17 December 2020 / Club News

WRU Status Update

CEO Steve Phillips addresses all the key issues affecting Welsh rugby, there’s news of Macron’s gift to the community game and praise for record breakers Alun Wyn Jones and Nigel Owens plus much more in the latest WRU Status Update.

As we approach Christmas, it’s fair to say we have a lot going on in Welsh rugby at the moment.

Positive conversations are continuing with both Welsh Government and Sport Wales about vital funding for the game, as we now face the likelihood of no meaningful crowds for the Six Nations 2021. This is, of course, in line with what has been in announced in England, Ireland and Scotland already. Sport Wales have been tasked with determining the requirements of relevant sports and they fully recognise that Welsh rugby will form a fundamental part of the request.

The finish line may be in sight as the world looks to vaccination to eliminate the threat of the coronavirus once and for all, but there are large elements of the game in Wales that can do no more than limp towards it and there is now a realistic prospect that – without more funding – there will be material losses.

We do not expect crowds to return to sport in Wales in any meaningful numbers ahead of our home Six Nations matches at Principality Stadium in the New Year. That will not only impact the WRU but also our professional regional sides in terms of matchday income and our semi-pro and community game will also continue to be directly affected in this manner.

Significantly reduced income will lead to difficult choices being forced on us. No one wants to see investment reduced for projects designed to make rugby accessible and available to all.

We have shared this with Welsh Government, but of course Government have an overriding priority to ensure the safety of the nation first and foremost – they also have much going on and must, quite rightly in our view, put national health first. There is a genuine balance to be struck here, but I would like to reassure all elements of our professional and community game that we are continuing to make our case in an unrelenting and orderly manner as this terrible virus tightens its grip. We’ve had direct positive assurances from Welsh Government that they are “minded to support” and, for now, those assurances are good enough for us.

Elsewhere last week all of Welsh rugby was saddened to hear news, via various media outlets, from the former international Alix Popham, of the health problems he is experiencing in retirement.    We have made contact with the WRPA as we would with any player welfare matter, and we are aware they are in direct contact with Alix. I would like to express my personal admiration for Alix and his family, for raising the issue and suggesting possible improvements to our game.

More generally speaking, I would also add that we take the wellbeing of all players, including our former players, very seriously. We will always listen to, as the game has always done, any potential improvements to our game for any reason.  This is certainly not a time for rugby to go missing.

Looking forward there are a number of green shoots. We are continuing to work with the Sennedd and Sport Wales on plans for the return of rugby below the professional level. We have heard and share the concerns of our clubs about the risk of this break in the game seeing players and members leaving our sport. We will be announcing specific plans for the resumption of the community game shortly. We also have to show faith in our sport and the people that make up our clubs. Rugby gives so much to those who play, coach, referee and volunteer. I know I speak for the whole game in Wales when I say that we have missed it and we must take confidence that this hiatus will have reminded people just how much better life is with rugby in it.

We have finalised our new Community Rugby Strategy that will map out the future of our game and I look forward to sharing that in due course. We have also undertaken an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion project that will look at the WRU as a business but also the game as a whole. There is a place for everyone in Welsh rugby; everyone is welcome. No better example of that is the fact that we have not shied away from increasing our investment in female rugby.

A normal address to member clubs at this time of year would seek to highlight achievements so far and look to the New Year with excitement and anticipation. In any normal year the achievements of Nigel Owens would be the headline act. Nigel has brought down the curtain on a 17-year international career that has seen him referee 100 Test matches and he is one of the very finest role models and ambassadors for Welsh rugby. We are extremely proud of him and congratulate him on all that he has achieved in the game. We are of course equally proud of Alun Wyn Jones who took the record this year for international player appearances from New Zealand’s Richie McCaw. Alun has now played 143 times for Wales and made nine Test appearances for the British & Irish Lions. He already holds the record for most Six Nations appearances for his country (57) and has played in 21 matches across four Rugby World Cups. We must ensure that these achievements are celebrated despite the current pandemic.

With the 2023 RWC draw hot of the press this week and Australia and Fiji joining Wales, again, in Group C we can all be forgiven for daring to look past our current trials and tribulations. On the back of the new caps awarded in the Autumn Nations Cup, we expect to see more of the foundations stones of this plan laid at the 2021 Six Nations in the New Year and look forward to the opportunity to dream of simpler, more unrestricted and unrestrained times both on and off the pitch.

Finally, I will be encouraging our staff to take a meaningful break over Christmas to spend time, safely, with family and friends. It’s been a demanding nine months for all staff who have all stepped up to the plate during these challenging times. The challenges we face will still be there in January and we will be better placed to manage those challenges with our staff having taken some time out of the business and suitably refreshed on their return

I would also like to wish everyone in our wonderful game well over the holidays. I have been reminded constantly through this challenging year just how important rugby is to the communities of Wales. Rugby people have stepped up. They have continued to put in the time and effort needed to keep their clubs afloat and at the same time given back to the people around them. Thank you. Let’s look forward to 2021.

Yours in rugby
Steve Phillips

Open letter to Welsh Government

The Welsh Rugby Union is a signatory to an open letter that was sent to First Minister Mark Drakeford by elite Welsh sports clubs and bodies last week.
The letter urges Welsh Government to reconsider its approach to the socially distanced return of fans to our sports grounds by embracing the current Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) guidance known as “SGO2” and withdraw the variant “SG02W” which has been requested by Welsh Government.
It argues that sport is a fundamental part of life in Wales. It puts our nation on the global stage and provides communities across Wales with a sense of belonging and identity and that we form part of an industry that employs thousands of people across the country, our contribution to the Welsh economy, employment and well-being is significant, but this is now at risk.
The letter can be read in full 

Macron, the gift that keeps on giving

Clubs will recall when we announced our new seven-year partnership with Italian sportswear manufacturer and technical supplier Macron, the deal came with a unique ‘gift receipt’ for the
community game in Wales.
Starting with season 2021/22 Macron, who have a tried and tested rugby pedigree, will be making £1m worth of rugby kit available to the Welsh rugby family every year of the remaining term of the partnership – that’s £6m worth of kit over six years.
The first rugby kit Macron produced worldwide was for Neath RFC in 2008 and they not only supply over 50 clubs from the community game, including the likes of Merthyr, Bedwas and Llandaff, already but also two of our regional sides in Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets.
More details will follow on the mechanisms for ordering kits in the New Year so please watch this space for more details.

Vice-chair Burgess seeks to inspire

New WRU vice-chair Liza Burgess has spoken about her determination to improve the inclusivity, diversity and equality of all levels of Welsh rugby.
A pioneer of the Women’s game, celebrated former Wales captain and a coach of top flight women’s rugby, Burgess became the first female director to be elected to the Board through a member club vote, in November 2019.
She says she certainly does not want to be a token female and wants to inspire other women to put themselves forward for key roles.
“It’s obviously a huge honour representing Welsh rugby in this way.
“My election shows that Welsh rugby is firmly on board with changing perceptions and increasing diversity at Board level but I believe I’ve been elected for the right reasons and not just because I’m a woman. I will bring my expertise and experience as an international player, coach and teacher to our difficult remit of taking Welsh rugby forward…


Spence joins Wales Women management team

World Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union have jointly announced former Ireland international and WRU Player to Coach Programme candidate Sophie Spence will join the Wales Women management team as their selected Rugby World Cup 2021 coach intern.
Spence represented Ireland 40 times, featured in two Rugby World Cups (2014 and 2017) and was also part of the Women’s Six Nations title winning sides in 2013 and 2015.
While still playing, she began coaching at Dublin University and Leinster Rugby, and set up her own rugby academy to inspire girls.
Since hanging up her boots and moving to Wales last year, she has held the position of forwards coach at Division 1 West men’s side Penclawdd in Wales since 2019.
Spence will join newly-appointed head coach Warren Abrahams and skills coach Rachel Taylor as Wales prepare to compete in Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2021 alongside defending champions New Zealand, Australia and the winner of the Final Qualification Tournament.
• RWC 2021 Coaching Internship Programme creates quality deployment opportunities for aspiring female athletes
• World Rugby is targeting 40 per cent of all coaches at RWC 2025 to be women
• Wales are set to face reigning champions New Zealand, Australia and Final Qualification Tournament winner in Pool A at RWC 2021
• Rugby World Cup 2021 is set to take place from 18 September-16 October

More here: 

Rugby news

Wales will face Australia and Fiji in Pool C at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Wayne Pivac’s side were in the top pool of seeds for the global tournament along with defending champions South Africa, England and New Zealand.
And the draw for the 2023 competition has ended with Wales alongside two of the same teams they faced in 2019 in Japan in the Wallabies and Pacific Island side Fiji.
Wales will also face two yet to be decided teams in France (Europe 1 and the qualifier winner).
The 2023 World Cup will the third successive tournament where Wales have faced Australia and Fiji in the pool stages. It will be the fifth straight World Cup with Wales and Fiji in the same pool.


Nigel Owens, the most-capped referee in world rugby, has brought his 17-year international career to an end. Last month’s France v Italy Autumn Nations Cup game was his 100th and final Test match having made his international debut officiating Portugal v Georgia in February 2003.
Owens said, “Nobody has a divine right to go on forever. There comes a time where it’s time to move on so international refereeing will come to end now, that France vs Italy game was my last Test match. To go out on 100 is a good time to go.

Hear about some of Owens’ career highs and plans for the future:

The Aberavon Wizards have once again drawn on the star power of Michael Sheen to ensure the Christmas lights are up in Port Talbot this year.
In a spin on ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (or ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’, as it’s more commonly known), the Hollywood star name drops everywhere from Baglan to Taibach in his retelling of the classic poem.


Cardiff Blues have confirmed the appointment of Dwayne Peel as senior assistant coach responsible for attack for the 2021-22 season.
Peel will join the existing coaching staff at Cardiff Arms Park in the summer after signing a long-term contract in a major coup for Wales’ capital region.
The former Wales scrum-half and 2005 Six Nations Grand Slam hero has established himself as one of the most highly-rated young Welsh coaches in recent years.
He has developed a reputation for being an innovative coach with an impressive eye for detail and understanding of the game.
Peel spent two seasons as skills and attack coach at Bristol Bears before joining Ulster Rugby as an assistant coach in 2017.
He is now in his fourth season in Northern Ireland…

More here: 

Welsh Rugby is extremely proud of its inclusive values, striving to ensure there is a Jersey for All at every level of the game.
On Rainbow Laces Day, a campaign that promotes inclusivity towards the LGBT+ community in sport, we heard from Cardiff Lions coach and chairman Gareth Waters on the feel-good factor at training following lockdown.
Waters is buoyed by the lift returning to rugby training has given to his team, who are current champions of the IGR Southern League.


Brian Cresswell, who was part of the all-Newport back-row who played twice for Wales in 1960, packing down alongside Glyn Davidge and Geoff Whitson against Scotland and Ireland, has died at the age of 86.
A superb blindside flanker, he joined Newport from St Julian’s HSOB in 1956 and went on to play 236 times in Black & Amber over eight seasons before heading to Abertillery to briefly play in another all-international back-row combination with Haydn Morgan and Alun Pask.
Born in Newport on November 8, 1934, Brian won three caps for Wales Schools U15 in 1950 from St Julian’s High School. He did National Service in the Royal Artillery and was a steelworker before going on the road as a sales rep.
He played in the victorious Newport side against the touring Australians in 1957 and won the first of his four caps against England in a 14-6 defeat at Twickenham.

More here: 

Winning a solitary Wales cap is to win one more than most people could ever dream of.
When Matthew Wintle did just that in 1996, you could have been forgiven for thinking he’d reached the apex of his career.
That is, except for one thing: Wintle was already on his way to becoming a doctor by the time of his Wales debut as a 23-year-old. Six years later, his talents in his field of medicine would draw him to San Diego, California, where a booming biotech industry would make it the envy of the world.
During the eleven years he spent in San Diego, Wintle became Global Medical Director of a company called Amylin Pharmaceuticals… (Later, a buy-out came at a reported $5.3 billion cost, which then saw a further buy-out by AstraZeneca for another eye-watering sum.)
Hear more from Matthew 

There doesn't appear to be any tagged photos.

Upload and Tag Photos

You must be signed in to add comments