WRU status update – a return to rugby
We are excited to be able to announce plans for the first WRU-organised community rugby competitions since all rugby was suspended due to COVID-19 in March 2020. There is much more detail below, but I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank club members up and down the country whose voluntary efforts make Welsh rugby tick and without whom our clubs and teams would not be ready to return in this way.
Matches will be played under modified rules, but 15-a-side knock-out competition is back in August and there are detailed plans for Sevens and 10-a-side rugby as early as June with friendly matches to be scheduled in July. Further announcements about youth, (junior tbc) and 2nd XV Leagues are also set to follow in due course.
As you would expect, our Principality Stadium staff have made advanced contingency plans for the return of crowds. If we are given the go ahead as early as this summer, in a timely manner, we want to ensure we will be in a position to manage and adapt safely and quickly to once again welcome fans back to Cardiff.
We have been hugely encouraged by the sight of fans returning to stadia, namely at Twickenham last weekend, and the prospect of the British & Irish Lions fixture in Edinburgh hosting 16,500 supporters.
We are advancing our contingency plans to help us prepare for the moment when circumstances allow for fans to return. Already we are on sale with tickets for our impressive Autumn International Series and we have stated that we are hopeful of four sell-out matches against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Of course, we now also have three summer Tests, with Argentina (twice) and Canada both visiting Cardiff in July and we are hopeful that crowds may be able to return in some form for these matches too.
Whatever capacity is allowed by any change in circumstance – and time permitting – we will be delighted to welcome supporters back to Principality Stadium at the earliest opportunity. But I would like to repeat a note of caution: we will only do this if and when Welsh Government tell us it is safe to do so. We have no desire to add any pressure to this important and difficult decision. As always throughout this pandemic our approach is to behave as good citizens, to help Welsh Government where we can, to be part of the solution to the current crisis wherever possible and pose no extra demand or stresses on the situation.
Under my tenure as WRU CEO we won’t be attempting to fix things that aren’t broken – there is much about our existing strategy and approach that I like – but we will fully review, recondition and revitalise Welsh rugby where necessary.
The central pillar of our purpose has been ‘more people, more often and with more enjoyment’ and this statement will remain. Our core values – Integrity, Excellence, Success, Courage. Family and Humour – will also remain and we will continue to test and measure ourselves against them in earnest.
To this end we announced last week a mid-term review of the women’s rugby performance strategy, with more information available on this below. A focus on the performance end of the women’s game remains a key priority. With that in mind, we are in the midst of a series of internal staff
meetings where I’m sharing some ideas with our staff as to the way forward and reflecting on the feedback received in order to align the whole organisation.
As our sport emerges from lockdown we want to continue to encourage as many male and female players as possible of all ages and abilities to return to enjoying their rugby. We, of course, also want our supporters back and we want to facilitate success for our four professional regions and for Wales. I am confident that each of these aims and ambitions are achievable and inspired by the unwavering passion and support for Welsh rugby throughout the country.
I know our community rugby staff have been visiting rugby clubs around Wales, meeting with club volunteers and have been buoyed by their enthusiasm to return to rugby across all levels of the game. Anecdotally, it appears that in many cases, player numbers are at least at the same level as prior to the pandemic, if not greater. As restrictions ease, we all look forward to seeing matches played again, but we urge everyone to return to the game safely and within the values of the game.
We will pick back up where we left off, we have experienced this unprecedented crisis together and we have not been beaten, we have been made stronger.
Yours in rugby,
Competitions are back
Plans have been revealed for the first WRU-organised community rugby competitions since all rugby was suspended due to COVID-19 in March 2020.
The first senior, 15-a-side competitions for male and female senior players, played under modified Laws to reduce contact in the scrum and maul, are set to run from August to December, as per the WRU’s Pathway to Participation published in March.
The competitions will each take the form of Pool rounds based around local geography followed by an open knock-out phase.
In the male game there will be an Indigo Group Premiership Cup and Championship Cup along with a Plate, Bowl and Shield for National League clubs while in the female game, WRU National Senior Female Clubs will compete in a North Wales Cup, South Wales Cup and South Wales Plate along the same lines.
OTHER KEY POINTS:
– The 15-a-side competitions will kick off from August 7 for senior male competitions following six weeks of club v club sevens and 10-a-side rugby beginning on June 14 and following two weeks when clubs could choose to play 15-a-side friendly matches under the agreed modified laws (from Saturday July 24). The female Cup competitions will kick off in September.
– District-level competitions will be sanctioned for clubs once knocked out of the national competitions
– The youth age band for next season (from Saturday 24 July) is Under 18 on August 31 2021 in order to align with Welsh Government strategy. The detailed structure of Youth competitions, 2nd XV competitions and additional Female competitions will be communicated in due course.
– Support for coaches will be available on the WRU Gamelocker
– Players and support staff will continue to be required to complete the COVID symptom checker on the Gamelocker ahead of every match and training session and follow all Welsh Government guidelines on all areas such as facilities, spectators and social distancing.
WRU Chair Rob Butcher said, “We are thrilled to be able to announce these plans as we move further towards returning to the full game safely. On behalf of the WRU Community Board, and WRU Board, we felt that the structure of these competitions, and the modified Laws will provide a framework for participation in the grassroots game. As we look forward to matches at this level, it’s important that Welsh Government guidelines and our rugby values remain at the heart of everything we do.”
WRU Community Director Geraint John said, “We want to encourage as many male and female players as possible of all ages and abilities to return to enjoying the game of rugby and we believe the format of these 15-a-side competitions, along with the forthcoming 7 and 10-a-side competitive block, will help achieve that, while progressing towards League rugby.
“We have all missed competitive rugby and along with coaching support, the modified Laws for all formats minimise close contact initially and help us to work towards full contact rugby safely.”
Operations Director Julie Paterson said:
“We are indebted to our volunteers, staff and partners for the huge amount of work put in to get facilities and teams to this stage. This competition structure aligns to Welsh Government strategy of minimising travel during the initial phase where there is an emphasis on enjoyment and local derbies. “We will continue to work closely with Club Operations Managers to ensure they have all the support needed over the coming months.”