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WRU’s record reinvestment in rugby




Martyn Phillips: WRU CEO

Martyn Phillips: WRU CEO

THE WELSH RUGBY UNION (WRU) group has re-invested £33.1m into the national game, which equates to an 11% increase over the previous year, according to its latest Annual Report.

The percentage growth in the re-investment in rugby is broadly tracking the percentage growth in revenues.

This record investment comes after the refinancing undertaken in June 2015 and a strategic decision taken by the group to re-invest more into the game, rather than retaining any profits to enhance net assets.

Total investment in Welsh rugby has increased by £3.4m from £29.7m previously, with all money earned now being re-invested into the game; the group retained a profit after tax of £0.1m.

An impressive set of results for the financial year ending June 2016 also sees group’s turnover increase to £73.3m from £64.8m previously – a 13% increase – and the group’s net bank debt reduced to £11m (from £14.2m), largely achieved through working capital management and reduced capital expenditure.

The total investment in community clubs increased by 16% from £6.8m to £7.9m, principally due to the investment in the school club hub programme, in digital strategy costs associated with a conscious decision to better promote the community game and facility grants.

The investment in the Principality Premiership increased by 14% to £1.6m and the investment in the Regions increased by 12% to £19.3m.

The WRU group welcomed 346,000 (2015: 395,000) rugby spectators to Principality Stadium during the year. The average attendance per match was 69,000 (2015: 66,000) and equated to an average of 93% (2015: 89%). The average ticket income per attendee at matches held at Principality Stadium was £39 (2015: £47).

“We are delighted to be able to announce a solid set of financial results for the year ending June 2016,” said WRU Chief Executive Martyn Phillips, who is contributing to his first annual report since his appointment in October 2015.

“We have been able to increase re-investment in all levels of the game, specifically the community game, the Premiership clubs and the Regions.

“Our clubs, the community game and all the players, coaches and other volunteers at that level are the lifeblood of our national sport. We are proud to be able to say that all the group’s revenues have been re-invested back into the game and that investment is at record levels in each of the Regional, Premiership and community games, as well as on an overall basis.

“Looking forward, we face a new set of challenges. On the one hand, we are fortunate in that we have a number of strong long term commercial partnerships with Under Armour, Principality and broadcasting, as examples; on the other, we will now need to identify and grow new revenue streams as our need to invest is likely to grow more rapidly than revenues.

“Our first focus will be to drive an increased number of events at Principality Stadium. We will also look to increase merchandise sales, stadium tours, and we are considering creating a rugby museum.”

WRU Chairman Gareth Davies added: “We are very conscious of our responsibility to community clubs.

“We will always look to increase our support for clubs and we will increasingly look to facilities grants as the vehicle for us to do this.

“Helping clubs to invest in their facilities allows them to become more attractive to their local communities as a social hub.

“We want to ensure that our clubs are at the heart of their communities which particularly attract families, women and children.

“Provision of food, WiFi and well-kept facilities, as general examples, are the key for clubs to enable them to become more self-sufficient. We plan to invest in clubs to help them in this regard.

“Our focus on alternative forms of the game, for example, tag, touch and festival rugby, along with the growth of women’s and girls’ rugby, will, I’m sure, see clubs thrive as new and more diverse members of the community frequent our clubhouses, engage in volunteering and, we hope, help run our clubs.”

And Martyn Phillips is also keen to share his vision for the future within the pages of the Report: “We have a clear purpose as to why we exist as an organisation. We have defined this as ‘more people, more often, with more enjoyment and more success’.

“We want to encourage as many people as possible to engage with our game, whether they be supporters, players, coaches, referees, commercial partners, medics or volunteers.

“We recognise that the majority engage with rugby for enjoyment. We are aware that rugby is a social sport and the club is often at the heart of the community. We want to be a sport that enables enjoyment for all the family.”

The group’s Finance Director, Steve Phillips, said: “We are delighted to once again be able to report a financial performance robust enough to increase our level of re-investment into Welsh rugby.

“Consequently, we have now taken a strategic decision to seek to re-invest more into the game rather than retaining any profits to enhance net assets.”

Martyn Phillips continued to explain key details about the group’s strategy for the future of the game. He said: “We want to drive participation in our community game but we also know that for some it’s all about winning.

“Winning is at the heart of sport and we want to make it possible for individuals and teams to win more often as a result of our efforts. We also recognise the pride the nation feels when our national teams win and we want to make that a regular reality.

“We are working more closely than ever with our Regions to achieve this collective aim and occasions like the near capacity Judgement Day IV at Principality Stadium are symbolic for the WRU and the Regions.

“Our coaches share a collective aim for success on the pitch and we are working together more than ever in terms of coaching and playing styles, player welfare and in exchanging ideas, as well as continuing to further develop our positive relationship off the field.”

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Wales Women building cohesion at start of big year




Cohesion was the focus for new Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams during his first training camp of 2021.

Having been in post just over a month, Abrahams has spent time watching the Welsh performances in the Allianz Premier 15s and getting to know players and staff but the two-day camp was a welcome opportunity for quality face to face time with an enlarged training squad.

“We achieved our key aims on the weekend. The main thing was to learn more about the players. The more we understand them as individuals and as a team, that’s where we can make them better as players.

“The ultimate goal at the moment is to develop cohesion. We have to have the right people and make sure we work incredibly hard on those relationships between players and with management. Everything is tailored to making the team better and we also had some meaningful conversations around the legacy this team wants to leave for the next generation of Welsh women’s rugby and this team has to be the role model for that. That is a long-term goal.”

Abrahams is buoyed by what he’s seen so far. The vast majority of this training squad play in the Allianz Premiership and our players aren’t just making up the numbers. They’re putting down some big markers – just look at Kayleigh Powell and Hannah Jones who both earned a Player of the Match recently and Jaz Joyce who was Player of the Month for December. We’re really proud of how well our players are doing, it’s great for the programme and those experiences are just going to make them better.”

Siwan Lillicrap added, “It’s been nice to get together so soon in the New Year – the first step in a huge year ahead. The focus this weekend was on building a foundation and exploring what we’ve got as a squad.

“I think we absolutely achieved that, the relationships are developing along with a confidence in the squad . It’s been a tough, challenging camp but that’s what you want as we build towards the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup.”

Lillicrap welcomed the input of the new-look coaching team, former Wales captain and Colwyn Bay head coach Rachel Taylor coming in as national skills coach and former Ireland international and Penclawdd forwards coach Sophie Spence joining the set-up as Wales’ World Rugby coaching intern.

“Warren has been very inspirational for us already. It feels like he’s been in post much longer as we’ve done a lot of work on zoom already. It’s great to have Rachel on board. She’s a role model for many of us with what’s she’s done on the field as Wales captain and off it as a coach and Sophie too with her international experience and coaching knowledge.”

Training squad:
Forwards: Abbie Fleming, Alisha Butchers, Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Cerys Hale, Cara Hope, Molly Kelly, Natalia John, Manon Johnes, Kelsey Jones, Beth Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap, Robyn Lock, Shona Powell-Hughes, Donna Rose, Caryl Thomas, Meg Webb, Teleri Wyn Davies
Backs: Alecs Donovan, Beth Huntley, Bryonie King, Courtney Keight, Jade Knight, Caitlin Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall, Jess Roberts, Gemma Rowland, Lauren Smyth, Elinor Snowsill, Robyn Wilkins, Flo Williams

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Scarlets slay Dragons




Pro-14 Conference BScarlets 20 – Dragons 3

SCARLETS started 2021 as they ended 2020 with a Welsh derby victory at Parc y Scarlets.
Tries from man-of-the-match Sione Kalamafoni and replacement Sam Costelow, combined with the boot of Dan Jones ensured Glenn Delaney’s side made it a festive double to move them up to second in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 standings.
The Scarlets weren’t at their free-flowing best and will be frustrated by the amount of handling errors and ill-discipline in their performance, but the winning run continues ahead of next week’s clash with Cardiff Blues in the Welsh capital.
Despite a rare dry night in Llanelli, the opening 40 minutes was littered with errors from both sides and it meant the game had little flow.
The Scarlets enjoyed plenty of possession and territory, but too often passes failed to go to hand.
It was the Dragons who were first on the scoreboard thanks to a penalty from the boot of ex-Scarlet Josh Lewis.
Wales lock Jake Ball limped off moments later with a knee injury to be replaced by Tevita Ratuva, while Wyn Jones, on his 100th appearance, also left the field for a head assessment.
The outstanding Kalamafoni made a powerful surge up the middle of the field to put the Scarlets on the offensive, but again a promising move broke down.
Dan Jones levelled matters on 29 minutes, then added another penalty on the stroke of half-time after a quick tap from Kieran Hardy.
The Scarlets continued to enjoy the better of play in the second period, but had to wait until 57 minutes for the game’s first try.
More pressure led to Gareth Davies being taken out off the ball and Dragons lock Matthew Screech being shown yellow by referee Nigel Owens.
Scarlets went for the corner instead of the shot at goal and a well-worked training move saw Kalamafoni charge across the whitewash for his first try in Scarlets colours, a score converted by Jones.
With former Scarlet Rhodri Williams adding a spark, Dragons looked for an immediate response, but a brilliant turnover from Ratuva snuffed out the threat.
Then in the final play, replacement Sam Costelow picked up a loose ball, sped through the gap and around the final defender for a superb solo score, with the Wales U20s fly-half adding the conversion for good measure.
After the hard-fought win, Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney said: “I suppose it was a compelling contest of a different nature. You saw a lot of kicking battles going on, neither team wanted to give the other counter-attacking opportunities.
“I thought defensively we were very resolute, I never felt we were in danger on our goal-line, it was a bit stop-start with a couple of drop balls, but I am delighted to get the win and we did create a bit more in the second half.
“With these derby games, I am learning every time we play one, they all seem to be pretty much like this and perhaps bring out the best and worst in us because of the individual competition and contest.
“We would have liked to have done a bit more with the ball and the attacking breakdown with us was poor, the Dragons turned over a bit of ball there so we need to be better in that area and make sure when we make the breaks we are able to capitalise.”Attachments area

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Scarlets’ late surge sees off Ospreys




Pro-14 Conference B – Ospreys 14 – Scarlets 16 

A LATE try from Angus O’Brien secured the derby day spoils in a nail-biting Guinness PRO14 Boxing Day clash against the Ospreys.
The Ospreys, playing as the official ‘home’ team at Parc y Scarlets, had led for the majority of a tense contest.
But with 71 minutes on the clock, a superb off-load from replacement Blade Thomson paved the way for full-back O’Brien to slice through and dive over for the crucial score.
Man of the match Dan Jones added the conversion to put the Scarlets in front for the first time and the West Walians were able to finish the match on the front foot to claim the annual festive bragging rights and a crucial win to keep them in the hunt in the Conference B standings.
O’Brien hadn’t been named in the original match-day 23, but was brought in at the 11th hour as a replacement for Johnny McNicholl.
In blustery conditions, Scarlets enjoyed the early pressure, but despite hammering away at the Ospreys line were unable to come away with any points.
Instead, it was the Ospreys who were first on the board after 14 minutes through the boot of fly-half Stephen Myler.
The opening quarter was proving a cagey affair with both sides unable to get any momentum going.
A moment of individual brilliance from scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, who dummied and sprinted clear from 40 metres, extended the Ospreys’ lead on 22 minutes, but the Scarlets’ response was swift with Jones landing a penalty straight from the kick-off.
Jones hit the upright with another attempt, then a pin-point cross-field kick from Steff Hughes just evaded the grasp of wing Steff Evans with the line at his mercy.
A powerful scrum on the stroke of half-time led to a long-range penalty chance, but O’Brien’s strike drifted wide with the Ospreys going in ahead 8-3 at the break.
Myler extended his side’s lead early in the second half, but Jones kept Scarlets in it with his kicking out of hand and off the floor.
Two more penalties from the Carmarthen fly-half to one from Myler made it 14-9 going into the final 10 minutes.
Then the Scarlets struck.
With Thomson having a big impact off the bench, the back-rower plucked a ball out of the sky as the Scarlets surged forward. He was involved again soon after, producing a sublime pass to O’Brien who cut a great angle to the posts.
With only two points in it, the Scarlets showed their composure to make their way downfield and set up camp in ‘home’ territory for the final minutes, denying the Ospreys any chance to snatch the win.Glenn Delaney reflected on the absence of fans from the stadium.“You go back 12 months and there were 15,000 people here and I don’t think I have experienced anything like it. This place was electric.“I say it every week, we are very fortunate to be in the position we are and we are only here by virtue of the supporters of this great club. We want the fans back here as soon as possible.“Hopefully, they found a chance to shout at the TV screens, get involved and share the experience. The derby season is passionate, the only thing we are missing is the people. We must get the people back into the game, they would have loved the occasion.”On the performance, while Glenn Delaney was ‘delighted’ with the win, he added: “There is plenty for us to work on. We stayed in the game and that’s what you have to do in a derby.“There were a lot of things we weren’t happy about in terms of our skillsets and penalty count, we were very ill-disciplined and we need to correct that. We were putting pressure on ourselves. We were trying to play and we were quite close on a couple of occasions, a couple of pass-kicks almost went to hand.“Probably not having a game for a week or so showed, our timing was a bit off; we have had a couple of disjointed weeks, we looked a bit rusty. I thought the Ospreys were excellent, put us under pressure and took their points well.”

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