reminder Whitland play Tenby in the Pembrokeshire Cup and Llangwm host Llanybydder in Division Three West A.

Both are 12.30pm kick offs – so you’ll even make it back home in time to watch a friendly kick off on telly.

With just two games on, no guest predictions tomorrow.

We’ll never know if the weather helped or hindered Ben John last weekend but the Fishguard man had five results right from six (no correct margins), to wade in with a 83% win ration and set the new mark to beat.