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Barry John offers reminder the past remains ever-present in Welsh rugby

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Barry John, widely regarded as a legendary fly-half, supposedly decided to retire from rugby when a bank cashier in Rhyl offered him a curtsy, as some versions of the story go. Whether it was a nurse in Swansea, a young mother at the Eisteddfod, or various encounters with fans, the realization of living in a constant spotlight led John to retire at 27, stating, “Living in a goldfish bowl isn’t living at all.”

John passed away at 79 last Sunday, and a minute’s applause is planned at Twickenham on Saturday in his honor, along with his teammate JPR Williams and former England captain Mike Weston. John’s obituaries highlight the distinctive nature of Welsh rugby compared to England’s, with rugby deeply ingrained in Welsh culture.

Wales has faced challenges in recent years, including a critical report on the rugby culture, struggles in regional teams, and controversies over professional game reforms. The press conference ahead of the match against England saw coach Warren Gatland expressing frustration about leaked team announcements and discussing the perceived negativity surrounding Welsh rugby.

While Gatland discussed the challenges, Geraint John, WRU’s community director and a former fan of Barry John, emphasized the enduring passion for rugby in Wales. He mentioned the launch of a new WRU apprenticeship scheme, aiming to engage communities beyond the traditional Saturday afternoon games. However, demographic changes, economic disparities, and shifts in community dynamics pose challenges to sustaining rugby’s presence.

John acknowledged the changing playing population demographics, with a focus on providing access to rugby for those who can’t afford it. Despite the challenges, the enthusiasm and talent within the younger generation are evident, and the excitement around fixtures like the one against England persists.

As the upcoming match approaches, there’s hope that the passion for the game in Wales will continue to burn bright, epitomized by the pride expressed by new players like Alex Mann winning their first caps. The anticipation for the game against England remains high, reflecting the enduring spirit of Welsh rugby.



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