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.
Meet Rob Butcher (Story):
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.”
Sign up to AmazonSmile to help Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust
The Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust, which helps injured rugby players and their families, has registered as a charity which will be supported under the AmazonSmile scheme.
If you think it appropriate please nominate the Trust as a charity which will benefit when you purchase from Amazon.
The WRCT was established in 1972 by former WRU President Sir Tasker Watkins VC to help players who have been severely injured while playing rugby.
In the years since it was created, hundreds of male and female players – from grassroots rugby to the elite game – have been supported by the Trust. Some receive help on a short-term basis where fortunately they have gone on to make good recoveries. But sadly, others have suffered life-changing injuries which have had a devastating impact not only on their lives but on their families. The Trust is currently supporting a number of men and women, on a long-term basis who have been severely injured playing rugby. All have suffered catastrophic injuries, many so severe that they will never walk again, are paraplegic or tetraplegic, with some having undergone amputations as a direct result of their injuries.
To contribute to the WRCT every time you shop online simply register with AmazonSmile, details here:
If you shop Amazon Black Friday Week deals from 20th – 30th November, you can do more than discover great deals:
Simply shop at smile.amazon.co.uk/ch/502079-0 or with AmazonSmile ON in the Amazon Shopping app, and AmazonSmile donates to Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust at no extra cost.
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.’
Coach education continues
The WRU coach development department has continued to deliver coach education despite the obvious recent challenges.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, staff had to change the way they deliver courses to help and support coaches especially coaches of younger age groups.
So far, 11 tag courses and 12 early contact courses have been delivered online, free of charge – attended by 390 coaches.
WRU coach development manager Gerry Roberts said:
“We modified the modules to suit an online style of delivery by our staff. We held a pilot for each course back in September with a small group of coaches which was well received. We used zoom to help because of the breakout function that can be used for group work learning. In recent months, online courses have worked very well. We have had some great feedback with coaches saying they enjoyed the content and the breakout room tasks we set.
“There are more free, online courses available and we are looking to add level one and refereeing courses in the same way.”
All the information on courses can be found on the game locker
Boost for Welsh rugby as clubs welcome supporters back – safely
Many community clubs across Wales are glad to welcome supporters back into clubhouses to support Wales this autumn.
Many clubs have been closed for much of the year due to the storms and then the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with local and national lockdowns affecting their off-field operations. However, the easing of restrictions in Wales following the Firebreak lockdown has given Welsh Rugby a much-needed boost.
Working to Welsh Government guidelines, many clubs are keen to open their doors so that supporters can watch Wales’ Autumn Cup games together, news that will boost club finances and provide a much-needed morale lift for fans.
Mike Prosser, Barry RFC Chairman said, “It was an absolute breath of fresh air to open our club house last Friday and to sit in each other’s company, have a quiet pint or two and watch the Wales v Ireland game. Thankfully the result did not detract from the enjoyment had by all.
“We are living in a time that we will hopefully never see again so we have to make the most of this and abide by the rules.
“I would like to thank the management committee members and bar staff at the club who have worked so hard to put all the protection measures in place inside the clubhouse and for the continued support of our members. It is not financially viable to open the clubhouse on a regular basis but will be opening every Saturday for a socially distanced get together.”
Welsh Government guidance in relation to hospitality venues broadcasting Wales’ autumn internationals includes:
– Controlled entry – keep walk-ups to a minimum and use booking systems wherever possible. The rule of thumb for time slots is two hours. However, in the case of TV broadcasts, venues might consider it safer for some people to complete the broadcast rather than encouraging multiple bookings at different premises within a local community.
– Maintain 2 metres between each group of people where possible
– Keep broadcast sound levels at background level to avoid customers having to raise their voices to be heard
– Avoid shouting, dancing or singing
– Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors (not fire doors)
– Ensure physical distance where up to four people from different households are sat together
For further guidance, visit
Live TV coverage in your club
Amazon Prime Video – Autumn Nations Cup 2020
CLICK HERE FOR FREE ACCESS TO AMAZON PRIME VIDEO:
Member clubs can broadcast Autumn Nations Cup matches live through Amazon Prime and S4C at all licensed premises for no additional cost.
The Amazon offer will provide free of charge live coverage via the dedicated Prime Video channel over the Sky Television platform.
The coverage on Amazon Prime Video includes all remaining matches in the tournament involving Wales, with a Welsh language broadcast simultaneously on S4C.
To register for the Amazon Prime offer, clubs should follow the link provided above to the Sky Business website – Sky Business, where further contact details are provided for the registration process.
Please note, that current non-Sky customers will need a Sky HD box and active viewing card to be able to receive the Prime Video broadcast. If you do not have a viewing card, one can be provided free of charge when you contact Sky.
The WRU thanks both Amazon and S4C for their continued support of Welsh rugby and its member clubs.
We appreciate that clubhouse premises will be planning for broadcasting the Autumn Nations Cup to meet with current Welsh Government Hospitality guidelines.
We would, however, recommend that if you have any concerns or queries on the guidelines, clubs access the Welsh Government Hospitality guidance document available on the UK Hospitality website. (a link is provided at the end of point 4. Above).
2019/2020 Premier Sports WRU Club Offer Subscription
Clubs that have the latest WRU annual club offer for 2019/20, will now have their Premier Sports subscription extended until the 14th February 2021.
The original subscription was due to end in September 2020, but due to the postponement of the Guinness PRO14 during the initial lockdown period, Premier Sports has agreed to extend the current subscription by the months lost with no PRO14 rugby. Please note, this also includes a further two-week extension for the recent Welsh Government ‘Firebreak’.
As the extended subscription will now end in February 2021, it is mindful that clubs will need to renew their subscription to broadcast the closing rounds of the 2020/21 season. These clubs will
therefore be offered a discounted rate of £70 a month for the period of 14th February – May 2021.
If clubs wish to take advantage of the monthly ‘end of season’ offer, you will need to contact Premier Sports on the dedicated email address email@example.com.
As the monthly offer from February 2021 will be direct between the member club and Premier Sports, payment details of the club will need to be provided. We would therefore encourage clubs to contact Premier Sports on the above email to request a call with the team so they can capture the payment details. Ideally, it is recommended that clubs contact Premier Sports in January 2021, so that monthly billing can commence from February 2021 onwards.
For clubs that are not currently subscribing to Premier Sports and have an interest in broadcasting the PRO14, you can now take advantage of the £70 monthly rate. To register for the monthly
offer, WRU member clubs can contact Premier Sports direct on firstname.lastname@example.org. Clubs will also need to provide payment details as this offer is being billed directly between
Premier Sports and the club signing up to the offer.
Darren Carew is the WRU’s Disability Rugby Co-ordinator, he has been integral to upskilling the WRU’s workforce in inclusion activities in alignment with the disability rugby strategy
But he also has an inspiring personal story to tell:
‘Around Remembrance Day when I clean my medals it reminds me they are merely a physical representation of the experiences I have had during my time in the Army, a reminder of the great soldiers I served with, the danger we shared and the bonds we forged in those environments.’
CAREW: ‘NO REGRETS’
This time of year is always important as it is a time to reflect, not only on history and the sacrifices made by our forefathers, but also those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in modern conflicts too.
Rugby has always been my passion and going into the Royal Regiment of Wales gave me an opportunity to be a soldier and a rugby player – so it was like a match made in heaven – and to be honest I flourished with the time in the military and though I parked the rugby to focus on soldiering I found who I wanted to be – grew – and met friends for life.
In 2008, after transferring to 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards in 2005, my life changed forever while on patrol in Afghanistan.
I woke up to a different world, the first thing I noticed was a taste of blood in my mouth and the high pitch squeal in my ears, the dust was like a curtain in the back of the vehicle so as the sound in my ears subsided the first thing I heard were the screams from my team, something that still wakes me up in the middle of the night 12 years later.
For me, rugby has helped me a lot to find confidence within myself again.
I didn’t have my leg amputated immediately. I was treated at Headley Court for four years…
Read on here
CLWB RYGBI PROVIDING FOOD FOR THOUGHT FOR ALL
Despite their nomadic existence, Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd continue to strengthen their place at the heart of the Cardiff community with their charitable endeavours.
Buoyed by the success of their mammoth running challenge back in May – which sought to connect care home residents and staff around Wales with their families – the club has now set its sights on helping to combat food poverty in the city.
Over the course of the past weekend, members of the club were invited to bring down food and drink – as well as personal hygiene products – to the club’s changing rooms in Pontcanna Fields, with local businesses also encouraged to support and spread the word via social media.
Given its success, there is potential for it to become an annual clarion call to help people in need across the city.
Their cause this year was aided greatly by having 200 children involved in junior training on Sunday – all of whom brought items to donate to the food drive.
OBITUARY: IAN FORD
Whenever the day Newport so famously beat the All Blacks in 1963 is recalled, the contribution of Wales second row Ian Ford, who has died at the age of 91, is inevitably on the lips of everyone who witnessed the 3-0 win at Rodney Parade.
While John Uzzell’s drop goal always takes the headlines, it was the way in which Fordm his second row partner Brian Price and flanker Glyn Davidge stood up to the New Zealanders that laid the foundation for one of the greatest victories in the history of Welsh club rugby.
One of his team mates from that great day, Stuart Watkins, described Ford as a “colossus” for the way in which he stood up to an All Blacks pack containing some of the biggest names in world rugby.
FINALLY… ONE CAP OR 50, THEY’RE ALL PRECIOUS
Tomas Francis reflects on his 50th cap in Dublin against Ireland in the opening game of the Autumn Nations Cup:
Bristol Bears fly half Calum Sheedy is full of pride after winning the first of what will surely be many:
He may have been on the losing side at Parc y Scarlets on his Wales debut against Scotland, but Cardiff Blues back row Shane Lewis-Hughes still looks back with nothing but good memories from the day:
And McNicholl will be looking to add to his four, as Botham seeks to break his duck: