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WRU status update – 04/11/20

CEO welcome

Firstly, a huge thank you to all members who attended our Annual General Meeting last week and especially to those who submitted questions and/or contributed feedback afterwards. Driven by circumstance, it was the first time we have conducted this meeting online and, whilst not a substitute for meeting in person, I felt there were hugely positive elements to the process which we hope to continue to utilise in the future.

Thanks also to Gerald Davies, who spoke so eloquently about our national game and with the gravitas that befits his position as our President and figurehead; his interaction with Rhodri Lewis in chairing the meeting was something to behold. For anyone who missed the meeting, Gerald’s comments about how the word ‘sport’ in the Welsh language – which contains an element of enjoyment or fun in its definition – so aligns with our own vision for Welsh Rugby in general, were a real treat for all of us listening.

Our community game has felt the brunt force of the pandemic once again during the two-week firebreak lockdown, but we are pleased to see measures set to be lifted and there is more important information on this from our Community Team below. It is our hope that soon the ‘fun’ can return and our clubs can get back to doing what they are best at, in safe environments.

There is also extremely good news below for the regional game, with CLBILS loan money now immediately available with the direct aim of sustaining Wales’ four regional sides – Cardiff Blues, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – through the pandemic for the 2020/21 season.  We have been engaged in healthy discussions with NatWest Cymru and ended up with a sensible solution which we are all very pleased about and very grateful to NatWest Cymru for.

It has been the Professional Rugby Board’s (PRB) role to establish a consensus amongst our regional sides concerning the allocation of the money. The easiest thing to do would have been to split £20m four ways, but it is to everyone’s credit that we have come up with a much more appropriate solution than that.  The four regions are all at different stages and their needs differ accordingly. So, the PRB has done what it is set up to do and brokered a solution that suits all four entities.  We have ended up with fair and sensible allocation rather than equal for the sake of being able to say ‘equal’ and it is a solution for which I think all parties should be commended.

Wayne Pivac is a man with a long-term vision and it’s one that will be shared throughout Welsh Rugby.  That vision is for our nation to succeed at the Rugby World Cup in 2023. This doesn’t mean there aren’t immediate short and medium-term goals and losing matches is never on the check list.  But, having already established a top four seeding at the 2023 tournament, some of the pressure on results necessarily abates.

During our recent regular meetings, Wayne has been open and honest in his assessment of performances on the pitch, but there has now been a “line drawn in the sand” in camp and the forthcoming Autumn Nations Cup provides new opportunity for both development and progress.  Performances may not have been as Wayne has wanted for his talented squad, nor indeed what he knows is achievable.

But there is nothing better after a setback than to be immediately presented with the opportunity to re-set and improve on what has gone before.

Against Ireland in a fortnight’s time, Wales will kick-off a new and exciting tournament, one in which players – some new and others becoming established – will gain immeasurably from the experience and where we will be striving for significant improvements in both performances and results.  We will need to create the momentum to ensure we realise our full potential and deliver during the 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign in the New Year.

Stay safe.

Steve Phillips


Return to rugby

Clubs, teams and Female Hubs in all local authorities can return to community rugby activity upon the lifting of the firebreak lockdown in Wales on Monday 9th November.

They will be able to bring back skills and fitness-based activities with a touch or tag element, whilst following the same strict Covid-19 protocols and measures in place prior to the Firebreak and outside of any local lockdown temporary suspensions.  There will be no travel restrictions in place in Wales meaning that all players and coaches may participate in community rugby training providing they complete the symptom checker on the WRU Game Locker ahead of each training session and comply with all track and trace requirements. We have provided Club Operations Managers with additional support in this area and will communicate with them ahead of Monday once we have received the updated guidance document from Welsh Government.

We are also currently working with government, our insurers and other partners to explore how our game may develop over coming months, dependent on the public health situation.

Gerald on JJ

Our President Gerald Davies has followed tributes to the late JJ Williams, who passed away last week, with some carefully chosen words of his own:

“JJ Williams was one of those rare sportsmen, rarer still in this day and age, if at all, to make a hugely successful transition from one sport to another.

From a Welsh International athlete performing in the sprints in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (1970), to becoming a fully-fledged rugby player for Wales and the Lions. Brilliant, truly brilliant, in both. One of the very best of wingers in whom you could feel confident as a match winner.

Although, in expectation, there appears to be very little in it, in replacing spikes for the studded rugby boot, there is in fact, a significant difference. To run in straight lines on the synthetic surface, with no hindrance, is quite a different prospect to running with soil clinging to the soles of your feet, a ball in hand, looking to left and right, and chased by any number of people trying to stop you…He was comfortable in his stride. Always giving the impression of being unhurried, in control. So good to watch…

He was truly a lovely man, a great friend and companion who has left us all with a memorable legacy.”