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Tyrone Howe: Powell’s prank doesn’t merit axe from Welsh

I am not an enormous fan of social networking sites, but Facebook this week has done itself proud. As I write there are currently 69,283 people who have signed up to the Andy Powell Appreciation Society for Driving a Golf Buggy on the M4.

Thank goodness there are still people in the world who retain a sense of humour.

Not for a minute am I condoning drink-driving, but there seems to be a complete lack of proportionality in the reaction to this incident, whether from the Welsh management, former Welsh players or the media.

I grew up on stories of high jinks from rugby tours or post-match celebrations and my initial reaction to hearing this particular tale was one of absolute hilarity.

The guy was hungry for goodness sake!

It sounded like an old-school tale in a modern professional era which is increasingly sanitised and devoid of personalities and characters. There are, of course, serious aspects, but after a victory over Scotland earlier at the Millennium Stadium, which could have seen the whole Welsh team locked up for theft, it provided a light-hearted moment amidst the intensity and tension of international rugby.

There are several aspects that I find particularly unpalatable.

Firstly, let us not succumb to hypocrisy — the entire Welsh playing squad will, in private at least, have been beside themselves with laughter when they first heard this ridiculous tale.

Each player probably sat in that first squad meeting biting his lip thinking; “Please don’t laugh, please don’t laugh.”

Next, the Welsh management and some former internationals, who are coming out to castigate Powell, seem to be suffering from selective memory loss about the antics that went on in their own playing-days.

Thirdly, Andy Powell is already paying a personal price by being charged with drink-driving. As an individual he is being punished and he will take the criminal charge on his more than ample chin. However, it is wrong that Powell has also been thrown out of the Welsh squad. Rumours are that his place was already under threat. This means that the Welsh backrower is expendable and the Welsh coaches can afford to make an example of him. But, if you are going to omit Powell from the squad, do it for playing reasons, rather than using this episode as a lame excuse.

The question remains whether the same action would have been taken had the player in question been Ryan Jones or James Hook? I very much doubt it.

A far better rugby punishment would have been a substantial fine which could have been donated to something far more deserving cause like the Haiti Appeal Fund. In this way, in an act of genuine contrition and penance, the player could have created a situation where good came out of bad and a positive P.R. result could have been achieved for all.

What is most disappointing for me is the lack of that old sense of supporting and standing by your friends and team-mates in difficult times.

Yes, Andy Powell made a mistake and nothing will take away from the fact that he did something very stupid, but he is being sacrificed at the altar of moral piety and a “holier than thou” attitude. Yes, he is a role model and that’s gives him a certain responsibility, but that does not mean that he is perfect and sometimes even role-models make mistakes.

Ironically, as his Facebook fan club proves, this overblown furore will end up giving Andy Powell even more cult status.

In years to come, when the tale is recounted in pubs and clubs around Wales and further afield, people will throw their heads back and laugh.

Surely that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

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