Source: P Yates : World Rugby

Wales – ‘Mistakes were made‘

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In his annual report the chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, Rob Butcher, has addressed the problem of women’s rugby in the Principality.

It amounts to an admission of guilt.

He resorts to the use of the future tense to an alarming degree, rather like a government promising gold at the end of the rainbow: ‘We are about setting them [the errors] right.’ Why now? Why didn’t this process begin long ago?

He does not address central questions: how was the women’s section allowed to fall into such neglect? Why is there still no pathway from beginner to national cap? Why are there still no contracted players? Why no Under 18 or Under 20 squads? Why no Sevens programme? Why have two successive head coaches left their post without explanation? Who were the people responsible for this neglect?

The simplest answer might be lack of funding. The WRU has found that part of its remit tricky over recent years, but not so tricky when it comes to supporting the men’s team. They won the Six Nations Championship in 2019 and 2021. The contrast with the fate of the women’s team – without a win since 8 March 2019 – is extreme.

Once again the WRU expects its new head coach to be responsible for both 15s and 7s. Many experts questioned that requirement as unwise and excessively demanding last time round. Given the huge backlog of work that needs to be undertaken you may ask how an individual can be expected to manage both tasks at once, no matter how many assistants may be on hand.

Since there is no pathway present in either format it will take astonishing organisational ability to keep one of the briefs under proper control, let alone two.

Protesting Voices

123 is an astonishing number of ex-international players to sign a petition to the WRU. Theirs is courageous and vociferous action.

There must be several among them who could do the top job admirably, but they would need to
set their demands first.

Rachel Taylor, for one, has already admitted she has the ambition to take on the head coach job. But we can be sure she would require solemn undertakings from the WRU before putting pen to paper.

It shouldn’t need a comment from one of their greatest players, Jasmine Joyce, to draw wide public attention to her plight and that of her fellow players.

There has been a wall of secrecy around the dealings of the WRU that leaves the world unsure about what precisely has happened in the last two years, ever since Rowland Phillips’ unexplained departure from the helm.

That Inquiry

The WRU Chief Executive, Steve Phillips, actually refers to the independent inquiry set up to investigate these matters, but fails to mention why it has still not been made public, or when it will be.

You have to wonder whether the three committee members, Helen Phillips, Amanda Bennett and Kevin Bowring, knew their findings would remain private like this. As I write, it is 86 days since their views were (presumably) made known to the WRU.

The Tail-light

When Butcher states that the first step is to identify the problem, those most intimately concerned in Welsh women’s rugby may offer a gasp of disbelief. The problem has been staring the WRU in the face for years.