Very little comes as a surprise to the Welsh public when it comes to Rugby. We have had everything from the Granny-Gate scandal, to the still un-publicised events that forced Grand Slam winning coach Mike Ruddock to resign from his position. We have put up with unexpected highs (2005 Grand Slam) and lows (Pool Stage Exit from RWC2007) on the field, and player outbursts (Gareth Thomas) and celebrity (Gavin Henson) off it. Today proved that even the unveiling and promotion of the new Welsh kit cannot go without controversy.
This afternoon a 100ft poster featuring the new kit modelled by exiled Gavin Henson was unveiled to players, the press and most importantly the public causing shock among all 3 groups alike. Firstly it was a shock to see Henson, who has been on unpaid leave from the Ospreys for over a year, modelling the new kit as opposed to currently Welsh internationals.
This move stirred up emotions among the players present to the extent that Jamie Roberts, the player who occupies the Welsh shirt ahead of Henson, commented during an interview that "Welsh Rugby is NOT just about Gavin Henson". Later in the day Roberts, obviously having been affronted by the 100ft image of Henson wearing his number 12 shirt tweeted "Is this an insult to current Welsh international players... wonder what the Welsh public will think?!".
It seems the WRU had decided to use Hensons image as a publicity stunt for the kit release. Only the naive would believe that the kit release was not scheduled to fall alongside the announcement that Gavin Henson will compete in the reality TV show "Strictly Come Dancing" this autumn, further delaying his return to rugby.
In addition to the Gavin Henson controversy, there has been a negative response to the home and away kit unveiled this afternoon. The traditionally all red welsh shirt has been diluted with white panels down the side and looks more like a hastily assembled 3rd strip for a rugby league team than the proudest team in world rugby. To make matters worse the away shirt is navy blue, a colour that has no connections with Wales but has been worn most recently by six nations rivals France, Scotland & Italy.
The biggest shock of all is the out of place Admiral logo. Since becoming sponsors in Autumn 2004, Brains Beer & Welsh rugby have gone hand in hand and are instantly associated with each other. As the biggest and richest brewery in Wales, and with its "More positive thinking from brains" campaign, it was a match made in heaven. The new Admiral logo sadly only looks partially at home in the horrible blue shirt, but looks like it has been glued on the proud red shirt. I guess the welsh public is going to have to wait until RWC2011 for the next shirt to be unveiled.
I guess it is time to beg to have the Brains SA Gold shirt back for another year eh?