THE WELSH RUGBY UNION has approved important changes to the Principality Premiership as part of a wide-ranging review of competition structures across the game in Wales.
The WRU Board has decided that from season 2016/17 the number of clubs in the Premiership will be increased from its current 12 teams to up to a total of 16.
There will be no relegation from the Premiership at the end of next season (2015/16) to launch the transition process, nor for the two seasons following its inception.
The decisions were made followingrecommendationspresented to the WRU Board by a Competitions Pathway Working Group which was made up from stakeholders across the league structure and from within the governing body.
The members included representatives from the Welsh Rugby Union, Regional Rugby and the Principality Premiership.
Details of the WRU Board decisions will be outlined directly to all stakeholders and further discussions will take place on some elements of the review.
Within the overview the Board confirmed a commitment to the EPCR competition and the Guinness Pro 12 as crucial elements of the elite player pathway structure.
The board approved the following recommendations for the Principality Premiership:
It was agreed that funding for the division will remain at the recently increased level with further consideration to be given to an alteration in the delivery mechanism to reward those clubs which do the most to produce players and coaches for regional and international rugby. It was also agreed to continue discussions to ensure an equitable funding structure forteamsenteringthenewlyconstituted Premiership from season 2016/17.
From season 2016/17 the Principality Premiership will be increased to include up to 16 teams from the current limit of 12 with no relegation considered for the first three years. The new league structure will continuetobemonitoredandreviewed.
Only clubs that achieve a full A licencewillbeconsideredforpromotion to the new league structure. Clubs must register their applications for A licences by August 31 and will be given until 18 December 2015 to achieve licence criteria. These clubs will then be made aware of the funding structure available if they achieve promotion.
A consultation process will be started with the Championship Division teams to discuss the effect of the Premiership changes on this league.
A new Premiership Challenge Cup is to be introduced from season 2015/16.
This will primarily be a development tool with rounds taking place to correspond with British and Irish Cup weekends throughout the season. This will help strengthen the development pathway into the Premiership through schools, college and youth rugby.
To help bolster the Challenge Cup a new player ID programme will be formulated to ensure a flow of school, college and youth players to the Premier Division competition structure.
The WRU Head of Rugby, Josh Lewsey, said: “The Board’s decision is a big step forward to align the development pathway and safeguard the future of the game in Wales. There has been a long and detailed debate on these issues involving all the stakeholders and I believe these decisions by the Board are based on what is best for the game. We are helping create a Premiership within which players can develop their talent through teams they can identify with as part of the fabric and history of the game in Wales.”
WRU Chairman, Gareth Davies, said: “I am delighted the Board of the WRU have taken these positive steps which further strengthen our player development pathway structure. I also want to thank the Competitions Pathway Working Group for the incredible amount of hard work they have carried out. The entire focus of this exercise has been to strengthen Welsh rugby and I can promise we will continue to seek ways to preserve our heritage while improving the rugby pathway from the very top through to the grassroots.”
Scarlets make five changes for European quarter-final
Johnny Williams and Sione Kalamafoni have been handed their Scarlets’ European debuts for Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol (8.15pm UK time).
Both summer signings are included in a side showing five changes to the line-up that took the field against the Dragons in the Scarlets last match of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Wales and British & Irish Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns to face his former side, linking up with Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans in an all-international back three.
Williams and Steff Hughes continue their midfield combination, while Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies has recovered from injury to partner Dan Jones at half-back.
Skipper Ken Owens, Wyn Jones and Samson Lee pack down in the front row and behind them Tongan international Sam Lousi starts at lock alongside Jake Ball.
In a reshuffled back-row, the PRO14’s turnover king Josh Macleod gets the nod at openside; Kalamafoni, who featured for Leicester Tigers in the pool stages of the tournament, wears the No. 8 jersey and Scotland international Blade Thomson has recovered from an Achilles issue to start at blindside.
On the bench, Ryan Elias, Phil Price and Javan Sebastian provide front-row cover with Lewis Rawlins and James Davies the other forward replacements. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Tyler Morgan cover the backs. Morgan is set to make his first Scarlets appearance since joining from the Dragons.
The Scarlets and Toulon faced each other twice during the pool stages. A last-gasp converted try grabbed a 17-16 victory for the French side in November. The three-times European champions then claimed a crucial 27-15 win at Parc y Scarlets in January to ensure they topped the group.
Head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It is a final for us. If you win three finals in a row you win a trophy. We are that far away from achieving the objective we all set out upon 12 to 13 months ago. It would be lovely to finish it off the right way. Whenever you get the opportunity to play for a trophy you have got to be very respectful and take it deadly serious, which is exactly what our boys have been doing.”
Scarlets team v RC Toulon (Saturday, September 19, 2020; kick-off 8.15pm UK)
15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (capt), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.
Reps: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Unavailable because of injury
Rob Evans (neck), Rhys Patchell (calf), Liam Williams (foot), Daf Hughes (knee), Steff Thomas (knee), Alex Jeffries (elbow), Tomi Lewis (knee), Aaron Shingler.
Pembrey Country Park to host one of first post-lockdown events
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Pembrey Country Park has been chosen to host one of the first outdoor sports events in Wales since the Covid-19 lockdown.
Welsh Government has given the go ahead for three trial sport and culture events as part of its continued easing of restrictions.
Pembrey Country Park will host a duathlon on Sunday, September 6, with a limited number of competitors, although there will be no spectators.
The event will be monitored and will help inform Welsh Government policy on future sporting events as the country continues its recovery from Covid-19.
The council is working with Welsh Triathlon to ensure athletes can compete safely, with strict risk assessments and protocols being put into place.
Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We’re delighted to host this trial event here in Carmarthenshire, and hope this signals a return of more sporting events in the future. Our teams are working alongside Welsh Government and Welsh Triathlon to ensure that the event is safe and secure whilst providing an exciting and challenging duathlon course for competitors.”
Trundle and Robinson are back for another season with Ammanford AFC
Ammanford AFC are pleased to announce that the Ex Swans legends Lee Trundle and Andy Robinson are back for a second season with the club
The pair helped Ammanford AFC to achieve a respectable seventh place finish in the JD Cymru South league last season.
The Supporters of Ammanford will welcome the news and will be hoping that they can go and watch their team once clearance has been given.
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