The East Terrace
WRU in fresh Test caps controversy
James Stafford
June 24, 2011
Welsh fans attending the World Cup warm-ups later this year can expect a Test cap for their trouble © Getty Images
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The Welsh Rugby Union has unveiled a controversial ticketing policy ahead of their Rugby World Cup warm-up games this summer.

Following on from the hugely contentious decision to award caps for the recent exhibition game against the Barbarians, the WRU have announced all Welsh fans who attend the August matches in Cardiff against England and Argentina will be awarded full caps.

Desperate to fill the Millennium Stadium due to ongoing financial burdens, as well as the loss of income from the lack of November internationals in World Cup year, the WRU marketing department believe the policy will lead to both matches being a sell out.

"We are delighted to announce that our match against England on the August 13 should see at least 60,000 new caps awarded," said WRU spokesperson Geriant Williams. "This is a great moment in the proud history of Welsh rugby and a key moment in our 130th Anniversary celebrations. We urge all Welsh fans to get behind the team and reach for that credit card. For as little as £15, plus a small booking fee, you can win your first Welsh cap."

The WRU have revealed that all Welsh fans that purchase tickets and supply documentary proof of Welsh heritage, or can prove at least three years residency in Wales, will be recorded in the WRU record books as internationals. There will be no age or gender barrier to those being awarded caps.

"It's always been said that the crowd at Cardiff is worth at least six or seven points to Wales," said Williams. "But then we never give them any official recognition for those points. We feel it is about time to give back to the fans who give so much."

The move is being promoted as a celebration of 130 years of Welsh international rugby by the union but is already being condemned by critics as 'devaluing' the honour of winning a cap.

One former Welsh international from the 1970s, who wishes to remain anonymous, berated the WRU and plans to return his caps and memorabilia as a protest. "I worked years and sacrificed everything to represent Wales," said the ex-international. "It meant the world to me. To think in one afternoon they are going to give tens of thousands of people a cap for just turning up to the stadium makes me sick. Wales played their first match in 1881 and it wasn't until 2002 that the 1000th cap was awarded. Now they may be giving 70,000 away in one day. Madness."

The WRU denied claims the move cheapens the achievement of winning a Welsh cap. "Talk of us devaluing the cap is nonsense," said Williams. "I mean, we've already on three occasions in our history given caps for matches against the Barbarians. It's not like it's reserved exclusively for people who play in internationals like in other countries. Besides, we want people to get involved in Welsh rugby again and remind them that this is the national game. We have to market the game constantly, leave no stone unturned. Why do you think we now play about a dozen games every year? It's so we can remind people how special Team Wales is. Now we just want to make the fans, often called the 16th man, a part of the team."

"Many ex-internationals who feel they did not get enough caps for Wales, or want to avoid the stigma of being 'one cap wonders' are also due to take up the offer."

The response to the proposal, whilst widely condemned, is not completely negative. Many Welsh fans are delighted to have the chance to become part of rugby history. Jonathan Evans, from Dinas Powys, South Wales, is thrilled at the prospect.

"It's amazing, I can barely wait," said Evans. "It was always my dream to get a Welsh cap. But not only mine, but also my father's dream and my grandfather's dream. But not my great-grandfather, he was more of a soccer man. Anyway, it's a brilliant idea. They say the home support is like an extra man so why not make it official? I would love to have played for Wales but just lacked the dedication and expertise to do it, but I don't see why that should be held against me. After all, we can't all be exceptional people. I think it is a good thing they are making the game less elite."

It is not only fans who seem set to take advantage of the offer, many ex-internationals who feel they did not get enough caps for Wales, or want to avoid the stigma of being 'one cap wonders' are also due to take up the offer.

The Welsh Rugby Union are also considering awarding caps to anyone who bothers attending any Welsh regional rugby matches at all in the next three years.

Test cap controversy through the years:

1885: Newport's Monkey Gould becomes the first non-human to win an international rugby cap.

1927: No caps awarded to the team that lost 5-0 to Scotland due to dyslexic WRU administrator accidently ordering fifteen cats, not caps, for the post-match dinner function.

1990: The first time the WRU show the vision to award caps against the Barbarians.

1998: No caps awarded for the 96-13 loss to South Africa because, well, they just didn't deserve them.

1998: Graham Henry appointed as first foreign Welsh coach and just starts giving random Kiwis and South Africans caps for fun.

2006: Wales now playing so many matches a year rumours are rife that official figures are inaccurate due to the WRU losing track of match and player details.

2007: Will James capped.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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