Quinnell: “I find it hard to criticise the Welsh players leaving”

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There seems to be no end to the Welsh exodus at the moment – Richard Hibbard is leaving for Gloucester and there are constant rumours over Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton’s futures flying around – but Welsh legend Scott Quinnell doesn’t blame them.

“I find it hard to criticise the Welsh players leaving because it would be hypocritical of me,” says Quinnell. “I left for rugby league in 1994. The players have to think of themselves – the physicality of the game, the way it’s going, just look at all the British and Irish Lions who have come back after a busy summer and are currently injured. They have to think about the money.

“If it was me and I was playing nowadays I might possibly go to France but I took a 45% pay cut to come back and play for Llanelli after rugby league. Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener but I don’t begrudge these young men who want to go and experience a new way of life, whether you cross the border or go to France. It’s a great opportunity for them and I hope they reap the rewards.”

The age-old rumour of an Anglo-Welsh league is another hot topic at the moment, but Quinnell thinks this could be a way off, if true at all.

“With rugby at the moment I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he says. “I don’t think anybody has the full facts and I know there will be a lot of talk between the regions and unions and clubs in the near future. We need to be mindful of the game as well, history is a wonderful thing and we need to look to the future and make sure rugby is in a good place nationally and at a club and regional level.”

Quinnell does understand the repercussions that occur with the amount of players leaving the Land of the Red Dragon though. “I’ll tell you who I feel sorry for: the fans. Not just the loyal fans who have been around 10 to 50 years, but the nine year olds who need to see the best players playing in Wales.

“It’s very sad that they’ll only be able to watch their idols play in a Welsh jersey or when they come back to play in Wales with their new team. There’s a civil war going on throughout rugby at the moment, particularly in Wales, and hopefully they can sort something out sooner rather than later.”

Speaking about civil war, Quinnell is at a loss when it comes down to the future of European rugby. “It’s up to the organisers now. I genuinely believe that nobody knows anything yet. The Heineken Cup is a magnificent competition and I’ve been very lucky to play in it and in a couple of semi-finals.

“Hopefully everyone can come together for the good of the game. Hopefully sense will prevail and we can continue with what I believe is the greatest club competition in the world!”

He is also unsure about who is going to do well in the competition this season. “I tip someone every year but in nine years I’ve never got one right! A few sides are still in it, but the way Munster and Ulster have topped their pools – and also Clermont, Toulon, Toulouse and Leinster – it’s the Irish and French looking strongest. With Steve Borthwick retiring at the end of the season, that’s extra motivation for Saracens as well.

“If their players stay fit, it could come down to Leinster or Clermont but I’m not writing Toulon off either. On current form I’m going to go for Leinster.”

By Calum Gillon (@C_Gillon)

Scott Quinnell is a host of the Heineken Rugby Show. Join the conversation at #HeinekenRugby and watch the next show at www.youtube.com/Heineken

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7 comments on “Quinnell: “I find it hard to criticise the Welsh players leaving”

  1. I think the description of Scott Quinnell as a ‘Welsh Legend’ is rather generous to say the least. With him at No8 Wales never won in Twickenham but got hammered almost every time (1998, 2000, 2002) and got drubbed in Dublin (2002) when he was captain. This player never won a Triple Crown or a Grand Slam and he never played through the Tests on a winning Lions’ side.

    After the 54-10 disaster in Dublin he ended up writing an open letter literally begging Welsh fans to turn up and support the side against France in Cardiff.

    He retired from international rugby less than 1 year before the 2003 RWC. His last Wales game was v Canada and Wales played New Zealand the following week!

    Not everyone in Wales thinks this man walked on water. His record as both player and captain when with Wales was far from great and at times awful. When he left the field at Twickenham in 1998 most English fans were cheering. The more knowing fans were heard to shout ‘Stay on the field you fat b+++++d!’.

    At RWC 2003 Wales did far better without him as during his career there were simply far too many times when he and his brother simply got picked on the basis of a surname.

    He may be an amusing character for Sky to have on-board as the token comical Taff but there are some us who can do pronounce the letter ‘h’ when it appears at the start of words such as ‘have’ ‘him’ or ‘he’.

  2. Prophet Enoch

    Ok, so you’re not a fan then.

    Nor am I esp & I agree that he’s become a Sky talking head with no off switch (or words to that effect), but then so has Greenwood.. & the Gawd awful Healy (albeit on another channel I think).

    However, he played pretty good for the Lions in Oz under Henry I thought. Again the series was ultimately lost, but boy, for me, did the L pack hammer oz in the fwds (& backs) for the 1st test & a 1/2.

    I recall that try Quinnel scored under the sticks from a ruck & which helped put them on their way.

    Alas after that the wheels came off when J threw that pass to Joe R… etc, etc.

    So he ain’t all bad?

    • Yes Don he did some good things as part of the team that won in Paris 1999 + 2001. Part of the 32-31 Wembley Welsh side but not a legend.

      A player like Adam Jones is a Welsh legend because he has been so consistently excellent at international level for almost a decade now and when he is injured Wales have often struggled in the scrum without him. When he is on the park Wales rarely, if ever, take a backward step up front. Jones has almost 100 caps, three full Lions Tours, three Grand Slams, the 2013 Six Nations title when he eliminated the 1st choice and 2nd choice English Front Row plus three RWCs behind him. The most important Welsh forward and the 1st name on the team sheet for a decade. That is some achievement.

      SQ has nothing like this on his CV. In only 1 international did SQ really impress and that was Wales v France in 1994. Apart from that his individual contribution has been over-exaggerated by certain elements of the (West) Wales media. SQ used to drop the ball so often and lose possession in the tackle. e.g. Wales v Argentina 1999 RWC, , Wales v Samoa 1999 RWC plus the home loss to Canada in 1993 to name but a few.

  3. Prophet Enoch

    Well, I bow to yr deeper knowledge of Quinnell.

    Adam Jones does indeed seem to have ‘grown’ over the yrs & the scrum is a v important part of a team’s armoury. However, IMO, it’s concentrated on too much in the NH & thus to the exclusion of a team’s ability to play an all round game for 80.

    Can’t recall if AJ played v the ABs last yr or not?

  4. SQ is a Welsh legend along with Howley, Gibbs etc. The 90s was an awful era for Welsh rugby but we still had some great players who excelled for Wales and the Lions. Few forwards can influence the outcome of a match to the extent he did. I bet the French were glad to see the back of him.