Amanda Bennett, Jennifer Mathias and Jamie Roberts have all been appointed to independent Non-Executive Director (iNED) roles with the WRU.
Bennett, a former Welsh international who has played, coached and led women’s rugby over a stellar 40-year career, takes up the new position of iNED with specific experience of the Women’s and Girls’ game at both professional and community levels.
Mathias brings obvious financial and commercial acumen to her iNED role and Jamie Roberts, as one of the global game’s most decorated former international players, brings further extensive knowledge and expertise in elite performance to the Board.
The 12-person Board which governs Welsh rugby is made up of eight appointed directors including the Chair and CEO and seven of these have now been announced. These appointments already feature four women from the elite sports and business worlds. The remaining four elected places are subject to elections in November and by the end of the year the new Board will be in place with the WRU’s published gender diversity ambitions set to be realised.
Amanda Bennett is a decorated former player with Saracen’s women, was Wales’ first women’s flyhalf in the inaugural 1987 side and is a veteran of two Rugby World Cups who later became head coach in 1998-2000.
Her achievements off the pitch are just as impressive as those on it, a former teacher she worked for UK Sport for a decade and has since established FairPlay Enterprises Ltd, advising on governance, leadership and EDI for the likes of the Premier League and all four home Unions. In 2021, respected around the globe as a leader in her field, she was asked to become a member of the independent panel which carried out a strategic review of the WRU Women’s Performance programme.
She said: “I am as passionate now as I was when I started my playing career about the growth and success of rugby in Wales, especially women’s rugby.
“I aim to use my governance, leadership and inclusion expertise as well as my knowledge and experience as a board director in this role.
“Wales Women are climbing the world rankings and this is as a result of the WRU’s current performance leadership and investment programme. This programme is on route to becoming world leading, based on the implementation of recommendations of the WRU’s 2021 Women’s Performance review. These are exciting times for the women’s game and this progress will form part of the wider strategic direction for the game as a whole. I am really looking forward to shaping that future with the Chair and Board colleagues.”
Jennifer Mathias is from a Pembrokeshire farming family and lives in West Wales. She describes herself as a ‘deeply commercial’ CFO, working for the London Stock Exchange listed wealth management firm Rathbones.
She said: “I am delighted to be bringing my financial and transformation experience to help the WRU prosper during this most critical and important strategic journey ahead. I firmly believe this is a WRU which will create a one-Wales approach to rugby resulting in a modern, accessible and sustainable future for the game in Wales at all levels.”
Jamie Roberts is a Welsh rugby legend who played 94-times for his country, toured twice with the British & Irish Lions and won two Grand Slams and a Six Nations Championship with Wales – all whilst studying medicine at Cardiff University and, later, gaining further degrees from both Loughborough and Cambridge Universities.
He said: “As a recently retired international player I have an immense passion for Welsh rugby. It is a huge honour to take on a position of responsibility and influence during such an important period for the game in Wales.
“My experiences across the world have provided me with a varied and valuable insight into high performance from a player’s perspective and I relish the opportunity to harness my experience and knowledge on and off the playing field to contribute further to the WRU and a sport that has shaped my life.”
WRU chair Richard Collier-Keywood said: “We have recruited a wide and diverse range of high quality candidates to new Board positions from an extremely high quality field.
“The new WRU Board is taking shape and we are delighted with the blend of business and commercial experience, governance acumen and elite sporting knowledge that we have been able to put together.
“We have not only significantly improved the gender diversity of our Board, but also introduced a new diversity of thought and experience in terms of both age and occupation, with the appointment of individuals who are hugely respected in their respective fields.”
Current iNEDs Cat Read and Henry Engelhardt have both substantially completed terms as iNEDs and will be stepping down over the coming weeks with the full blessing and gratitude of their colleagues and the whole of Welsh rugby.
Richard Collier-Keywood added: “Both Cat and Henry’s contributions to Welsh rugby over the course of their three-year terms have been incredibly valuable and it is fair to say that we would not have reached our current stage of advanced progression without them.
“I am also grateful for the support shown by the elected members of the Board who have been critical to the recruitment process as well as their huge contribution as volunteers to Welsh rugby over many, many years.
“In particular Dave Young, whose tenure has timed-out as has Chris Morgan’s, though Chris stood down earlier in the year when Alison Thorne was appointed. Also, to Anthony Buchanan who has resigned his Board position in order to support the new direction of travel voted for by member clubs and indicated that he will not be seeking re-election to Board after the AGM in November.”
Terry Cobner, one of the most famous names of the seventies in Welsh club and international rugby, will be the next President of the Welsh Rugby Union.
The former Wales captain, assistant coach and WRU Director of Rugby will succeed Gerald Davies in the post after being elected unopposed by member clubs.
He will become the Union’s 51st President and will be the ninth former Wales international to reach the post.
ABOUT TERRY COBNER:
Born in Blaenavon, the 77-year-old won the first of his 19 Welsh caps against Scotland, marking his debut with a try in a 6-0 home win on 19 January 1974. He had won a Welsh Schools cap in 1964 and played for a Wales U25 team against Fiji in 1970.
He helped Wales to win three Triple Crowns and two Grand Slams (1976 and 1978) and in between he was a British & Irish Lions tourist to New Zealand. He played in three of the four Tests in 1977, missing the fourth game through injury.
He was made captain for his final appearance in a Welsh shirt against Australia in Brisbane on 11 June 1978.
Having trained as a PE teacher at Madeley College in the Midlands, where he played for Walsall RFC and Staffordshire, he returned to Wales to take up a teaching post at Abersychan. He then spent a decade teaching in Llantarnam.
In 1996, he became Welsh rugby’s first Director of Rugby, finally retiring at the age of 58 in 2004. His contribution to Pontypool RFC as player and coach was immeasurable.
In tandem with head coach Ray Prosser, he helped turn the Gwent club from the also-rans of Welsh rugby into the most successful and feared team in the British Isles. He spent 14 years at the club as a player and was captain for 10 consecutive seasons between 1970-79.
The season before he joined the club, Pooler had finished bottom of the old Western Mail Championship, yet within three seasons they had won the title