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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK

End the shambles now

Wales lost out to Australia despite a brave performance

Ex-Welsh international and rugby journalist Eddie Butler takes a swipe at the way the game is run in the British Isles and warns that lessons must be leaned if the home nations are to challenge in 2003.

The Welsh performance against Australia was as good as we could have expected. It was the best Welsh performance of the tournament, but the host nation were beaten by a better side.

After four years of rising hope and expectation, we have again fallen victim to our more southern neighbours.

The gap remains. Rugby has been in a state of anarchy in the UK. And the result? No home nations in the semi-finals.

The way the sport has been run has been shambolic. And the Southern Hemisphere sides have again shown us how badly we need to revamp out current competitions.

Mediocre players

There are too many mediocre players drawing huge salaries from the game in the UK. Consider Australia's 100-or-so professionals, compared to the 1000s over here and you start to see what I mean.

In 1995 clubs were given a blank sheet of paper on which to professionalise the game. And if they had said, 'How can we foul this up?' and implemented every single one of those bits of wreckage they could not have done a better job of it.

[ image: Neil Jenkins: Fine performance but the Aussies were simply too good]
Neil Jenkins: Fine performance but the Aussies were simply too good
Inevitably the fall-out has been failure, and now we find ourselves with another blank sheet of paper.

We need a governing body who know what they are doing , and this time if club owners say 'we're not entering this or that competition' then they must be told to go away and make it on their own.

Twickenham was steamrollered into accepting the Sky deal in 1995 and it's been a disaster for everyone involved, splitting the Northern Hemisphere unions and accelerating the sport's destruction.

The only consistent thing about Northern Hemisphere rugby is that it has no track record of doing things quickly. But things, inevitably, must now change.

For the first time power lies with the people who know what they are talking about - with Graham Henry, Jim Telfer , Ian McGeechan and Clive Woodward.

Wales on the up

In a way, Wales has had such an accelerated improvement that it was easy to imagine them going further in the tournament. But, realistically, a quarter-final against Australia was as far as they were ever going to get.

It's clear that none of the home nations are used to dealing with the lack of space available in big games against New Zealand, South Africa or Australia.

And we need more practise if we're ever to realistically challenge the rugby hierarchy. Mountaineers will tell you that you have to spend a period of time at altitude before you can acclimatise and it's the same at Test level on a rugby field.

We must have higher intensity competitions.

Henry has called for a European Super-12 or Super-10, and if someone like him wants it, let's give it to him. Because if he doesn't get it, he won't hang around to wait for the home nations to fail again in 2003.

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