Welsh rugby clubs slam ‘disaster for youth rugby’ after WRU announcement


Fears have been raised over Welsh Rugby Union changes to youth rugby in Wales as concerns from clubs have been ignored.

The WRU has permanently reduced the age range for young rugby players from 16-19 to 16-18 until 2026, prompting a big backlash from those involved at this level of the game. This comes after the change has been introduced temporarily for this season due to Covid restrictions amid warnings it could lead to a ‘lost generation’ of players. You can read all the details here.

Those fears remain for many, with one club saying more than half of players said they should move to senior rugby a year earlier than expected have already signaled their intention to quit. There are also concerns that pitting 18-year-old rowers against experienced 30-year-old rowers could be physically dangerous.

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The WRU believe that shortening the age bracket by one year will actually help to reduce the number of players dropping out of the game and see more youngsters playing senior rugby.

A source of frustration with some clubs is a perceived lack of communication from the governing body about the changes. The WRU say they interviewed more than 9,000 people as part of the process of creating these changes, but some clubs were unimpressed with the nature of the survey and say there was a lack of process. solid and open consultation.

A club official told WalesOnline the investigation was “laden with closed questions”, saying there was no proper consultation process and clubs felt they had been dragged into the decision.

A recurring fear was the number of youth teams that could be dropped in the coming years, as well as the effect this will have on senior teams – with some fearing that a problem would not be solved here, but simply moved from losing players. at Under-16 level only to lose them at Under-18 level.

Those sentiments were echoed by Rumney Youth fixture secretary Cyril Locke, who described the move as “a disaster for youth rugby in Wales”. He also criticized the nature of the investigation – saying it was ‘not at all suited to supporting Under-19 rugby’.

He also told WalesOnline that half of the players this week who said they should be playing senior rugby a year earlier than planned have decided they won’t move up to the adult game.

“You could be an 18-year-old playing against a 30-year-old prop,” he said. “It can’t be healthy for a young child.

“Where I am with that, and a lot of other clubs think so too, is that they don’t seem to be listening at all. The repercussions of that won’t be good for a lot of clubs.

“When they brought it in because of Covid, we kind of accepted it, even though it wasn’t good. We lost a lot of players, like other clubs, who should have been in their last year under 19.

“They had to go and play against the seniors instead and a lot of them didn’t want to come up. We got through this season with a bit of difficulty. With this two-year consolidation, if you don’t have less than 16 years coming through, you won’t have a youth team as there are only two years in the banding instead of three.

“Unless you’re lucky enough to have Under-16s, you don’t have the Under-19s to rely on. The youngsters feed the senior teams. If you don’t have that, we could end up losing rugby altogether.

“I hope they wake up and smell the coffee. This thing is not good for club rugby and youth rugby. Over the four-year period you might find yourself with a team in a It’s hard enough managing two teams.

“The only way to do that is to follow the development of young players at 19 and 20, moving into senior rugby as they always have.”

Do you agree with the WRU’s changes to youth rugby? Have your say in the comments section below.

Senghenydd youth team manager Richard Gater previously criticized the decision when it was initially set up for this season, saying: “It’s absolutely insane. I can’t believe it. Who, healthy of mind, think it’s a good move? It’s going to cripple the teams and we’ll see a huge drop in seniors.

“Some of these boys haven’t even played youth rugby and should they go straight to senior? It’s mental. This will be detrimental to youth rugby and seniors in my experience.

“It will leave teams short of numbers at youth level and discourage players from continuing in the game once they turn 18. It’s hard enough as he tries to transition the boys to the seniors. The first five attackers who go straight into senior rugby at 18, it’s crazy.

Speaking after the changes were announced, WRU Community Manager Geraint John insisted the WRU had followed the numbers in making the decision, adding that they were confident it would be for the benefit of the game. male in Wales.

“The key question is always how to develop the men’s game,” he said. “We need numbers, as simple as that. We have noticed that between 16 and 19 there is a drop. You can’t hide it.

“An example over the past few years is that we had around 2,300 16-year-old players. By the time they hit 19, the number is around 990 players. That’s a significant drop. We looked at other countries and how we keep players engaged.

“Our point of view was that the more young players we have, the more players we will have who will progress to senior rugby. We have listened to what the 16 year olds want and they want to play with their friends, which is not the case.” t probably in a band of three.

“We went to over 9,000 people and that’s what the 16 year olds wanted. This season we’ve had an increase in the number of 17 year olds playing the game. We never had that. Usually it decreases from year to year.The only thing we did was to have a banding of two years.

“We strongly believe that we will retain more 16-year-olds than before. From there, we hope to have more 17- and 18-year-olds and eventually we will have the numbers to maintain our game.

“No matter what decisions you make, you will always have nervousness, but there is also a confidence and excitement on our part about this decision. We believe through the work we have done that this is the good choice.

“I understand the history and the lore, but we need to move our game forward for future generations. We think this is the right way to do it. Ideally, we would have single-year tapes. Decisions are always hard to take. I always say if you can get 51 per cent support, you’re doing well in Welsh rugby.”

Responding to fears that many players simply quit the game after reaching the age of 18, John added that other ways to transition players should be worked on – such as better support for second XVs. However, he reiterated that the priority was to tackle dropouts at 16.

“The key element for us is here, this is where the starting point was for us,” he added. “It was the 16-year-olds. We’re going to work hard with the 18- and 19-year-olds.

“There is a second Rugby XV and we need to put support and resources around that. We won’t get it straight away. We know we will have to work hard and not everything will be rosy in the garden with a magic wand .

“But the start is 16 and we’re going to address that first. One of the things they’ve told us in the polls is that once they’re in rugby they stay in rugby. Rarely do you find a 21-year-old starting rugby again.

“So it’s important to keep as much as possible in the game. According to the people who answered the question, this physical fear was not evident at 18 and 19 whereas it was at 15. and 16. But it’s about finding transition opportunities for those affected, whether it’s second XVs or something else.

“In terms of position one, making sure players are playing the right position in the right game is key. But it’s the same for 16-year-olds who are possibly playing front row against youngsters from 19 years old.

“There will be a lot of people who will think differently about this and disagree, but we strongly believe this is about how we make our men’s game sustainable going forward.”


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