The B & I Cup; what on earth is it and what has it got to do with Moseley?
Few club members have yet come to terms with what this new competition is
all about. And yet it sees the very welcome return on Saturday of another
traditional fixture pitting Moseley, once again, against one of the other
historically greatest rugby clubs in the British Isles in the 1970’s.
Moseley has a long and fruitful competitive history against Llanelli going
back for decades before the advent of the English and Welsh leagues. Indeed
such was the respect for Moseley in the 1970’s that our club was invited to
be the opposition to celebrate the opening of Llanelli’s new floodlights at
Stradey Park at that time!
The fact that Moseley, with one of the strongest fixture lists in the
British Isles, had been unbeaten (home or away) in Wales for two years at
that time may have had something to do with the respect in which our club
was held in the Principality!
Llanelli had a number of great players then including Phil Bennett, Derek
Quinnell and Ray Gravelle whereas our own seven England International
players which included, Nigel Horton, Jan Webster, Martin Cooper, John
Finlan etc were not without gravitas in the game either!
The British and Irish Cup, rugby’s newest cross border tournament, is a
joint venture between the RFU and their Irish, Welsh and Scottish
counterparts. It involves 24 teams – England’s 12 Championship clubs, the
leading club sides in Wales and Scotland, the top three Irish provinces and
a Scotland Development XV known as Gael Force.
The participants are placed in four pools, A-D, each containing six clubs.
The four winners of these pools play in two semi-finals that lead to the
final of the cup. Detractors of the competition should ask themselves how
else could Moseley once again be playing traditional fixtures against
Cardiff, Llanelli, Newport and Neath?
Moseley is in Pool C with Aberavon, Bedford, Llanelli, London Welsh and
Ulster. Our club plays Llanelli away on Saturday, having already lost to
Aberavon, away and Ulster at home, to prop up the pool C table.
The town of Llanelli, with a population of some 35,000, is situated in the
south eastern corner of Carmarthenshire, some 12 miles west of the City of
Swansea, and covers around 2,100 acres. It is a coastal town, where the
Welsh language is still widely spoken and which had a long association with
the tinplate, steel and coal mining industries.
With the regretful decline of manufacturing in the UK over the last two
decades Llanelli has suffered greatly and the town’s famous rugby club has
done much to maintain the spirits of the tight community in difficult and
Llanelli, (the club, not to be confused with the Welsh regional side
“Llanelli Scarlets” which plays under the same name in the Magners League
and Heineken Cup) is in the Welsh Premiership and will be playing Moseley at
the new (2008) stadium Parc y Scarlets which replaced the famous Stradey
Park. There is no rugby playing city or town in the world that identifies
more with its rugby team and supports it with greater passion.
The club was formed in 1872 and played at Stradey Park from 1904 to 2007.
Llanelli beat the touring Australians in 1908, the New Zealand All Blacks in
1972 and the Australians (then World Champions) in November 1992.
Llanelli was the undisputed “Cup King of Wales”, lifting the Welsh Cup
twelve times in seventeen appearances in the final. In the 1992-93 season
the club won the Best Team in Britain Trophy after achieving the unique
treble of winning the league, capturing the cup and beating the Wallabies.
In July 2003 the “Llanelli Scarlets” Region was founded from the original
Llanelli RFC, when Welsh elite rugby was restructured. The Scarlets
officially represent the whole of West and North Wales and plays in the
Magners League and Heineken Cup whereas the club side, our opposition on
Saturday, plays in the Welsh Premiership and currently stands in sixth
place, having played eighteen, won nine, drawn two and lost seven matches.
Notwithstanding the glories of the past, Llanelli presently shares with
Moseley the bottom two places in Pool C of the B & I Cup:
P W D L. BP Pts Pos
Llanelli 3 0 1 2 3 3 5th
Moseley 2 0 0 2 1 1 6th
For Moseley the B&I Cup has provided some welcome relief for some of our
senior players and the opportunities for many of our fringe and developing
players to get valuable game time and stake their claims to future places in
the team. The fixture at Aberavon on Tuesday provided just such an
opportunity with only one regular starter in the opening XV and a spirited
performance in dreadful conditions.
The match will also take Moseley’s mind off the last Saturday’s “encouraging
defeat” in the RFU Championship at Exeter and the faint possibility that, by
beating Bristol (the league leaders) at home on 13th March, our club could
squeeze into eighth spot above Plymouth, if the Albion fails to win at
Whatever the result this Saturday though, there will undoubtedly be a great
re-union and an entertaining game played in the traditional attractive
style. Whatever the result there will also undoubtedly be “grossly
exaggerated and suitably edited” stories in the bar afterwards of deeds done
in games gone by between our two great clubs.