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WRU status update – 18/11/20

Chairman’s comment

It gives me great pleasure to write to you today as chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union.

I’m delighted and humbled to be in this position. So many people encouraged me and showed faith in me along the way that the sheer weight of evidence out there, that people had confidence in me, led me to make my bid for the chairmanship and I intend to fully reward that faith.

I hope to meet as many member clubs as possible during my tenure and there are many of you I know already, but to those of you I have yet to meet, let me formally introduce myself.

Bargoed rugby club is most certainly my home.  I may have left this valley many times over the years but it has never left me. Once my playing days were over I served for 21 years as secretary and I’m now a life member of the club.

I’ve enjoyed a variety of experiences around Welsh rugby at District level on the way to joining the WRU Board five years ago.  My attitude since day one on the Board has been to embrace the privilege and, quite simply, I’ve covered as much as possible during my time to date.  Along the way I was asked to be vice-chair of both the community committee and the performance sub-committee and, after some governance change, I was delighted to be chosen to chair the Community Game Board (CGB).

I have viewed that Board (the CGB) as my family and am very proud of the work we have undertaken and our achievements to date. We haven’t always agreed on the way ahead and there have been some healthy debates on many subjects, but we have always progressed and moved forward and we will continue to address the challenges ahead in a progressive way.

My style is not dictatorial, I’m a great listener and I genuinely care about people.

I have a collaborative approach and I believe the best decisions are reached only after a variety of views have been aired and listened to. I’ve been in positions all my life where I’ve been able to look at leadership and I am someone who is constantly learning from others.  I learn something new every day and I intend to take on the best characteristics of those around me and those who have gone before me.

On this subject I’ve always hugely valued the strength individual relationships.  I’m extremely passionate about the relationships I’ve established in the game already and I speak to as many people as possible at every opportunity to find out how they work

I believe this personal touch has been repaid by the faith that has been shown in me to fulfil this role. I’m not in it for anything else but to do my very best for Welsh rugby and I believe Steve (Phillips) and his executive staff take the same approach.

I know my relationship with my CEO will be instrumental to our success and progress and I will take this extremely seriously.  It is my role to challenge and make sure our executive are held accountable for strategy. We already have a strong working relationship and I have equally strong relationship with the different members of our executive who, without exception, take great pride in all that they do and achieve.

My mantra is that we all have the responsibility to do the right thing for both rugby and for the Welsh communities in which we operate. We know what we can do, but we should also always ask ourselves what should we do?

I am proud of the comments we made as the WRU at the start of this journey through the pandemic.

We addressed our 300-plus member clubs and told them that we would do everything we could to get everybody through to the other side of this situation intact. This is a difficult task, but I genuinely believe we have the right skills at our disposal to achieve.

Our member clubs, who are the heartbeat of our game, are striving for survival themselves but they also know that the professional game needs to be success in order for us to improve the chances of long term sustainability for all.  We are all in this together and, most importantly, this self-awareness is there throughout our game.

Robert Butcher

Meet Rob Butcher:

New chairman Robert Butcher has reflected on his journey from Bargoed to the boardroom as he assumes the chair of the Welsh Rugby Union.

In an interview with WRUTV, he talks about the ‘humbling’ moment he won the chairmanship and explains why his tenure will initially only span a one-year term.

After 21-years as secretary to Bargoed Rugby Club, and being awarded lifetime membership, Butcher joined the WRU Board in 2015.  He promptly joined both the community rugby committee and performance sub-committee as vice-chair in each case, as well as taking on a variety of other roles including a place on the rugby committee of World Rugby.

When the WRU modernised its governance structure in 2019 he was selected to chair the Community Game Board and regularly attends Professional Rugby Board sessions as a result.

Although his public profile outside of the corridors of power at the WRU has been limited to date, he quickly emerged as one of the front runners after the chairman’s position became vacant. He puts this down to the time he has invested in establishing strong relationships throughout the game:

“We need to be fit and agile as a Board and able to move as conditions change,” said Butcher, explaining his approach to the chairmanship which has so appealed to his supporters.

“For me change is a continuum and one good example of this is the recent decision the Board made on the tenure of its chairman.  Before I was voted in we discussed the prospect of the successful candidate sitting for three, two or a one year term.

“The Board concluded that, at a time of great change in the game, a one-year term would be most appropriate on this occasion, with a view to revisiting the decision in 12-months’ time.

“I think this is a great example of the Board adapting to the circumstances it is presented with.

“It’s a decision taken that I fully support, something that is not about me, but about what is the best decision for the union.”

Abrahams and Taylor to coach Wales Women

The Welsh Rugby Union has appointed former USA Women’s Sevens assistant coach Warren Abrahams as full-time Wales Women head coach, and 67-times capped former Wales captain and North Wales academy coach Rachel Taylor as full-time Women’s National Skills Coach.

The appointments begin work with immediate effect to put preparations in place for next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

South Africa-born Abrahams, who was also part of the England Men’s Sevens coaching team for four year years while fulfilling roles at Harlequins as Academy coach and Premiership 7s head coach prior to heading to America, is also an RFU coach mentor, mentoring aspiring coaches through their coach qualifications. He will be responsible for the planning, implementation and delivery of the coaching programme for both the 15s and 7s international programmes on a three-year contract.

In line with the strategy agreed by the Board, the appointments are part of the WRU’s ongoing commitment to significantly invest in the performance end of the women’s game with further announcements to follow.

WRU CEO Steve Phillips said, “Warren Abrahams and Rachel Taylor are key, strategic appointments for us, not only for women’s rugby in Wales but in terms of our standing in the global game. The current pandemic has impacted all areas of our organisation along with the rest of the sporting and entertainment world. However, it is vital women’s sport isn’t disproportionally affected and we took the important decision to continue with the planned investments into the women’s game.”

Warren Abrahams said, “This is a hugely exciting time to be part of the Wales Women programme and we have an opportunity to do something very special in the next 12 months and beyond.

“For me, mindset is key. Limitations are only what we put on ourselves. I realise that we all have obstacles and challenges to overcome and the current climate is a great example. Our players are balancing a number of aspects of their lives to ensure they perform to their optimum level, however, with all this in mind, if we take responsibility for our own actions, we are already steps ahead.”

Rachel Taylor said, “Having been to three Rugby World Cups as a player, I saw how much the competition developed each time. It’s the pinnacle of women’s international rugby and for these players to have the chance to compete in New Zealand will be amazing on several levels.

“I’m excited to work with Warren. I know he will challenge me as a coach and I believe my experience and skills will help to support his aims too.”

The return of Principality Stadium

Cardiff & Vale Health Board officially announced their exit from Ysbyty Calon y Ddraig. Dragon’s Heart Hospital last Wednesday as they hand back Principality Stadium to the Welsh Rugby Union.

Martin Driscoll, Deputy Chief Executive at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “On behalf of CAVUHB and all of the staff and patients we provide services for, thank you for this incredible feat and for enabling us to reassure our communities we were prepared for whatever the pandemic threw at us, the DHH and its iconic place- the stadium has shown us team sport at its very best and this is true of how everyone responded – Diolch yn Fawr, thank you.”

Steve Phillips, CEO at WRU, said: ‘Being able to offer Principality Stadium to the National Health Service and Welsh Government to assist in the fight against Covid 19 has been a privilege. The Dragon’s Heart Hospital demonstrates the extent of successful collaboration and what can be achieved when people in Wales come together; and I’m extremely proud of the WRU staff who played a key part in the successful development and delivery of the temporary surge hospital within our stadium.

‘We agreed with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board that the stadium was to be handed back to us mid-November and we can now begin work on reinstating the stadium, as we look forward to the Guinness Six Nations in 2021.’