Cardiff fans call on WRU to do more for grassroots rugby

17 Dec

The deep freeze has taken a vice-tight hold on the UK this winter, and grassroots rugby in Cardiff is one area where the cold has hit particularly hard.

Some schools have been unable to play any rugby for five-week periods due to frozen pitches, and the inactivity has brought some uncomfortable truths to the surface.

The Welsh Rugby Union pride themselves on their commitment to community and youth rugby, yet their foundations seem to be rather unsteady.

Impressive as the pyramid system may appear on their official website, the idleness of the bottom rung – schools and youth clubs – is a cause for worry.

The lack of facilities has left scores of schoolchildren – the next generation of international players – kicking their heels in frustration on frozen playing fields across the country.

Tough luck, some may think. But, as other sports have demonstrated, severe weather should not necessarily have such a detrimental effect on sport.

All-weather football surfaces are commonplace, with Cardiff boasting three ‘3G’ artificial pitch complexes in Whitchurch, Pontcanna and Leckwith.

Rugby may seem to have been left behind, but the WRU need not look too far for inspiration.

Saracens, for example, appear to have found a solution to the problem. The London club have unveiled plans for a community stadium with an artificial pitch and demountable stands which would allow residents and local sports clubs to use the ground.

Asked whether they had any similar plans, the WRU were unavailable for comment.

Welsh rugby fans are very keen on the Saracens idea, and Ray Murphy (below), a merchandise vendor for the Newport-Gwent Dragons, thinks the WRU should make a similar investment.

Ray also thinks the regional sides – the Dragons, Llanelli Scarlets, Neath-Swansea Ospreys and Cardiff Blues – should do more to develop grassroots rugby in south Wales, and he is not alone.

In a recent interview, Cardiff Blues star Jamie Roberts questioned whether the region is doing enough to nurture young talent in the region.

“Developing players in Cardiff is something I hold close to my heart because I was involved in schools rugby and played a lot of it, as did a lot of my friends,” Roberts told Guardian Cardiff.

“Hopefully the Blues at some point in the near future will be willing to invest more money in producing the players of the future.”

Roberts is one of the most successful graduates of the Blues’ academy, having established himself as an integral part of both the Welsh national side and the British and Irish Lions.

The giant centre would, however, like to see more Cardiff-born or Cardiff-bred youngsters making the grade at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Roberts was brought up in Cardiff, though like many of his team-mates, he was actually born outside of the city.

A map put together by The XV (below) shows how multi-national the current Blues squad is, with as many players born in Tonga as there are in Bridgend.

There is concern from supporters as well, with many Welsh fans unhappy with the amount of foreign players seemingly blocking Welsh youngsters’ paths into the regions’ first teams.

Richard and Huw Jenkins, a father and son with more than 80 years between them of following Welsh rugby, firmly believe the WRU should be doing more to cultivate rugby at a community level.

A call to arms for the WRU by DafPritchard

“The WRU are only interested in top-level rugby,” Richard says. “They’d better understand that the players come from community rugby.

“The WRU have got to plough more money into the community game. Regions prefer to invest in foreign talent instead of spending it on local players.”

Richard’s sentiment is echoed by Kevin Swindale, who is another vastly experienced rugby fan with serious concerns about the state of the community game.

“Schools are producing players, but they’ve got nowhere to play,” Kevin says. “There needs to be a review of the system to ensure that young players are given a chance.”


The Cardiff City Stadium, home to the Cardiff Blues

Fans are palpably unhappy with the current condition of grassroots rugby in and around Cardiff, and the frustration is evident when The XV speak with coaches at school sides.

Dai Williams manages the senior (under 18s) team at Ysgol Glantaf, a Welsh language secondary school in Cardiff which has produced Welsh internationals such as Jamie Roberts and Nicky and Jamie Robinson.

But with a lack of facilities to compensate for the winter chill, the Glantaf rugby conveyor belt has been put on hold.

“We haven’t played for five weeks, and it’s extremely frustrating,” Dai says. “The WRU don’t invest enough time or money in schools rugby, even though it’s the schools that produce the Welsh internationals of the future.”

When The XV covered Glantaf’s recent 24-7 win at Radyr Comprehensive, the coaches at Radyr also expressed their dismay at the level of support youth rugby is given.

Having spoken to a number of other notable rugby schools such as Cardiff High, it is apparent that schools are unhappy with the WRU’s commitment to grassroots rugby.

And despite being pressed on the issue, the WRU remain conspicuous by their silence.

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2 Responses to “Cardiff fans call on WRU to do more for grassroots rugby”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The XV so far | Daf Pritchard - February 16, 2011

    […] compile a ‘XV’ or ‘dream team’ of the school players who impress us most. A feature on the state of community and grassroots rugby in south Wales, which incorporates different forms of media to demonstrate how strongly coaches and fans feel […]

  2. The XV so far | The Blog Standard - February 28, 2011

    […] compile a ‘XV’ or ‘dream team’ of the school players who impress us most. A feature on the state of community and grassroots rugby in south Wales, which incorporates different forms of media to demonstrate how strongly coaches and fans feel […]

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