The Shingler Senario.
It’s hard to know what to say about the Steve Shingler situation. Public opinion seems very torn over the matter, some argue Shingler should be freed by the WRU to play for Scotland, that the WRU misled him; others argue that he has shown no respect to Wales and jumped for the ‘easier’ international option (sorry Scotland, no slur intended), while some simply suggest that these were the actions of a confused young man. Wherever you might stand, it is clear that there is no winner here between Shingler, the WRU and the IRB, all three, from a public relations standpoint, have lost out.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular case, the comings and goings, well, goings really, of potential Welsh players has raised some interesting questions. Not so many days ago, Welsh rugby was lamenting the loss of Ben Morgan to the English cause. Here the case was much clearer. Morgan had never made his intentions clear as to where he saw his international future and, after much time spent considering the matter, Morgan decided that he was English, and should try to play for England. Welsh fans were of course upset, but few would begrudge him his choice to represent the country that he associates with most.
The Shingler situation though has upset many Welsh rugby fans but in a very different manner. Here was a bright young prospect, with a great future ahead of him, who had made his claim for Wales by playing through the age grades, and then, overnight it seemed, turned his back on the country. Why did he do it? Was it out of spite for the Scarlets that they would not start him ahead of Priestland and Jones? Was it for fear that he might not get an international cap for Wales given the current competition in the squad? Without a full statement from the young man, we will probably never know for sure.
What we do know though, is that there is a problem with the current system of representative honours. Is an ‘A’ team cap, or an under20 cap, or possibly younger still, an appropriate point at which to say ‘this is the team you will represent from here on in’? Frankly, the debate should not exist. This is not a club contract that is being discussed, but international honours, the honour of representing one’s country. For too long the international level has become an extension of the office for professional rugby players, another contract, another set of bonuses – the country awarding them does not necessarily matter, so long as they pay. This should not be the way of things. For Shingler, his choice was made – he selected Wales, and that is where his choice should remain. If he never gets full international honours, well, tough luck, he should have been better, but that is the only country he should be able to push for, having already made his choice.
What does the future for Shingler hold, it is hard to say? He has turned his back on Wales in one sense, and for Scotland, well, Scotland was always the second option the moment Shingler played in a red shirt with three feathers on his chest, how either nation would welcome him now would be interesting to see. The lesson to be learnt in all this, stand by your nation. If you are one to buy and sell your allegiance, then there is a good chance that your choices will come back to haunt you. For Shingler, his choices came back on him much sooner than he might have expected, and it is with a great sense of sorrow, that this saga was played out in front of the international rugby media.