Statement from Pro Rugby Wales

Detailed review vital for successful development of the professional game

Pro Rugby Wales on behalf of the four professional teams, the Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets have issued the following joint statement to confirm the collective position relating to proposed changes to Welsh Rugby’s representation in the British and Irish Cup.

Pro Rugby Wales, the four Professional teams and the 12 Clubs of the Welsh Premiership continue to work together in order to develop their working relationship following a Premiership Clubs representative joining the board of Pro Rugby Wales at the start of 2015.

Pro Rugby Wales firmly believes that the Premiership is a vital part of the pathway that develops young Welsh players to perform at the top of the professional game and believes it is essential that the Premiership Clubs are actively and directly involved in the fast moving evolution of the professional side of our sport.

Positive and mutually beneficial working partnerships already exist between the professional game and the Premiership clubs as shown by the significant number of Region’s contracted players appearing for the semi-professional teams each weekend, helping to deliver team performance whilst ensuring and supporting player development through active competition. 

The Rugby Management Board, made up of the Heads of Rugby from the four professional teams, the National Coaching Group and representatives of the WRU Rugby Development division has a primary focus to review and deliver the very best player pathways for potential Welsh Professional Players by managing the elite player pathway from age-grade through to International level.

Welsh Rugby’s participation in all competitions, including the British and Irish Cup, is consistently discussed as part of the drive for ever more effective long-term player development - leading ultimately to the success of Wales’ national team.

Pro Rugby Wales and the four Professional teams originally proposed that a working party should be established to fully consider how best to advance the development of Professional players in Wales through domestic competitions. This proposal was supported by the Rugby Management Board.

Following formal agreement by the WRU Board, the Competition Pathway Working Group was established in March this year with a balance of representation from the Principality Premiership, WRU Executive and the four Welsh Professional Teams, chaired by a WRU Board member and brought together to democratically discuss and evaluate the available competition framework and the best utilisation to develop Welsh rugby’s coaches and players.

That review remains current. The findings and recommendations of the Competition Pathway working group will be presented to the WRU Board, as governing body of the game, for final debate and decision-making. 

Chief Executive of Pro Rugby Wales Mark Davies said:  “The review has been undertaken with the full participation of nominated representatives from the Premiership Clubs together with experienced rugby development personnel from the WRU and the Pro Clubs to ensure we continue to evolve the very best pathways for the development of the players that underpin the professional and international game.

“From the initial discussions Pro Rugby has been determined to encourage a democratic and workmanlike discussion through the working group on the best use of all Competition platforms, including the British and Irish Cup.

“From the Professional teams’ point of view, that has included the potential introduction of Regional Premiership Select teams to the British and Irish Cup competition in the future, with the active involvement of the professional team coaches and development players.

“Naturally, that has not been the only proposal discussed within the Working Group and, as always, it is possible that any such group cannot reach a unanimous conclusion.   

“It is the ultimate responsibility of our governing body to balance all options and advise on the most effective route forward to enhance the development of the players that contribute to a strong platform for Welsh Professional Rugby.

“The WRU has at all times been clear that any proposal would need to integrate the Premiership and Regional squads to ensure the most effective development pathway for talented players and coaches across Wales.

“It is disappointing to us all that that a debate is taking place in the public domain before the WRU Board has had the proper time to consider the review conducted by the working group as originally intended and agreed. 

“It is absolutely vital for the future success of the game in Wales that we encourage all parties to work in partnership with a spirit of unity and common purpose across all levels of rugby.”

Pro Rugby Wales would like to take this opportunity to wish both Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale the very best of luck in their contest for the Principality Premiership title this weekend.