There has been much commentary in relation to the men’s Autumn Series fixtures. The reality is we continue to juggle a number of unknowns. Whilst we expect to replay our postponed Guinness Six Nations 2020 fixture with Scotland, the competition format and opposition for additional autumn games are yet to be agreed. We hope for news on these fixtures in the coming weeks, but in the meantime have initiated a process to provide refund, credit or donate options to all existing ticket holders for the Scotland game – more details of which can be found below.
What is certain is that we will not be playing any home games at Principality Stadium.
Our decision to step in to provide a location for a surge hospital at the height of the pandemic, along with the scale of the investment to construct the Dragon’s Heart hospital in the Stadium, has meant that we have agreed in principle to extend the hospital until the autumn. We have yet to finalise a contract on the extension, as, this time, it is a little more complex and there are a number of circumstances that need to be covered. We hope to sign the contract shortly.
Assuming games are staged this autumn, if restrictions mean that we are playing behind closed doors those games are likely to be staged in Wales and we are exploring a range of options. If the games can be staged with crowds in some form those games are likely to be in and around London and, again, we are exploring a range of options. The most difficult scenario will be if games are allowed with crowds in England but not in Wales. There are clearly a range of risks here not least Welsh fans leaving Wales to attend a game and then returning. Clearly this risk also occurs for away games. We very much hope that by the autumn, restrictions whatever they be in relation to sports events, are aligned across the UK.
On a more optimistic footing, we plan to be back playing at the Principality Stadium, hopefully in front of full crowds against England and Ireland in the Guinness Six Nations in February 2021.
In relation to the Community game, I wanted to thank the team at the WRU for mobilising quickly as restrictions relating to the Community game evolved quickly over the past few weeks. We have published new guidance and scheduled a range of webinars which have been well attended. Inevitably circumstances will evolve further in the coming months as we navigate a return to training, clubhouses and ultimately playing.
In terms of other Stadium events, 2021 has the potential to very busy as promoters and acts look to return the stage after 2020 was wiped out for large events. We also hope to have our Westgate Hotel open during the second part of next year. We have inevitably experienced delays but I’m pleased to say these have thus far been kept to a minimum and we are looking forward to adding the hotel to the event day experience at the Stadium.
Finally looking to next summer it was positive to be able to confirm that the British and Irish Lions tour will go ahead as planned in July and August next summer. With our Welsh Regions back in action in August, I hope that those games kick start the season that for some will culminate in pulling on the famous red jersey in a Lions test match in South Africa. There is much to look forward to.
Ticket-holder options for Wales v Scotland
The Welsh Rugby Union has announced it will be processing refund, credit or donate options for supporters for Wales’ postponed 2020 Guinness Six Nations match with Scotland.
Principality Stadium is currently hosting the Dragon’s Heart Hospital and this commitment effectively rules out the option for Wales to play at their home venue until the 2021 Six Nations in the New Year.
The original plan had been to coincide options for ticket holders with an announcement of a re-scheduled game so ticket holders could make an informed decision. For understandable reasons, the re-scheduling has taken time. However, based on customer feedback, the Union has taken the decision to bring the reimbursement process forward.
The best way to ticket any potential new fixture is to cancel all original tickets now and go on sale, if appropriate, for a second time.
The WRU has thanked supporters and clubs for their patience throughout this process and acknowledges the frustration already experienced by supporters seeking refunds.
Supporters will be given three options; to be refunded using the ‘credit my account’ option, which will enable priority for them to buy tickets for the rescheduled fixture when it is announced (subject to crowds being permitted), to choose a direct refund to the card which purchased their ticket or to donate the value of their ticket to Welsh rugby.
Choosing the ‘credit’ or ‘donate’ option means supporters will receive priority booking on tickets for any potential re-arranged fixture if crowds are permitted and ‘credit’ would also mean funds could be used for another future WRU match.
If no action is taken tickets bought directly from the WRU will be automatically credited to accounts used, within 30 days, although the process will be different for those who bought from clubs.
“We know we won’t be playing this game at Principality Stadium, because we have made a commitment to the NHS to host the Dragon’s Heart Hospital and we are past the point at which we could be ready to play international rugby in the timescale available,” said a WRU spokesperson.
“That means we would move the game out of Wales to find a venue which can accommodate the size of crowd we both expect and need, in the scenario where spectators are allowed.
“We are looking at venues in England to ensure we find a venue of a suitable size to accommodate the commitments we have. Our aim will be to try and ensure we deliver on commercial requirements to maintain our support to the game at all levels throughout these unprecedented times.
“No crowds would mean the game would be played in Wales, at one of our regional grounds.
“We need our international game to be fully up and running again in order for Welsh rugby to survive this crisis intact and we fully expect to be back in Cardiff for the 2021 Six Nations Championship at the latest, but matches elsewhere or behind closed doors in the meantime will still be a step in the right direction.”
The WRU will contact supporters who purchased via its eticketing site directly by email, with a link providing access to the refund, credit or donate to Welsh rugby options.
Clubs will be fully refunded for their tickets so supporters can make contact directly to get money returned and the WRU has also advised clubs to offer a ‘donate your ticket value to the club’ option.
“It is standard policy in the sports industry to wait for a new fixture before processing refunds after a postponement, so that an exchange can also be offered at the same time, increasing consumer choice,”added the spokesperson.
“But we have concluded that due to continued uncertainty, as a result of the pandemic, and considerable supporter feedback it is now the right thing to do to offer full face value refunds at this stage.
“This means supporters can regroup and make an informed decision about potentially attending once all the facts are known.
“We also know supporters would need a new ticket, as we know the game couldn’t take place in Cardiff on any likely re-scheduled date, so we are providing three options – to donate ticket value to Welsh rugby or to receive a refund or credit direct to the purchaser’s account.
“Supporters who decide to donate their ticket value can be assured that their money will be used to support Welsh rugby at all levels of the game.”
Nearly 20-per-cent of supporters who had bought tickets to the recently cancelled Judgement Day event donated ticket value to their chosen region instead of choosing the refund or credit my account options and each of the four Welsh regions have run similar options on season tickets.
Return to rugby
There have been a number of hugely well attended webinars on returning to rugby over the last week and we would like to thank all clubs for taking part. We have also launched our Return to Rugby Operations Manual for the Community Game and made this available to cubs.
We have continued outline a phased, safety-first Return to Rugby approach for the community game following the latest Welsh Government guidance.
While the timeline for the return of competitive matches is dependent on the Welsh Government’s next steps in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, during recent webinars attended by more than 300 club representative, WRU staff clarified how rugby clubs and groups in Wales can start to plan their return to non-contact training within small groups in Wales from 1st August.
The return to club-organised training is dependent on the completion of a period of education and preparation steps and caveats.
All coaches, players – or parents of junior players – will be asked to complete World Rugby’s online Covid-19 Return to Play awareness course.
They must then complete the WRU’s online registration process which will open on August 1. Once they are fully registered, players and coaches may take part in club-organised training sessions organised in small groups of between 10 and 15 players and should focus on fitness, skills and small-sided, non-contact games within training groups.
There will be an online symptom checker to complete ahead of all training sessions via the WRU Game Locker.
The first phase of training will be held in groups of 10 – 15 and significant further easing of restrictions, especially when it comes to social distancing, will need to take place before contact training can begin. Further guidance on gradually increasing group sizing and will be provided at the appropriate time.
WRU Operations Director Julie Paterson said: “We are determined to be part of the solution to Covid-19 and for that to happen it is important we all work together. The safety of everyone involved in Welsh community rugby and their wider communities is of paramount importance and when rugby returns, we all want it to return for good.
“We will utilise the immediate period ahead of 1 August to help prepare clubs and groups to return to the first stage of club-organised rugby training.”
WRU Community Director Geraint John added, “Although these are unforeseen and enforced circumstances, it is also a fantastic opportunity for coaches and players to hone individual and team skills that will benefit the game in the long-term. We will provide ideas and resources for coaches but we are also asking them to be innovative and to encourage creativity.”
There are now a number of assets to view and download on our updated COVID-19 section: Return to Rugby
The WRU Game Locker brings you videos and resources, dedicating to coaching, refereeing and playing. You can use the Locker to explore our informative content, or to book on to courses to help advance your skills.
In this week’s Coaches Corner section we host a Wheelchair Rugby Coaching Webinar with the Scarlets’ Jayne & Nicola Hayton and the Dragons’ – Ieaun Coombes & Chris Garrett).
And if you’re missing inclusive rugby catch up with Darren Carew’s ‘Jersey for All’ fun rugby sessions you can do from your home or garden, session three is out now: Session 2
FISH HOOKED ON COACHING
Cardiff Blues full-back Dan Fish is hooked on the new initiative introduced by the WRU, the Players to Coach programme.
There’s been little to shout about on the playing front for months but that hasn’t stopped a select band of players from nearing completion of a brand new coach development initiative undertaken by the Welsh Rugby Union.
Last September, in conjunction with the regions and the Welsh Rugby Players Association, a group of 10 players were hand-picked for the inaugural 12-month long Player to Coach programme overseen by WRU Performance Coach Manager Dan Clements.
Despite coronavirus causing mayhem world-wide, the players involved have put their heads down and concentrated on the job at hand so the players of today can work towards becoming the coaches of tomorrow.
The new WRU Player to Coach programme aims to support players who are looking to make the transition into coaching.
There will be no customary celebrations with mortar boards thrown into the air on graduation day, but Ospreys quintet Justin Tipuric, Paul James, Bradley Davies, James Hook and Rob McCusker, Scarlets duo Leigh Halfpenny and Angus O’Brien along with Dragons’ Aaron Jarvis and Brok Harries and Cardiff Blues’ Dan Fish can reflect on becoming the first graduates of the course, gaining a UKCC Level 3 award in Coaching Rugby Union in the process.
BRAD EARNS HIS BADGES TOO
There’s not a lot Bradley Davies hasn’t achieved during an illustrious playing career with Cardiff Blues, Wasps, Ospreys and Wales.
He’s led his country into battle, captained Wales U19 to Grand Slam glory in 2005 and has accrued 66 Wales caps along the way but now he is embarking on a new stage of his rugby career as he will shortly join the illustrious group of first graduates of the Union’s brand new coach development initiative.
On completion of the course, Davies, like his fellow graduates, including Dan Fish mentioned above, will shortly secure a UKCC Level 3 award in Coaching Rugby Union.
We’ve took the opportunity to do a question and answer session with Bradley as he embarks on a new stage of his career.
Real all about it here.
74-TIMES CAPPED DAVIES TURNS REF
A chance meeting with a former adversary was just the push Jenny Davies required to decide becoming a referee was the next step in her rugby journey.
As the curtains were being drawn on her own playing career which saw her claim 74 Welsh caps in the front row, Davies had a conversation with trail-blazing Joy Neville after a game against Ireland.
Neville had a lengthy playing career spanning 10 years with Ireland before taking up the whistle in 2013. Since then she has been the flagbearer for women’s refereeing, officiating in Europe and in a World Cup, collecting World Rugby’s Referee of the Year award in 2017 along the way.
While Neville’s career continues to flourish, Davies’ is still in the embryonic phase having refereed for just two years.
“After retiring from playing, I tried coaching and found that I still thought I was a player and still ate like one, without doing the training,” says Davies.
“I also felt that coaching didn’t give me the buzz that playing did. So, I decided that I would have a go at taking up the whistle after speaking to Paul Adams [WRU National Referee Performance manager] he persuaded me to give it a go. And after seeing Joy do so well and heeding her advice, I thought: why not?
“I think it is important former players become referees because they have got an idea in regards to what players and coaches are trying to achieve. They are more empathetic and will attempt to get the games to flow by playing advantage…”
Adams has been impressed with Davies’ progress since she took up the whistle two years ago but also emphasises the women’s programme collectively is heading in the right direction.
“Over the last 18 months there has been a very encouraging increase in the number of women refereeing the senior game on a regular basis,” explains Adams.
More available here.
RAPID RISE FOR BEVAN
Ellis Bevan had an impressive campaign for Wales Under-20 in the Six Nations earlier this year.
Now the Cardiff Metropolitan University student is training hell for leather in a garage in Solihull in a bid to ensure he is fighting fit for rugby’s return.
Bevan is a product of the Welsh Exiles system and was a regular for Gareth Williams’ Under-20 side this season.
His father Paul hails from Swansea which makes him eligible for Wales.
He is not signed to a professional team but is attracting interest from Welsh regions and clubs in England.
He was one of two scrum-halves in the Wales squad for the Under-20 Six Nations alongside Dafydd Buckland and has played age grade rugby for Wales as well as BUCS and WRU National Championship rugby with Cardiff Metropolitan.
He stood out earlier this year with a try-scoring display in the win over France.
Find out more about Ellis here.
VIRTUAL VICTORY BOOSTS NHS DOWN WEST
After winning the WSRU Dewar Shield VIRTUAL Plate Competition during lockdown players, parents and friends have added £1,200 donations to the £100 prize of a donation to Carmarthen & District Schools Rugby Union’s local NHS, taking the total to £1,300.
A cheque was handed over to the Chemotherapy Unit of West Wales General Hospital, Glangwili earlier this month.
This Unit is always on the front line of treating, prolonging and saving the lives but their job has been made even more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic, when their own lives are put at risk.
This donation has been given on behalf of family and friends who have been treated at the unit and in memory of two special people who were staff members at C&DSRU: Spencer Jones, a former coach of Carmarthen Quins, Whitland and Nantgaredig, who died of cancer a year ago and Anthony Maynard a former coach of Carmarthen Athletic who was sadly lost in the same way last month.
BRECON FLOCK LEAVES THE FIELD
What a year this has been at Brecon RFC, like most clubs in Wales at the end of February the club were looking towards an exciting climax to the rugby season.
At that time, winning and losing on a rugby field seemed to be so important.
Suddenly, life at the Club, within the town and across the world changed as the Coronavirus Pandemic made an impact of historic proportions.
Rugby and other sports were brought to an abrupt halt.
Towns, cities and countries across the globe were locked down and individual freedoms were lost in an attempt to reduce the impact of the virus.
We all learned that the real battles in life involve looking after one another and trying to protect, help and save others.
That was the motivation behind Brecon RFC’s initiative to raise funds to support the National Health Service workforce which was dedicated to caring for those who contracted the virus.
The rest of the story has been well documented.
Chairman, Paul Amphlett’s flock of ewes was the catalyst.
From humble beginnings the initiative caught the imagination of the community and attracted unprecedented local and wider support.
Ewes were named, participated in a unique rugby match and were shorn in front of someone who inspired a Nation; centurion, Captain Tom. Finally on Wednesday 8th July preparations were made to bring the venture to a conclusion.
With £13,000 having already been donated to NHS Wales, with the express purpose of supporting frontline staff, a closing ceremony took place at Parc de Pugh with the flock still in attendance.
Paramedic Kenneth Williams represented the Welsh Ambulance Service as he took receipt of seven new washing machines and coffee makers which will be installed in Ambulance Stations across South Powys.
The formal presentation was made in the company of Amphlett, shearers Eifion Morgan and Ian Matthews, club Secretary Ron Rowsell, Chris Randall of Bulwark House, Brecon and of course Captain Tom (alias Howard Morgan).
Chris of Bulwark House, Brecon, supported the project and supplied the goods, which were purchased from a further £7,000 raised as part of the sponsored shearing event.
The remaining money, left after purchasing the machines, will be donated to NHS Wales and will take the total donation, including the value of the goods, to over £20,000.
Through some of the darkest times in living memory the whole project has been a positive initiative. It has brought the Club and the community closer together in order to support essential frontline health workers.
Paul Amphlett appropriately summed up the feelings of those gathered at the presentation, “There has always been pride in our NHS but we perhaps have never valued it more than we do now in this crisis. I am pleased that in a tangible way we, at Brecon RFC, have been able to show our support for the Service and the individuals who make huge sacrifices in order to keep us Safe.”
THE MAKING OF WALES WING WALKER
Becoming a rugby player at 29 and making your international debut that same season is enough to make anybody’s head spin.
Then again, where else but the fast lane for Nigel Walker, the former hurdler from Cardiff who won medals at European and world championship level?
Walker’s Jamaican parents were part of the Windrush generation, encouraged by the Commonwealth to migrate to the UK to address the post-war labour shortages.
The four Walker children were brought up in a semi-detached house in Rumney.
Whilst a high concentration of Caribbean families famously settled in the Docks area, bringing it a renewed sense of vibrancy, this wasn’t quite the case in Cardiff’s eastern district.
“There were 1400 pupils in Rumney High, but literally only ten black kids,” says Walker, whose school had enjoyed a touch of glamour when it hosted the 1958 Commonwealth Games fencing competition.
“It was a decent school and the majority of people there were working class. We weren’t wealthy, money wasn’t plentiful, but I have no regrets about going there. My upbringing shaped me as an individual, alongside my parents’ strong values.”
If money wasn’t plentiful in the Walker household, sporting achievements certainly were. Eldest sister Sonia ran for Cardiff Athletics Club, while younger brother Kevin excelled at cricket, tennis and even won a Wales age grade cap in football. Perhaps inspired by his brother’s successful late transition to rugby, a 26-year-old Kevin went on to take up the sport at a high level, first with Pontypool and then Bridgend.
And Nigel? Read more here.
And finally… nominees sought for six WRU Council Member positions
Nominees are currently being sought for six Welsh Rugby Union Council member positions, where incumbent terms are due to lapse at the 2020 Annual General Meeting in October.
National Council Member, and current chairman, Gareth Davies is set to complete his sixth year in office and will stand for a third and final three-year term.
Five District Council Members, Bryn Parker (A), Dave Young (B), Ray Wilton (C), Chris Morgan (D) and Phil Thomas (E), are also able to seek the approval of member clubs in respective Districts to extend their time in post.
But, as already stated in a letter to member clubs, the WRU is also directly seeking new nominations to create healthy competition in each of the positions and outlines the relevant skills and experience successful candidates will need.
The letter sets the deadline for nominations as 3rd August and reminds member clubs that ‘… today’s Council Member could be tomorrow’s Board Member, so the more diverse the WRU Council is, the better the pool of talent we will have from which to elect our Board and the better Welsh rugby will be for it.’
It’s an issue close the heart of chairman Davies who has confirmed he will stand again for the position of National Council Member after overseeing governance modernisation in 2018 which allowed for the creation of the Council and a more streamlined 12-person Board.
“Hopefully I can offer a period of continuity and stability to Welsh rugby by serving a further National Council Member term during these tough times and, if member clubs decide they want me to do so, I will take up the mantle with as much passion and enthusiasm as I did in my first,”said Davies.
“Thanks to the most significant changes to the governance of the WRU since the game went professional we now boast a smaller, more versatile and dynamic Board and a Council with the specific expertise and remit to safeguard the future of our community game.
“But our work is not yet done in this area and, as we seek new Council Members through the natural evolution of individual member terms, it is vital that we continue to improve both the diversity of background and the variety of skill-sets represented, whilst retaining the 130 years of heritage and history that has made us who we are in 2020.
“We want the WRU Council to be as representative as possible to ensure that it can speak for all of Welsh rugby.
“We would encourage all clubs to look around their club-houses for the individuals and leaders that best represent the communities around them and possess the relevant skills and experience for the role.
“Recent elections to the WRU Council have not only produced a range of high calibre and high profile candidates but also improved the diversity, skill set and experience within our governance structures and we are grateful to members for continuing to ‘break the mould’ in this regard.
“Governance modernisation has been designed to improve the diversity of our representation, with the pool of talent available on the Council directly influencing the Board.
“It is vital that we continue with the recent progress we have made in this area and we would determinedly encourage clubs to nominate candidates with this focus and ambition in mind.”
More details here.