WRU Status Update – 31/03/21
I was delighted last week to welcome Steve Phillips, on behalf of the WRU Board, to the position of Group CEO on a permanent basis. In an extremely strong field Steve has shown he has the expertise, an unrivalled in-depth knowledge of Welsh rugby and the insight to find the right solutions to the challenges ahead. We are delighted that he has accepted the challenge of securing the future of Welsh rugby.
After revealing our Pathway to Participation plans last week it has been a great delight to see clubs up and down the country return to rugby pitches with their young teams. We know that the desire to return to rugby clubs in all capacities is as strong as ever in Wales and that, in many quarters, participants will be flooding back as soon as they are able. But we are also conscious that clubs will need help and support throughout this process and this will continue to be provided by our community department. We have published a detailed plan, with an initial focus on a summer of fun formats of the game to help ease players of all ages back into contact rugby and to ensure the community game bounces back to full health and strength.
Wayne Pivac has the 2023 Rugby World Cup firmly in his sights and a comprehensive plan for Wales to arrive there at the peak of our powers. with the full backing of the Welsh Rugby Union to achieve that aim.
We meet after every campaign to discuss how we are tracking against any plan. We met after the Autumn Nations Cup. That campaign, as stated publicly by management at the time, was about giving players the opportunity to experience Test rugby and to give management the opportunity to see how they fared. Wayne was equally unambiguous about his distinction between the autumn and the Guinness Six Nations Championship, where we would be playing tournament rugby and results mattered. If silverware was the only measure then, of course, winning both the Triple Crown and the tournament itself can be viewed as ‘mission accomplished’.
It is vitally important that we assess our progress in a considered way. In professional sport it is possible to go from hero to zero and back again in a fortnight. To avoid ‘knee-jerk’ reactions we measure progress against short and long term goals. Wayne, the management and the players are, by any measure, progressing extremely well.
Winning the Championship this year was an obvious short-term goal, but we have been equally impressed by what was achieved this autumn when the stall was set to blood new players, improve strength in depth and bed in a new and varied approach to tactics and game plans.
Wayne and his management team and players have delivered. I know I speak on behalf of the Board and everyone at the WRU in congratulating them on their achievements and we look forward to following their continued progress on the road to France 2023.
Our focus now moves away from Wayne and his team to Warren Abrahams and his team, who leads Wales Women into his first Six Nations Championship next month after being appointed at the helm in November.
The Wales Women’s game is now our priority. I had the privilege of spending some time with Warren and his squad on Monday evening as I briefly interrupted their training session; it was something I enjoyed doing and plan to repeat during this current campaign.
First up we face France at Stade de la Rabine, in Vannes, this weekend after having returned to training at WRU headquarters at the Vale resort. The squad was temporarily training at the University of South Wales’ Sport Park, with Covid-19 restrictions dictating that our two senior sides trained in separate locations, but they now have the full resources of the WRU at their disposal. We are grateful for USW’s support to date, but is important to us that Wales Women have full access to all of our resources both on and off the field as they go into this important tournament.
Just like the men’s squad, Wales Women have made significant sacrifices in terms of their families, work and personal efforts to wear the jersey and represent our country and – though once again we will all regret that we can’t be present – we are looking forward to the opportunity to watch all of their games on the BBC.
Finally, my personal thanks to all the well-wishers, both within the WRU and beyond, who have taken the time to write to me and post comments concerning my formal appointment to the position of CEO for the WRU Group. As I have said this is an extremely proud moment for me, but also a time when I am made acutely aware of the responsibility I bear for the future of our national game.
I know I am equal to the task and I am ready for the many challenges ahead, but, as I settle into the role in a full time basis, I would make one plea to you the member clubs and districts of the WRU from the community to the professional game: you are all Welsh rugby and with your support, dedication and enthusiasm the game can emerge from this period and go from strength to strength in the years to come.
I invite you to entrust your Board, its chairman and the professional staff at the WRU to lead the way, to act with your best interests at heart and to leave no stone unturned in our mission to protect, project, promote and push our game to achieve its full potential.
Yours in rugby,
Pathway to Participation
Last week we published our Pathway to Participation for community rugby.
This is a detailed plan with an initial focus on a summer of fun formats of the game to help ease players of all ages back into contact rugby.
The plan is set to give the national game a much-needed boost following the understandable impact of the COVID pandemic, and to ensure the community game bounces back to full health and strength.
Some rugby has already started at U18s level and below, and providing the public health conditions remain favourable, tag and touch rugby fixtures for those players (u18s) could be sanctioned from April 1 within their own districts.
Measures around training and matches will remain subject to Welsh Government guidelines but all levels of the game, including youth and senior teams (male and female) can look forward to a phased return of modified, limited contact training from May 1.
From mid-June, players of all ages can look forward to a month of summer sevens and tens rugby – under modified laws
Our Community Rugby Strategy, which will be officially launched this summer, has produced three current key workstreams: a competitions review; a review of the WRU Hub programme and an increased commitment to ‘volunteer recognition’ in the community game.
These are key areas for growth that clubs and stakeholders throughout the game have highlighted to us during extensive consultation over the last 12-18 months and which have been sanctioned at Community Board level.
Our Competitions Review will look at the domestic and national leagues of the WRU. As part of the process we will be consulting with member clubs in due course and there will be workshops, meetings and surveys for interested parties to attend over the next few months.
The Hub Review, as mentioned in your last WRU Status Update, aims to deliver clear guidance for the next potential phase of the Hub Programme, to ensure that this next phase aligns with the WRU Community Strategy and the needs of Educational and Community landscape in Wales.
We believe that since its inception, the innovative Hub Programme has made a huge difference to the lives of the young people in educational settings and in the wider community throughout Wales.
The current contractual phase of the Hub Programme is coming to an end, but our ambition remains to grow, develop and enhance the Hub Programme whilst future proofing rugby union participation in Wales and supporting the health of our young people and further updates will follow.
We are working hard on volunteer recognition. We know we have so many fantastic people giving up their time to support the club game in many different capacities throughout the country. These individuals are the lifeblood of our game and it is our aim to offer support and engage with all areas of community rugby to best recognise and reward their continuous efforts. This planned support is a particularly important aspect of the Community Strategy which will allow us to continue to grow our game and improve sustainability at this level.