Saturday, 3 June 2017

More representative sport for Cornwall?

My article in the most recent edition of the Cornish Guardian took its start from the “county championship final.” It was as follows:

Along with many other Cornish people, my wife and I were away from Cornwall last weekend. We made the trek to Twickenham to watch rugby’s “county championship” final between Cornwall and Lancashire.

Having won the title in 2015 and 2016, the Cornish boys sadly fell at the final hurdle on this occasion. But throughout the whole of this latest campaign, the players were truly magnificent and played their hearts out. The 45-28 victory over Hertfordshire in front of 3,500 people at the Recreation Ground in Camborne – which secured this latest final appearance – will certainly live long in my memory.

It was great to see a large amount of black and gold on display at “Rugby HQ” – a wonderful display of Cornishness. It was also heartening to be part of such a good-natured contingent from the Duchy, making a massive amount of noise and taking over the “Line Out Bar” for a raucous sing-song lead by our very own Betty Stogs.

The team in black and gold has always been an important part of our Cornish identity, but there have been some recent reports – quoting senior figures at the RFU – that question the value and very existence of the championship.

In years past, Cornish teams even played a number of games against other national teams, including Japan and Russia, but opportunities for representative rugby have become much more limited following the advent of professionalism in the sport.

And I think that any attempt to dismantle or undermine the present championship would be a very sad day for Cornish rugby.

In this column, I often write about our campaigns to secure greater political recognition for Cornwall and the 2014 recognition of the Cornish as a national minority and the ongoing fight to get central government to act on its obligations.

But this need not just be about politics, economic matters and culture. Why shouldn’t it also be about sport? Why shouldn’t this greater recognition for the historic nation of Cornwall also lead to more opportunities for sportspeople to play representative sport for Cornwall?

Just look at the 71 nations at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. As well as contingents from Scotland and Wales, there were also teams from other parts of the British Isles such as Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – all with populations much less than that of Cornwall!

Indeed, Cornwall was the only Celtic part of the United Kingdom without a team at the 2014 Games.

Surely it would be right for the Cornish nation to be represented at future Games, with our national team in black and gold playing in the rugby sevens competition, and our flag flying proudly alongside those of other Commonwealth countries, both large and small.

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