WRU status update – 03/03/21
I wrote in the matchday programme last Saturday that, in the first two rounds of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations, Wayne Pivac’s side had given us all every reason to ‘believe’. Now they have brought home silverware, in the form of a Triple Crown trophy, which has provided a most welcome lift for the whole of Welsh rugby in these difficult times. Wayne has already said his feet are firmly grounded and the squad will not get ahead of themselves despite, now, being just two wins away from the title but there was something about the manner of victory over England at our own Principality Stadium which was particularly inspiring.
I was in attendance at the match and I can assure you that there is something surreal about Wales v England at Principality Stadium without our passionate fans; it feels wrong on so many levels including the lack of noise from the respective national anthems, clearly being able to hear the players’ on pitch calls to the distant buzz from the drones above the pitch carrying match day cameras.
Our work on creating opportunities and furthering our development last autumn has clearly helped and there is still plenty to work on and more rugby to be played, but our Wales side is now building from a position of strength and this is something we can re-enact as we address the wider hopes, ambitions and aspirations for our game at both professional and community level.
In these dark times it is easy for us all to forget what we have in Wales. Rugby is at the very heart of our national identity at a professional level and is a galvanising presence locally in communities throughout the country, North, West, South and East. The pictures of our Triple Crown winning squad celebrating in front of hundreds of rugby jerseys sent in by clubs from around Wales and placed in the South Stand perfectly symbolised this fact. It has been that way for 140 years and it will be so again once the pandemic is over and it is our job at the Welsh Rugby Union to ensure that the structures and plans are in place to enable this to happen as soon as the current restrictions are released.
We are putting plans in place to return community rugby activity once Welsh Government guidelines allow. An online meeting of Club Operations Managers has been called this week to start to put the wheels in motion for when the time is right.
We hope for more news on this front soon from Welsh Government and we will be in touch with detailed plans for the return of rugby on a domestic front this season and proposed extensions into the summer months as soon as that news arrives. (More on this below)
Until then, thank you all for your patience and I know you will all join me in wishing Wales and Wayne Pivac well for the final two rounds of the Championship as we look to Italy in round four and also await news of a re-arranged date for the Scotland’s round three clash with France.
Finally, I would like to personally repeat an important message which I know member clubs will accept and agree with and also help to reinforce throughout Welsh rugby. We were hugely saddened this week by the unwelcome and wholly unnecessary social media abuse levelled in some quarters after the match in Cardiff. Quite simply, this kind of behaviour is not acceptable in our game and is something we must stand against collectively as a rugby community.
Yours in rugby,
Returning to rugby
The Welsh Rugby Union is working with sports and government bodies with a view to bringing back community rugby as and when we are permitted by Welsh Government guidelines.
We envisage initially being able to return to some touch rugby activity for all levels of the game and, working with the relevant authorities we will work towards re-introducing some contact rugby, possibly starting with the junior end of the game.
We will work with clubs and coaches to provide specific support at all levels with regards to re-introducing the contact areas of the game gradually and correctly.
We understand rugby clubs will want to keep their players and wider communities safe and at the same time we all want to get to a position where we can start to meet each other and enjoy rugby activity on and off the field again at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Rugby clubs are very much at the heart of our communities in Wales and we will continue to support them in every way we can to ensure they maintain that position into the future.
WRU Hub Programme Review
Since 2014, the WRU has been running a number of programmes and initiatives throughout Wales in an attempt to widen participation in rugby amongst young people and, through such participation, to enhance skills and learning.
One of the programmes utilised by the WRU has been the WRU’s Hub Programme, which has placed a network of Hub Officers around Wales affiliated to schools and rugby clubs in specific localities and harged with developing rugby participation amongst young people in those areas.
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. We are very proud of the Hub Programme which aims to ‘give every young person a positive rugby experience’.
We also acknowledge the importance of young people’s physical and mental well-being as keenly as ever.
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.
We consider that Hub Officers are integral to this ambition and also to:
(i) broadening the appeal of participating in rugby union throughout Wales and
(ii) ensuring that rugby union is inclusive and engaging to all ages, genders and communities throughout Wales.
Therefore, we are currently reviewing the WRU Hub Programme, and as part of this review process will be conducting a full consultation process in the rugby community.
This consultation will contribute significantly to the review and help shape the future of the Hub Programme, and we would like to take on board your own knowledge and experiences as well as those of other key stakeholders throughout Welsh rugby.
Further details on how and when this will take place will follow separately, but we would like to encourage all clubs to take part in as much detail as possible.
The aim of the review is ultimately 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 aim to provide further updates in relation to this next phase in due course, but this review is the first essential step.
Women’s RWC postponement
World Rugby has made the difficult decision to recommend the postponement of Rugby World Cup 2021, scheduled to be hosted in New Zealand between 18 September-16 October, until next year.
The recommendation will be considered by the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee on 8 and 9 March respectively.
Further updates will be issued following the Rugby World Cup Board and World Rugby Executive Committee meetings next week.
A jersey from all
A huge thank you from the Wales team and everyone at the Welsh Rugby Union to the 250 or more clubs, mixed ability teams, female hubs, universities and the regions who sent in match jerseys for our display at the final home Six Nations match of the season last Saturday.
Our participation department appealed to all the community clubs to send in jerseys to put on show at the stadium with the aim to bring support from clubs to the game and the positive response was overwhelming.
The Wales’ players ran out to the display of jerseys in a colourful show of support from community clubs from across Wales, with a complete set of jerseys from the clubs of origin of our starting XV making up a row all of its own.
In a game where Covid-19 restrictions meant the normal 74,500-strong crowd must watch from home the jerseys provided the perfect backdrop to captain Alun Wyn Jones and his team as they lifted the triple crown in some highly memorable post-match scenes.