Here are the latest rugby headlines on the morning of Thursday, May 5.
WRU statement on cutting regions
The Welsh Rugby Union have issued a statement after plans to cut the number of Welsh regions from four to three emerged.
The seismic proposition is being put forward following a WRU-commissioned review into the future of the game in Wales. The so-called Umbers report, undertaken by Oakwell Sports Advisory, recommends just three teams as the best way forward, with the Dragons and Ospreys both mentioned as potentially being the most likely to be dropped. The doomed Scarlets-Ospreys merger of three years ago is also set to be up for discussion again too.
You can read the full details of the story here.
Following the emergence of the review recommendations on Wednesday evening, the WRU told Gist Vile: “Oakwell were commissioned by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) to produce a report exploring the strategic options available to the professional game in Wales. It contains a number of recommendations which form a part of the current discussions taking place at the PRB. There are other reports informing these discussions and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this juncture.”
Senior Welsh rugby sources have said all options will be looked at and admitted difficult decisions will have to be taken. Any proposed axing of a region is certain to be met with strong opposition from fans and administrators.
Dragons boss responds
Dragons chairman David Buttress has responded to the recommendations that the four professional teams in Wales be cut to three.
A report assessed the viability of the current setup in Wales and one of the recommendations that it returned was that the Dragons should cease to exist, continuing with three regions.
The Rodney Parade outfit are the least successful region of the four and have won two games this season. They are also owned by the Welsh Rugby Union.
But responding to a concerned fan on social media, Buttress tweeted: “Worrying is a rubbish waste of time, fighting, believing, building, backing ourselves and sticking together is what I will spend my energy on. We have a long way to go together yet.
“Winston said it well: ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force’.”
Hallam Amos speaks after career ended
Wales and Cardiff star Hallam Amos has paid tribute to all those who helped him in an emotional statement following the end of his career.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that Amos’ season is over due to a hamstring injury. He previously announced his intention to retire at the end of this campaign to concentrate on his medical career.
In a statement, he said: “It still feels surreal to say I’m retiring at 27. (And no doubt I’ll have some flickers of regret mid-way through my first night shift…)
“Over the last decade rugby’s provided some unforgettable memories. Pulling on the jersey for my country, my home region and the Welsh capital region is something for which I’ll always be thankful, and to do these things alongside some of my closest mates was an incredible privilege. Rugby’s also given me the opportunity to travel the world – I’ve been fortunate enough to play on 6 of the 7 continents (Antarctica will have to be a goal in retirement). I’ll look back on these last few years very grateful for what I’ve been able to experience.
“Rugby’s a pretty brutal sport and I’ve definitely had my fair share of injuries, from 4 shoulder ops, knee surgery and an elbow dislocation to this recent hamstring tear. Time away from the pitch does give you a bit of perspective and the chance to reflect, and injuries allowed me to catch up on my studies, so sometimes a blessing in disguise. As I begin my life on the other side of the injury relationship, I’ve got a lot of gratitude for all the physios and docs who have helped me to walk away from the game (relatively) unscathed.
“Most importantly, thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years. To every teammate with whom I’ve shared a changing room, to all the coaching and backroom staff, to the fans and the rugby family in general, it’s been an absolute pleasure. To the WRU, Cardiff Rugby, the Dragons, Monmouth School and Cardiff University, thank you for all your help in combining my studies with rugby. Thanks to my agent Derwyn for your guidance throughout my career. Finally, thank you to all my family and friends, especially my parents and my girlfriend Meg, for always being there.
“It’s been a hell of a journey but I’m definitely excited for a new chapter to begin. Diolch.”
WRU in talks with Welsh Premiership clubs
It’s not just the regional game that is facing huge change in the near future, with the WRU meeting with Welsh Premiership clubs to discuss changes that could see the number of teams in the league cut.
There is growing talk of an enhanced role in player development for the competition and a possible reduction in the number of clubs. The suggestion is that standards need to raised and the competition made more elite to provide a proper breeding ground and pathway for talent. With that in mind, rumours have been circulating that the WRU are looking to cut the number of clubs from 12 to nine for the season after next, with two from each region, plus a north Wales side. Such a move is certain to encounter strong opposition.
WRU community chief Geraint John told Gist Vile: “The question is how do we help to develop our players – specifically between 17 and 22. Is that conversation taking place? The answer is yes. Has there been discussions with the Premiership to see how they can play a part in it? Yes, there have been conversations taking place.
“Nigel Walker’s remit there is to look at what is the best pathway to develop players below the regions. The regions have been involved in those conversations. The Premiership clubs have been involved in those conversations. Staff have been involved in those conversations. It would be wrong of me to go into the detail of what those conversations are. But the Premiership are involved in those conversations.
“Nigel has met all the Premiership clubs and has meetings with representatives of that group. Those discussions are still ongoing. The key thing is finding what the right performance pathway is for players, coaches and referees and whether the club land – which includes the Premiership – can and should play a part in that performance pathway.”