30 May 2021 / Club News

WRU Status update

Please see below, the WRU status update as received on 28th May:

1.     CEO comment

We are excited to be able to announce plans for the first WRU-organised community rugby competitions since all rugby was suspended due to COVID-19 in March 2020. There is much more detail below, but I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank club members up and down the country whose voluntary efforts make Welsh rugby tick and without whom our clubs and teams would not be ready to return in this way.

Matches will be played under modified rules, but 15-a-side knock-out competition is back in August and there are detailed plans for Sevens and 10-a-side rugby as early as June with friendly matches to be scheduled in July. Further announcements about youth, (junior tbc) and 2nd XV Leagues are also set to follow in due course.

As you would expect, our Principality Stadium staff have made advanced contingency plans for the return of crowds. If we are given the go ahead as early as this summer, in a timely manner, we want to ensure we will be in a position to manage and adapt safely and quickly to once again welcome fans back to Cardiff.  

We have been hugely encouraged by the sight of fans returning to stadia, namely at Twickenham last weekend, and the prospect of the British & Irish Lions fixture in Edinburgh hosting 16,500 supporters.  

We are advancing our contingency plans to help us prepare for the moment when circumstances allow for fans to return. Already we are on sale with tickets for our impressive Autumn International Series and we have stated that we are hopeful of four sell-out matches against New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.

Of course, we now also have three summer Tests, with Argentina (twice) and Canada both visiting Cardiff in July and we are hopeful that crowds may be able to return in some form for these matches too.  

Whatever capacity is allowed by any change in circumstance – and time permitting – we will be delighted to welcome supporters back to Principality Stadium at the earliest opportunity.  But I would like to repeat a note of caution: we will only do this if and when Welsh Government tell us it is safe to do so.  We have no desire to add any pressure to this important and difficult decision.  As always throughout this pandemic our approach is to behave as good citizens, to help Welsh Government where we can, to be part of the solution to the current crisis wherever possible and pose no extra demand or stresses on the situation.

Under my tenure as WRU CEO we won’t be attempting to fix things that aren’t broken – there is much about our existing strategy and approach that I like – but we will fully review, recondition and revitalise Welsh rugby where necessary.

The central pillar of our purpose has been ‘more people, more often and with more enjoyment’ and this statement will remain. Our core values – Integrity, Excellence, Success, Courage. Family and Humour - will also remain and we will continue to test and measure ourselves against them in earnest.

To this end we announced last week a mid-term review of the women’s rugby performance strategy, with more information available on this below. A focus on the performance end of the women’s game remains a key priority. With that in mind, we are in the midst of a series of internal staff meetings where I’m sharing some ideas with our staff as to the way forward and reflecting on the feedback received in order to align the whole organisation.

As our sport emerges from lockdown we want to continue to encourage as many male and female players as possible of all ages and abilities to return to enjoying their rugby. We, of course, also want our supporters back and we want to facilitate success for our four professional regions and for Wales.  I am confident that each of these aims and ambitions are achievable and inspired by the unwavering passion and support for Welsh rugby throughout the country.

I know our community rugby staff have been visiting rugby clubs around Wales, meeting with club volunteers and have been buoyed by their enthusiasm to return to rugby across all levels of the game. Anecdotally, it appears that in many cases, player numbers are at least at the same level as prior to the pandemic, if not greater. As restrictions ease, we all look forward to seeing matches played again, but we urge everyone to return to the game safely and within the values of the game.

We will pick back up where we left off, we have experienced this unprecedented crisis together and we have not been beaten, we have been made stronger.

Yours in rugby,
Steve Phillips

2. Competitions are back

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 (
CLICK HERE FOR FULL LAW MODIFICATIONS), 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.

- The 15-a-side competitions will kick off from August 7 for senior male competitions following six weeks of club v club sevens and 10-a-side rugby beginning on June 14 and following two weeks when clubs could choose to play 15-a-side friendly matches under the agreed modified laws (from Saturday July 24). The female Cup competitions will kick off in September.
- District-level competitions will be sanctioned for clubs once knocked out of the national competitions
- The youth age band for next season (from Saturday 24 July) is Under 18 on August 31 2021 in order to align with Welsh Government strategy. The detailed structure of Youth competitions, 2nd XV competitions and additional Female competitions will be communicated in due course.
- Support for coaches will be available on the
WRU Gamelocker
- Players and support staff will continue to be required to complete the COVID symptom checker on the Gamelocker ahead of every match and training session and follow all Welsh Government guidelines on all areas such as facilities, spectators and social distancing.

WRU Chair Rob Butcher said, “We are thrilled to be able to announce these plans as we move further towards returning to the full game safely. On behalf of the WRU Community Board, and WRU Board, we felt that the structure of these competitions, and the modified Laws will provide a framework for participation in the grassroots game. As we look forward to matches at this level, it's important that Welsh Government guidelines and our rugby values remain at the heart of everything we do."
WRU Community Director Geraint John said, "We want to encourage as many male and female players as possible of all ages and abilities to return to enjoying the game of rugby and we believe the format of these 15-a-side competitions, along with the forthcoming 7 and 10-a-side competitive block, will help achieve that, while progressing towards League rugby.  
"We have all missed competitive rugby and along with coaching support, the modified Laws for all formats minimise close contact initially and help us to work towards full contact rugby safely."

Operations Director Julie Paterson said:
“We are indebted to our volunteers, staff and partners for the huge amount of work put in to get facilities and teams to this stage. This competition structure aligns to Welsh Government strategy of minimising travel during the initial phase where there is an emphasis on enjoyment and local derbies. "We will continue to work closely with Club Operations Managers to ensure they have all the support needed over the coming months.”


3.              Women’s performance mid-term review

The Welsh Rugby Union has commissioned a mid-term review of the women’s performance rugby strategy in Wales.
The review, which will be led by three independent panellists, all with in-depth expertise in their fields, will leave no stone unturned to provide recommendations as to how the performance women’s programme can be improved in a general sense and in order to positively impact Wales Women’s ability to compete at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The panel is comprised of Helen Phillips, Chair of Commonwealth Games Wales, Amanda Bennett, former Wales Women vice-captain and Sport Wales Board Member and former Wales coach Kevin Bowring.
The review begins with immediate effect, part of which will include a survey and consultation with a range of stakeholder groups, including players past and present, coaches, WRU staff and board members to explore the degree to which the current Women’s Rugby Strategy is being effectively implemented, to better understand the factors that may be hindering progress and what improvements can be made.
The review is expected to be complete by late June after which recommendations will be made to the WRU Board.
More info here:

4.              A first look at the WRU’s new Parkgate Hotel

Cardiff’s latest and most luxurious destination, The Parkgate Hotel, will launch in style with amazing opportunities to stay close to the action when the might of the southern hemisphere visit Wales for this year’s Autumn Nations Series.
Operated on behalf of the Welsh Rugby Union, The Parkgate is located just a drop kick from Principality Stadium and will open in time for the big autumn clashes with New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji and Australia.
New computer-generated images released to mark the launch of the hotel brand show how the development will breathe new life into two of Cardiff’s most historic landmarks – the old Post Office and County Court properties on Westgate Street.
The hotel includes 170 guest bedrooms and suites, a signature restaurant and bar, an elegant tea lounge, and a luxurious rooftop spa overlooking the skyline of the Welsh capital. It will provide alluring spaces to meet and drink, dine and relax, as well as the city centre’s finest place to stay.
Pictures and more info here:

5.                 Stadium tours resume

Stadium tours officially resume this Saturday with a new Champions Lap of Honour tour that takes visitors on the first full lap around the pitch with an exclusive photograph opportunity with the the Guinness Six Nations Trophy and Triple Crowd.  Visitors on the tour will be the first members of the public to enter the stadium in 14 months following the postponement of Wales v Scotland at the Six Nations tournament last year:
Fans booked on to the tour this weekend (29th/30th) will also be lucky enough to be the first members of the public to glimpse the new look, WRU branded turfed tunnel which will be debuted at the Canada game on 3rd July.
Champions Lap of Honour tours are selling quickly and can be booked via the stadium website:

6.                Pivac congratulates Wales management on Lions call

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has congratulated members of his management team who have been selected to tour with the British & Irish Lions this summer.
A range of Wales' backroom team have been appointed to Lions role and Pivac believes it is a great opportunity for them and for Wales.
"I would like to fully congratulate all those from our management team who have been appointed to Lions roles this summer,” said Pivac.
"It is a great honour and opportunity for them personally, but I also see it as an opportunity for Wales and our national squad.
"It provides those going with new experiences, new challenges and they will come back into the Wales set-up with even more knowledge and experience and that is a good thing for us.
"It also allows a number of our management to step-up internally into roles and allows us to bring in additional staff from across the WRU pathway to add to the environment and to add to their experience, which is beneficial all round."
Heads of departments Paul Stridgeon (Physical Performance), Prav Mathema (Medical), Rhodri Bown (Analysis) and Luke Broadley (Communications), who have all previously toured with the Lions, will again be part of the 2021 backroom team.
Huw Bennett (S&C), Dr Geoff Davies (Doctor), John Miles (Physiotherapist), Hanlie Fouche (Soft Tissue Therapist), Marc Kinnaird (Analyst) and Andre Moore (Chef) have all been appointed and will tour with the squad to South Africa.
The Wales squad will link up next month to prepare for their three summer tests against Canada and Argentina in what is an important campaign with Rugby World Cup 2023 in mind.
"We are looking forward to this summer, the opportunity it presents," said Pivac.
"We have always earmarked this summer as an important development opportunity for us.
"It is an opportunity to bring players into this environment, look at them closely and expose them to test match rugby.  It is also an opportunity for current internationals to step-up into further leadership roles, so on both counts it is an important camp for us looking ahead to RWC2023."

7.              Rugby news:

A mid Wales club has made mental health a key priority as we ease back to clubhouses and pitches.
Welshpool has launched a series of initiatives led by club volunteers in conjunction with local charities and professional services to provide club members and the wider community with support and someone to talk to as and when they need it. In partnership with local mental health charity Ponthafren Association, the club has set up a Walking Rugby group – ‘Walk & Talk Rugby’ – starting next week which will be open to the whole community, and the clubhouse will also now open two evenings a week specifically to allow members and young people to pop in if they feel they need to chat to someone.

Family and community are the overriding forces behind Llantwit Fardre Rugby Club and that inclusive ethos is helping the club to grow year on year.
There is now truly something for everyone at the village club which is also host to the newly-named Rhinos Female Hub. Along with the Rhinos’ female teams which run from U7s through to senior female rugby, the club also runs mixed teams from fun sessions for U5s and U6s to U12s and male teams from U13s to youth and two senior sides.
They have so many numbers in their senior women’s, Pink Rhinos, section that they now intend to run a second female XV and to introduce an U17 male side to bridge the gap to youth rugby.
The club started an inclusive Walking Rugby group last year and Touch Rugby starts next week. With no changing rooms of their own, they have begun to secure funding for a purpose-built and environmentally-friendly social space for the whole community with changing rooms for all.

Five South Wales clubs have engaged in a pilot scheme with Wales Probation Services which will have mutual benefits for both the clubs and the Probation’s Community Payback team.
As clubs continue to welcome players back to their grounds, WRU Pitch Ready will see individuals from Wales Probation Services’ Community Payback work alongside the local clubs to help get the grounds ‘match-ready’, carrying out tasks such as essential maintenance, pitch-marking and repair work.
The Principality Stadium’s pitch team have already provided expertise on all matters relating to pitch maintenance to the clubs and the Community Payback team supervisors in order to ‘hit the ground running’ when the scheme starts next week.

When Canada arrive in Wales at the end of June, it will be a homecoming for head coach Kingsley Jones.
Being in charge of men’s performance, Jones’s remit is wide. Canada is the second largest country in the world by area, and part of his role involves aligning some of its huge provinces, like rivals British Columbia and Ontario.
A new era of Major League Rugby could herald a reversal of fortunes for a nation that carved its name in rugby’s consciousness with rambunctious displays at the ’91 and ’95 World Cups.
The league is trialling several new laws, including water breaks on 20 minutes, no conversions for tries under the posts, and a strict single-reset limit on scrums – all of which former Wales flanker Jones favours.
Jones believes the competition has the potential to change the game on a global basis within the decade.
But Canada have not played a match since their World Cup loss to eventual winners South Africa in Kobe, October 2019. They were due to play Namibia in their final pool match, before Typhoon Hagibis caused an evacuation order which robbed both sides of a precious shot at victory in the tournament.
Their most recent training camp came in November, involved only domestic players, but if the pandemic has provided him with any crumbs of comfort, it is that Canada will now be playing Test matches in Principality Stadium and Twickenham on consecutive weekends this July.

The Six Nations is set to remain on free-to-air television after confirmation the tournament has entered into exclusive discussions with both BBC and ITV over broadcasting rights.
Those discussions focus on all three arms of the Six Nations; the senior men’s competition, the women’s tournament, and the men’s Under-20’s.
The Six Nations has been broadcast by both BBC and ITV since 2016.
A new agreement over a four-year partnership term is set to start in 2022 and end after the 2025 Championships.

The 2021 Under 20 Six Nations Championship will be played this summer between 19th June and 13th July at Cardiff Arms Park.
The decision to hold the Championship in one venue was taken to reduce the risk around travel, to ensure greater rest periods and structured training and therefore meet many of the performance opportunities lost in recent times.
Matchday squads will consist of 26 players due to the condensed format of the competition and all five matchdays will feature three matches played consecutively.
Every match will be broadcast in Six Nations territories either on terrestrial TV, broadcaster streaming platforms or via Six Nations digital channels.
Scotland and Ireland will get the Championship underway on 19th June, followed by England v France and Wales v Italy on the same day.

After more than two years out of the game through serious injuries, it's heartening to see Steff Thomas back with a vengeance at Scarlets.
The 24-year-old prop’s route to the Scarlets senior squad began with the local rugby club, before moving to the Quins youth side. “Rich Kelly was Quins’ head coach at the time, and he helped me a lot,” says Thomas. “I’ve got good memories with the club, and I’d go back and play for them tomorrow if they wanted me to.”
Thomas admits that the experience of representing Wales at U18 and U20 level was a significant one – in many ways.
“Growing up, I didn’t think there was much hope for a young lad like me from Newcastle Emlyn. Not only to represent my country, but to see new countries like Georgia and South Africa.
“I wouldn’t have been to half the places I’ve been to if not for rugby. With Wales U18, we went out to Cape Town for a fortnight. An amazing trip. I don’t think I’ll experience anything like that again.”
More here

Aaron Wainwright is planning a strong finish to the Guinness PRO14’s Rainbow Cup campaign ahead of what he hopes will be selection with Wales this summer.
Dragons back-row Wainwright, who has 29 caps for Wales at the age of just 23, captained his region in a 42-26 defeat by the Ospreys at Rodney Parade on Sunday.
Wainwright’s Dragons have two remaining Rainbow Cup games against Glasgow Warriors and Leinster to come before the season concludes.
Then comes three summer games with Wales hosting Canada and Argentina twice in Cardiff in July – matches Wainwright plans on being involved in if his form warrants selection.
“To try and get selected is definitely the goal for me,” said Wainwright on his Wales hopes.
More here:

You could never accuse big kicking Carl Meyer of being risk-averse. As a young man he left his native South Africa with a dream to play professional rugby.
Pitching up at Ebbw Vale on the other side of the world wouldn’t immediately spring to mind as the most obvious choice to achieve that feat but that’s exactly what he did anyway in 2013.
Ebbw Vale coach Jason Strange had touched base with the ambitious Sharks Academy product and nine years later, speaking from his base in New Orleans where he is now playing for NOLA Gold in Major League Rugby (MLR), he still recalls the pilgrimage with fondness.
“With Ebbw Vale I felt at home and it had a family feel over there,” he says, before adding, “I got over there on a six month sports visa. Jason Strange saw some of my clips and got in contact and he wanted to bring me over to see if I was a good fit. From the moment I touched down I had people messaging me asking me if I needed anything, just reaching out and I felt at home straight away.’
More here:

We visit Llantwit Fardre RFC to hear about the whole range of rugby being played there. We also talk to two Welsh referees heading off to the Olympics, Adam Jones and Craig Evans.
Listen here:

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