In his weekly column, Fraser Watson looks at the lack of a county team, forgotten heroes, an absent ref, junior participation and Neyland’s 'forward' thinking.

Relive the glory?

It’s that time of year for journalists.

No, not Christmas, but when editors want you to review the past 12 months, write retrospects, and dig out your best click bait from January onwards. Riveting, it really is.

But easily among my own ‘most read’ this year is a throwback to when Pembrokeshire famously beat Japan in 1983. I thought the article might prompt some reminiscing, I just under-estimated how much.

Of course, the landscape of club rugby has changed immensely since the 80s and it’s unlikely the recent World Cup quarter finalists would fancy a replay in Haverfordwest now - but hearing the passion with which those involved recalled events did make me wonder.

Is there still a place for a senior county side?

There would need to be rules on selection and that may even mean making players from higher leagues ineligible. But the chance to play for Pembrokeshire, even in only one or two meaningful games a year, would renew the focus of many players.

There was a time when being picked for that side was considered a real honour. It’s a real shame to think the concept may now be extinct.

A decade on from Dubai:

A senior Pembrokeshire side isn’t the only matter seemingly confined to history.

If you’ve followed local and Welsh rugby closely this century then you’ll know the names James Merriman, Aled Thomas, and Tal Selley. But chances are your children won’t.

For those needing an introduction, just over 10 years ago the trio were integral when Wales won the 7s World Cup in Dubai. It remains the only time a Welsh senior side has captured the global prize in any format.

And yet strangely, it’s a monumental achievement the WRU have made little effort to recognise. Indeed the three players, among others, were essentially penalised by their club sides or regions at the time as opposed to being lauded.

This week however, all three joined other squad members for a reunion at the annual Dubai 7s. They would have at least been able to reflect on those three days where they defied almost insurmountable odds.

It’s just a shame more people aren’t aware of it.

Absent official:

I don’t intend to make Laugharne’s WRU Bowl campaign a weekly feature of this column, but Saturday’s farce can’t pass without comment.

They turned up in Tumble with both sides hell bent on a win that would take them into the quarter finals. The referee seemed to be running late, not abnormal in grassroots rugby, before the realisation hit that there was no referee at all.

It then emerged that the appointed official had informed the WRU in the week he was unavailable. The powers that be simply forgot to arrange an alternative.

It’s often too easy to blame authorities for problems in the club game but incidents like that are inexcusable – not least when you have two clubs who have battled hard to reach this stage.

As a relevant side note, on Wednesday Neyland were told they had been deducted two points in Three West A, only to later find out this was a clerical error.

At a time when the amateur game in Wales feels more alienated from the elite than ever, some basic administration wouldn’t go amiss.

A false picture?

Venture down to most rugby grounds on a Sunday morning, and you’ll find the car parks and playing fields full.

Log into Facebook that same afternoon, and your feed will be full of parents proudly posting pictures of young players and teams in their kit.

It suggests there is nothing wrong with junior participation levels in Pembrokeshire any maybe there isn’t – but the enthusiasm is clearly tapering off by the time youth rugby comes around.

A glance at the current league shows four local sides currently don’t have a team, and another is struggling to fulfil games.

Of course there are many reasons for this, some of which are societal and not rugby related. But getting youngsters involved early is one thing, ensuring they maintain their desire for the game is another.

Do I have an obvious answer? No.

But I do know the slow death of schools' rugby, increasingly plagued by educational mergers and an over indulgence in club academies, isn't helping matters.

If we are going to safeguard the future, it’s the 12-18 age bracket that needs to be addressed.

And fast.

Neyland’s ‘forward’ thinking:

I understand the current concerns at Neyland RFC.

Just over the year ago I said they were a young squad brimming with potential and if they stayed together, would become a force to be reckoned with. For one reason or another, they haven’t.

They had to battle to field a side at Cardigan on Saturday but did so and fought hard enough to gain respectability. And I did enjoy the make up of the starting XV – 12 forwards and three backs.

But that is far better than not fulfilling a fixture and proof that sometimes, in the lowest tier especially, you just have to go with what you’ve got.

Guest predictions:

This week, it's Chris 'Cone' James having a bash at the scores. Once a very good player at Tenby and Narberth, now does the donkey work (team manager) for Sean Gale's men.

He's predicted The Otters to get back on track after three straight defeats, perhaps be a little awkward in the changing room if he hadn't, and also has his old side Tenby down to win.

After a few narrow results scuppered Kyle Davies last week, the 83% 'correct winner' score of Fishguard's Ben John remains the mark to beat.

WRU Championship:
Narberth v Ystalyfera - Narberth by 15.

Division One West:
Gowerton v Whitland - Gowerton by 7.
Llangennech v Crymych - Llangennech by 10.
Pembroke v Aberystwyth - Pembroke by 3.

Division Two West:
Fishguard v Kidwelly - Fishguard by 12.
Pontarddulais v Milford Haven - Pontarddulais by 12.
Tenby United v Nantgaredig - Tenby by 5.

Division Three West A:
Aberaeron v Laugharne - Aberaeron by 8.
Cardigan v Llangwm - Cardigan by 17.
Haverfordwest v Neyland - Haverfordwest by 22.
Pembroke Dock Quins v Lampeter Town - Lampeter by 9

St Clears v St Davids - St Clears by 35.