1. CEO Comment
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,
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
More info here:
5. 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.
More on this story below and here:
6. A Macron jersey for all
All WRU clubs along with Female Hubs, mixed ability teams and Wales Deaf have been offered the chance to claim at least one set of free kit for next season as part of the Welsh Rugby Union’s kit sponsorship with Macron.
Macron became the WRU’s official kit supplier in 2020, providing Wales’ national and age grade teams with playing and training gear. And a key part of the innovative partnership will see Macron invest £6 million over six years in free kit for the community game.
Clubs have been invited to sign up to the offer and claim between £1,500 and £6,300 in free kit vouchers for next season depending on the teams they run.
The vouchers, once allocated, can be used at local Macron Stores, who will provide support in helping clubs to select, design and order kit.
From a community club perspective, there is an allocation for senior men’s 1st XV teams which can be re-distributed to other club teams such as 2nd XVs, vets or junior teams, if, for example clubs have already produced senior men’s 1st XV kit for next season.
Clubs can also claim free Macron kit vouchers to purchase a set of kit for their youth and senior women’s teams. This allocation must be used for those specific teams.
More info here:
7. Rugby news
WALES BOAST FIVE IN GB SEVENS SQUAD
Wales centre and Sevens international Hannah Jones believes her inclusion in this year’s GB Sevens training squad is all the more meaningful after a year of lockdowns and postponed events.
Jones joins Wales teammate and 2016 Olympian Jasmine Joyce in the GB Sevens Womens squad and compatriots Luke Treharne, Luke Morgan and Morgan Williams who feature in the GB Sevens Mens squad.
Both teams will be based at Loughborough University with their first camps set to take place in March ahead of their pre-Olympic tournaments in the lead up to July and the 2021 HSBC World Sevens Series, details of which will be announced in due course.
The partnership with The National Lottery is funded from a National Lottery promotional fund. It is not being funded by money allocated for National Lottery Good Causes or by Camelot.
Thanks to an innovative partnership with The National Lottery, there will be equal pay opportunities for the male and female players.
Welsh contingent of the the GB Sevens training squad:
Luke Morgan (Ospreys / Wales), Luke Treharne (Wales), Morgan Williams (Wales); Hannah Jones (Gloucester-Hartpury / Wales), Jasmine Joyce (Bristol Bears Women / Wales)
The Welsh quintet also now have confirmed dates for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series to look forward to as they push their claims for Olympic selection.
They are in the mix for the men’s and women’s GB Sevens squads and will be taking part in a condensed 2021 Series schedule which includes five women’s and four men’s rounds, with the addition of a further two potential men’s events under discussion.
It has been agreed that in this Olympic year, the England, Scotland and Wales teams will combine to compete as ‘GB Sevens’ in both the men’s and women’s Series’ in 2021. It has been agreed that in this Olympic year, the England, Scotland and Wales teams will combine to compete as ‘GB Sevens’ in both the men’s and women’s Series’ in 2021.
LILLICRAP IS LEADING LADY
Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams has confirmed Siwan Lillicrap as his captain to lead the side into the rescheduled Women’s Six Nations in April.
Wales will travel to France on the weekend of April 3, host Ireland the following weekend and contest a third, ‘play-off’ match on the weekend of April 24 in a format similar to the Autumn Nations Cup.
Abrahams believes the side is in as good as place as possible five weeks out from their opening game.
NORTH MILESTONE COMES WITH PERSPECTIVE IN MEMORY OF HUW GETHIN JONES
Welsh Rugby Union chairman Robert Butcher wrote to Llangefni Rugby Club last week to share the condolences of Welsh rugby for the loss of amateur player Huw Gethin Jones, who died from Covid-19 complications aged just 34, with the club and Jones’ family.
And, as he prepared to make rugby history at Principality Stadium by becoming the youngest player to reach a century of caps, George North was also minded that life is not all about rugby.
North played youth rugby at Llangefni in Anglesey growing up and he keenly felt the north Wales side’s loss.
“It’s heartbreaking and I was really, super sad to hear of his passing,” said North. “It has been tough on the community and tough on the club. It has been great to see the club and community rallying around Huw’s family.
“I know there is a GoFundMe page and I am hoping to get a few bits signed by the squad to help out. It’s so sad.”
RUGBY STUDENT SWAPS SMILES FOR SONGS
Final year dental student Owen Hughes has compared his appearance on The Voice alongside that of playing for Wales in the U20 World Rugby Championship – saying his TV singing debut was up there as ‘the scariest thing I’ve ever done’ but he refuses to be down in the mouth after the judges failed to turn for him.
The 22-year-old King’s College student put his own twist on the Dua Lipa song ‘Don’t Stop Now’ but he bit off more than he could chew as the judging quartet of will.i.am, Sir Tom Jones, Olly Murs and Anne-Marie refused to push their buttons.
Filmed back in October, it proved a long four months for Hughes as he waited anxiously to hear what the judges actually thought of him. He feared the worst but didn’t realise the judges recognised they had made a massive mistake after he slipped through their fingers.
Olly Murs muttered: “I don’t know why I didn’t press my button,”
BARGOED AND HAWICK QUINS CARRY ON REGARDLESS
Many clubs are doing what they can do keep age-old rugby friendships and rivalries going – and even create new memories – despite Covid-19 restictions and Bargoed RFC are a fine example.
During round two of the 2021 Guinness Six Nations a trip to Scotland would have been a firm club favourite. A trip etched on the calendar, with Welsh and Scottish teams hosting each other for friendly matches and enjoying some warm hospitality before, during and after the international itself.
None more so that Bargoed and Hawick Harlequins, whose relationship goes back more than 50 years.
Ordinarily, a significant Bargoed contingent would have completed their biennial pilgrimage to the Scottish Borders and checked in at the Elm House Hotel or with their host families in readiness to play for the Butters Cup, a trophy that was introduced to the annual match a few years ago after the tragic death of three Bargoed players.
The first match between the clubs was played in 1967 and last year’s game on Friday 13 March was one of the last to be played before lockdown.
But not to be outdone by the current restrictions on travel and group gatherings, Bargoed invited their Hawick Quins counterparts to a Six Nations-themed zoom club quiz instead and extended that experiment to create a shared matchday experience.
Let us know how you are sharing your six nations experience with old friends and rivals in time for our next Status Update.
More on this story here:
SWANSEA RUNNING AND RIDING FOR FREYA
Swansea RFC has embarked on a whole club effort to raise money for youngster Freya Bevan.
Freya is the daughter of Swansea men’s team manager John Paul Bevan. She was diagnosed with a PNET Brain Tumour at 22 months old and a huge fundraising effort then helped to get the treatment she needed in San Diego which included two brain surgeries, a series of chemotherapy cycles, a bone marrow transplant and Proton Beam Therapy.
Players from Swansea’s male and female teams are cycling – or running – 10,800 miles between them in March which is the distance to San Diego and back, aiming to raise at least £10,000 towards the costs. Coaches Hugh Gustafson and Kevin James are joining in, and former captain Colin Charvis have pledged to add some miles to the great cause.
All donations, no matter how small are welcome please visit:
FINALLY… THANK YOU THURSDAY
So many of our rugby clubs have been going above and beyond during the pandemic that we have introduced a new ‘Thank You Thursday’ page at wru.co.uk in order to keep up.
Those featured so far include Nicola Garbett and her fellow helpers from Treharris distributed meals to those who were struggling, while Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd kept Wales connected during the lockdown by donating 100 Amazon Fire tablets from the proceeds of their £12,000 raised from a virtual run around Wales.
Ystradgynlais also claim a mention after coming up with a series on their facebook page called Lockdown Live Show at Six, attracting the likes of Sean Fitzpatrick, Zinzan Brooke and Shane Williams.
Watch and hear their stories here:
If you feel your club deserves a shout out, please contact us via email@example.com