Coming up on Sport Wales: The TV programme

By Graham Thomas Sport Wales reporter

The doomsayers tell us regional rugby is in crisis. Even the man fighting the corner of Wales' top teams warns radical changes are needed if they're to survive.

"We can no longer exist under the difficult [economic] conditions that are in existence in the country," is the blunt warning from Stuart Gallacher, the chairman of Regional Rugby Wales.

Against the backdrop of a successful Wales side, there are plenty ready to sound the death-knell of the top tier of the domestic game.

Dwindling crowds, the player exodus and the possibility that some long-term benefactors of the regional game could be about to turn off the money tap all point to a bleak future.

Flying in the face of such a pessimistic outlook, however, is one man determined to buck the trend and establish a new Valleys region.

A special Sport Wales investigation takes a forensic look into the plans of Owen Smith, the MP for Pontypridd, to create a new team for the valleys.

A fresh entity aiming to reach out to those who felt disenfranchised when some of the old bastions of Welsh rugby - Pontypridd, Pontypool, Bridgend, Neath - saw their status diminish when regional rugby came into being almost 10 years ago.

The business plan? To raise £1m by issuing shares of £100 each to 10,000 people. A viable proposition? Or a dream doomed to failure?

Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas hopes to make her mark at the 2012 London Olympics

We ask whether the new region could really work when most would say that the regional game in Wales is struggling to make ends meet at the moment.

One other key issue: matches, it is proposed, would hotfoot it around towns such as Pontypridd, Pontypool, Neath and Bridgend.

So what do the existing regions - particularly Dragons, Blues and Ospreys - make of Mr Smith's plan to set up camp in some of the valleys communities that they themselves are supposed to represent?

Away from rugby, we catch up with the two Welsh football sides whose fate could lie with the end-of-season play-offs.

Wrexham are almost certainly consigned to a second successive shot at promotion via the play-offs, but can they learn from their failure to seize the opportunity last season, when they couldn't overcome a heavy first-leg defeat against Luton?

Our cameras were at Fleetwood Town on Tuesday night to gauge the mood as Wrexham secured a 1-1 draw to stop the Conference leaders from clinching the title with three games to spare.

While Wrexham look likely to make a downward slip into the play-offs - having led the division themselves for a large chunk of the campaign - Cardiff City hope to hold onto their place in the Championship's top six after finally pushing themselves up into the promotion frame.

We'll hear from defender Andrew Taylor and on-loan midfielder Liam Lawrence - a man who's lived the Premier League dream before with Sunderland and Stoke City - after the Bluebirds ended their winless run with a crucial four-point haul over Easter.

Plus we round-up the action from Swansea City's latest Premier League games against Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers.

The rest of this week's show is dedicated to Olympic hopes - and dreams destroyed.

Swimmer David Roberts is one of the most successful Paralympians Britain has produced - he's won 11 gold medals since appearing at his first Games 12 years - but his hopes of becoming the best ever were all but ended when he was left out of the squad for London 2012.

Sport Wales has the verdict of Welsh great Tanni Grey-Thompson, whose record of 11 gold medals Roberts was hoping to overtake at London, after the 31-year-old was omitted for failing to meet the 50m and 100m freestyle qualifying times.

While Roberts does a little soul-searching, fine tuning appears to be all that Geraint Thomas needs to do before pedalling onto the track at the Olympics.

Fresh from helping Great Britain clinch gold in the team pursuit at the Track World Championships in Australia, the Welsh cyclist tells us whether he's ready for London as our reporter Gareth Rhys Owen was given the chance to ride alongside him at the launch of a new closed-road cycle route near Llangollen in North Wales.

Completing our trio of 2012 features is hockey star Sarah Thomas, who looks likely to be the only Welsh player in Great Britain's Olympic squad.

Sport Wales spoke to Thomas as she returned to her home town Merthyr Tydfil to support an initiative aimed at finding the hockey stars of the future.

Watch Sport Wales Friday, 13 April, BBC Two Wales, 2200 BST.

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