The Welsh Rugby Union’s founding principle is to sustain rugby at all levels throughout Wales. This sense of purpose informs all aspects of Union activity. Less romantically, it is equally important that the WRU generates income to fund the game from grass-roots to the performance game. International tickets are a vital part of our business model.
To this end, the opening of the WRU ticket office for the first public sale in over a year has been a welcome sight, even if the two Argentina matches are classed as away games. We have three matches in total at Principality Stadium to play this month – starting this Saturday against Canada – in front of a maximum of 8,200 supporters. This is a huge step in the right direction towards an Autumn Nations Series schedule in October and November when we hope to see a full Principality Stadium for the visits of New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Tickets are already on public sale for the Summer International Series, which sees Wales face Canada and then Argentina twice. Public sale of tickets to watch the All Blacks, Springboks, Wallabies and Fiji in Cardiff will begin in August and it is then I know – together with a measure of the demand from member clubs –we will be reminded just how deeply Welsh rugby is loved by the nation. We all miss the shared experience of international rugby, none more so than the players themselves.
At regional level, supporters also have the fantastic, revamped United Rugby Championship to look forward to as they flock back through the turnstiles. And, in the community game, supporters can finally gather in a safe manner at pitch-side to watch their local heroes and family members play, adding much needed income to club finances. If finally opening the WRU ticket office is welcome news for us, the clicking of turnstiles throughout the rest of the game, both community and professional, will be equally welcome.
Staying with the community game, player registration for the 2021/22 community game season is open from next week. We are doing all we can to help facilitate this process. We want to provide help for the community game which we know has already started its participation drive, to increase and retain players and volunteers for the season ahead. Further details of how we will be able to help are also described below.
Just as we look forward to seeing crowds flock back to Principality Stadium by the autumn, we know that there must be a burgeoning need and desire to return to rugby clubs up and down the country as we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic. It is our responsibility to help clubs make this process as easy, seamless, safe, secure and welcoming as possible and we will be doing all that we can to contribute.
Yours in rugby,
The Professional Rugby Board (PRB) has reached agreement on funding to the regional game in Wales up until the year ending 2023 (YE23).
Under the new agreement, which was passed by the Welsh Rugby Union Board last month and is subject to the terms of the Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA), PRA funding will increase by £2m for the year ending 30 June 2021 to £5m, will be £23m for the year ending 30 June 2022 (YE22) and reach £23.5m for YE23.
As part of the agreement it is acknowledged that business plans for YE23 are indicative only and based on a number of current assumptions which may vary.
A fond farewell for Paterson
Welsh rugby’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) said good-bye to a founding member at a recent monthly gathering.
Julie Paterson, the Welsh Rugby Union’s Operations Director joins Six Nations as Director of Rugby, after more than 30 years of service to Welsh rugby.
Paterson also received a presentation recognising her contribution to Welsh rugby from the WRU Board and leaves with the blessing of WRU CEO Steve Phillips, who says her tenure at the WRU has been impressive and accomplished.
“Whilst we are sorry to see her leave, we are pleased that Julie is staying in the rugby family,” said Phillips.
“I have no doubt that she will be as successful in this new position as she has been at the WRU and she has my full personal support and that of everyone at the union.”
The Professional Rugby Board is a gathering of representatives from each of the five professional entities in Welsh rugby: the WRU, Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Rugby and Dragons.
Its members share equal responsibility for the professional game and have the power and authority to make dynamic changes wherever necessary.
Membership of the PRB is comprised of two Independent Members – including the PRB Chair – the Chair of the board of Directors from each of the four regions and the WRU’s CEO and Finance Director.
But Paterson has been ever-present at Board meetings as a non-voting member due to her role as chair of the Rugby Management Board and is also often joined in a similar capacity by the WRU’s own Chair and the holder of the currently vacant position of Head of Performance.
“There is a huge chasm between perception and reality when it comes to the WRU,” said Paterson.
“We were the first Union to appoint a female executive staff member and are still the only Union with female representation on the EPCR (European Professional Club Rugby) and URC (United Rugby Championship) Boards as well as both the internal Chairs of the Rugby Management Board and the Professional Rugby Board being female, myself and Amanda Blanc.
“The Welsh Rugby has been like an extended family to me for over 30 years and whilst it has been an extremely difficult decision to leave, I can only thank my colleagues and the clubs for the generosity of spirit they have shown in wishing me well and making the whole process as easy as possible for me.”
PRB members: Amanda Blanc, Independent Member and PRB chair; Marianne Okland, Independent Member; Steve Phillips, WRU Group CEO; Tim Moss, WRU Group Finance Director; Alun Jones – Chairman, Cardiff Rugby; David Buttress – Chairman, Dragons; Rob Davies – Chairman, Ospreys; Simon Muderack – Chairman, Scarlets
Non-voting members: Julie Paterson (as chair of the Rugby Management Board); WRU Head of Performance (TBA); Robert Butcher, WRU chair
Community rugby is back!
The Welsh Rugby Union has announced a number of initiatives (below) to help restart community rugby following the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to assist clubs, Female Hubs, inclusive teams, schools, players and volunteers to move further through the stages of the WRU’s Pathway to Participation.
The pools for the WRU Cup competitions to take place between August and December have been confirmed – the Championship Cup, Plate, Bowl and Shield Pools for the senior men’s game and the North Wales Cup, South Wales Cup and South Wales Plate for the senior women’s game.
The 15-a-side competitions will be played under modified Laws to reduce contact around the scrum and maul in particular (see above links for Pools).
WRU online registration for the 2021/22 season opens for all players, coaches, team managers and first aiders on Monday July 5 – go to the WRU Gamelocker to register from July 5, and coaches throughout the game are already being individually invited to online meetings to update them on law variations and best practice.
Teams can now play club v club 7 and 10-a-side matches under modified Laws. Online coaching courses are still available and face to face courses return from August, check the WRU Gamelocker for dates and availability and access pathway support here
Boots for Grassroots.
In order to breakdown some barriers to participation, especially taking in the economic effects of the pandemic, the WRU has purchased 4,000 pairs of rugby boots at a discounted price from official partner Gilbert and will distribute them via clubs and staff on the ground.
The first tranche of the boots will be distributed to the Female Hubs around Wales and to around 60 clubs in areas that feature high in the Welsh Government deprivation index.
Further allocations will be made from early next season with WRU community staff working with clubs, hub officers and other key groups to ascertain need. Boots for Grassroots is part of a wider Inclusion Plan, with further projects will be announced in due course as rugby continues to return to our communities.
Value our volunteers.
The Welsh Rugby Union will be contacting as many community rugby volunteers as possible over the coming weeks in order to shape a plan to provide additional and meaningful support.
The WRU wants to hear from all community rugby volunteers from secretaries to ground staff, from coaches to first aiders in order to find out what support they most need in order to best serve their clubs and communities.
Clubs secretaries will receive information shortly with more details on the consultation process.
Million pound fund for community return
The WRU has committed an additional £1 million-fund to specific and new initiatives that will assist the rugby family in bringing the community game back safely.
This fund will be utilised in a number of ways, e.g.:
- 12 new one-year hub officer posts will be created in key target areas to boost the efforts of clubs and educational establishments in increasing participation in sustainable rugby opportunities for all within their communities.
- Financial support and ongoing guidance will be made available to clubs who own and manage their changing and showering facilities around specialised sanitation and cleaning requirements as a result of the pandemic
- A number of new initiatives will be introduced to upskill players in the 11 – 21 age group following the long break. To include skills centres around Wales for male and female players along with festivals and competitions, where restrictions allow, to help kick start the game again for young people .
- New digital content will created to support coaches, referees, volunteers and players.
- In line with the WRU’s inclusion plan one-day rugby camps will be held over the summer holidays at numerous rugby club locations around Wales. This provision will help break down barriers to participation, especially outside of term-time, through providing fun, free holiday activities along with healthy food and drinks supporting the movement to end holiday hunger
For more info on all of the above click here
Hub programme extended
The WRU’s pioneering Hub programme provides full-time rugby officers for educational establishments around Wales.
The officers – there are currently 83 of them – are part-funded by the WRU and the partner organisations and also work with clubs and other community rugby outlets in their area to provide increased opportunities for all, improving the health and well-being of the nation through rugby.
While rugby activity has largely been curtailed for the majority of the last 18 months, hub officers have still played an important role within their schools, colleges and communities, providing not only physical activity sessions, either online or in person for pupils, but they have often been at the heart of their local community’s COVID-19 response.
The Hub programme is currently in its second, three-year cycle but, due to the impact of the pandemic on physical activity for young people and team sports, the decision has been made to extend the programme for a further 12 months, depending on individual agreement from hub partners on a case-by-case basis.
WRU Rugby Development Apprenticeship – apply now!
We are proud to offer a fantastic opportunity for young people to join our apprenticeship programme on a 12-month fixed term contract.
We are looking for dynamic young people who demonstrate a ‘can do’ attitude, willingness to try new things and display our values in all that they do.
The WRU Rugby Development Apprenticeship Programme provides young people with recognised qualifications, new skills, knowledge and a wealth of experience working as a Rugby Development Apprentice.
During the 12-month programme, you will work towards a Level 3 (Certificate and Diploma) in Sports Development and will also be required to complete a range of rugby related technical qualifications. You will be supported and mentored by WRU development staff and receive pastoral assistance from the WRU Apprenticeship Officer.
This Apprenticeship is ideally designed for someone who is looking to go to University in the near future but is undecided on a choice of course.
The course gives 12 months of employment experience and the opportunity to explore various options using the wide network the WRU Group can offer. It also gives someone a chance to experience the world of sports development whilst achieving a Level 3 qualification.
It is not aimed at Graduates. Application deadline: midday 19th August 2021
More info and how to apply here
Autumn International Series 2021 KO times
Kick off times have been confirmed for the Autumn Nations Series 2021 which will see the giants of the Southern Hemisphere descend on Cardiff this October and November.
First up in the series New Zealand, face Wales on Saturday 30th October at Principality Stadium, kick-off 17:15. This meeting will be the first time the almighty All Blacks have returned to Cardiff in four years.
The second Test, against South Africa on Saturday 6th November, and the final Test, against Australia on Saturday 20th November, share the kick-off time of 17:30 with the third clash of the series against Fiji on Remembrance Sunday, Sunday 14th November, set to kick-off at 15:15.
The ticketing deadline for Debenture Holders and Premium members is Tuesday 6th July, giving Debenture Holders and Premium members just one week to purchase their tickets. Tickets are also on sale to WRU Member Clubs who’s ticket commitment deadline is Thursday 8th July .
For more information on the Autumn Nations Series 2021 matches at Principality Stadium, please visit: wru.wales/autumn2021
SENIOR CLUB COMP FORMAT REVEALED
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.
WELSH TRIO SET FOR HEINEKEN CHAMPIONS CUP
Three Welsh regions, Scarlets, Ospreys and Cardiff Rugby, will play in the Heineken Champions Cup competition next season after EPCR confirmed the format and qualifiers for the 2021/22 tournament.
The Champions Cup will once again be competed for by 24 clubs with eight representatives from the Gallagher Premiership, the Guinness PRO14 and the TOP 14 having secured their places.
The clubs will be divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B – by means of a draw and the tournament will be played over nine weekends with four rounds of matches in the pool stage starting in December when Toulouse begin the defence of their title.
The eight highest-ranked clubs from each pool will qualify for the knockout stage which will consist of a Round of 16 on a home and away basis, quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final in Marseille on 28 May 2022.
TONMAWR TRIO PRIDE OF LIONS
Tonmawr RFC are hoping to celebrate the fact they will have three former club members connected to the British & Irish Lions tour this summer by raising the roof at their clubhouse in supporting Warren Gatland’s team against the world champions Springboks next month.
The Scarlets may be able to boast four players in the squad, but tiny Tonmawr, a village with a population of around 300, can lay claim to a player, a coach and an analyst.
“Taulupe Faletau played some of his first games of rugby in Wales in our junior section when his Dad, Kuli, was playing for us, while Steve Tandy (assistant coach) and Gavin Vaughan (analyst) both played for Tonmawr,” said club secretary, Cledwyn Edwards.
‘MORE THAN RUGBY’ MOTTO DRIVES CAERAU ELY
For the majority of the last year the fields of Cardiff’s Trelai Park – like those across Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom – have been quiet and desolate.
Now, with Covid-19 restrictions easing, they are back alive with the sights and sounds of grassroots sport.
This is the home of Caerau Ely RFC – a thriving new club in the heart of the Welsh capital.
Its mini and junior section was started in 2018 by 31-year-old Liam Mackay, a man who was given a second chance in life by rugby and wants to help the next generation use the sport for good.
Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams is proud of his players’ efforts at the recent Rugby Europe 7s Championship in Lisbon at the start of June and Moscow last weekend.
Wins over Romania and Germany completed an improvement performance last weekend in Russia to end Wales Women’s international season. The tournament began with an encouraging performance against Spain, finalists in Portugal at the start of the month. Alex Callender’s side had come back from 12-0 down to leading 17-12 but a last minute try gave Spain a 19-17 victory.
Warren Abrahams is keen to stress the emphasis has been on continuous improvement since he took over the role at the end of last year.
EVANS REACHES NEW REFEREEING HEIGHTS
As one door closes another opens in the revolving door of refereeing appointments for World Rugby.
Pascal Gaüzère’s retirement after officiating in his last match on Saturday when in charge of the British & Irish Lions encounter against Japan at Murrayfield has given Wales’ Craig Evans an unexpected opportunity at the top table earlier than expected.
The Frenchmen stepped down after taking charge of his 53rd international match in a career which spanned 11 years. As a result, Evans will replace Gaüzère and make his Tier One international bow at Twickenham on Saturday 10 July when England host Canada with countryman Ben Whitehouse named as the TMO.
Still coming to terms with becoming a new father to Hugo last month with partner Chelsie, Evans will have a lot on his plate in the coming weeks.
He is running the line for the Romania v Argentina clash in Bucharest this Saturday before taking charge at Twickenham next weekend.
He then heads for Japan to take part in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Having spent five successful years on the World Rugby Sevens circuit, WRU National Referee Performance Manager, Paul Adams believes Evans now has a grand opportunity to establish himself in the XV-a-side game.
CHEER ON WALES IN PERSON
Tickets to watch Wales at Principality Stadium in July are on public sale now, for the first time in over a year – via wru.wales/tickets.
Capacity at the national ground in Cardiff is limited to 8,200 supporters per match for the three Summer International Test matches – against Argentina (twice) and Canada.
Restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, such as the need to socially distance by two metres, mean just over 10 per cent of the normal attendance for a Wales international will be granted access.
This will be the first time any crowds have been present at an international rugby match in Wales for over 15 months, with last year’s autumn matches and the 2021 Guinness Six Nations – which Wales won – played out in empty stadia.
That means this will be the first opportunity for supporters to cheer on Wayne Pivac’s Championship winning stars in person since they secured their sixth Six Nations title in March.
NEW WALES CAPTAIN RELISHING THE CHALLENGE
Jonathan Davies is relishing the prospect of captaining Wales in this summer’s Test series against Canada and Argentina at the Principality Stadium.
The 88 times capped Wales international is particularly excited at leading a young group which includes six uncapped players.
It’s his second time as captain following on from taking the helm against Italy in Rome during the 2019 Grand Slam.
“My focus changes now to make sure I am doing everything I can to prepare myself and the group for the upcoming summer series,” he said. “It’s a huge honour to represent your country and then to be asked to be captain is another honour as well… It’s exciting to have fans back, I am sure those 8,000-odd will make plenty of noise and it will be good to hear that. Seeing people coming back to watch rugby is great. It’s a great opportunity for everybody to get that buzz back in the stadium.”
AND FINALLY… TUNE IN TO THE LATEST WRU PODCAST
A Welsh Olympian, rugby at the heart of the community and the Under 20s player who was man of the match after 790 days without a game, in this week’s Welsh Rugby Union podcast.
We speak to Jaz Joyce, heading to her second Olympics in the Rugby Sevens, hear about a community rugby scheme in Cardiff and also focus on the Wales U20s, including flanker Harri Deaves who was man of the match 790 days after his last match.