Here are the latest rugby headlines on the morning of Thursday 5 May.
WRU Statement on Cutting Regions
The Welsh Rugby Union has issued a statement after plans to reduce the number of Welsh regions from four to three emerged.
The seismic proposal comes following a review commissioned by the WRU into the future of gambling in Wales. The so-called Umbers Report, carried out by Oakwell Sports Advisory, recommends just three teams as the best way forward, with the Dragons and Ospreys both mentioned as potentially the most likely to be dropped. The doomed Scarlets-Ospreys merger of three years ago is also likely to be discussed again.
You can read the full story details here.
Following the emergence of the review recommendations on Wednesday evening, the WRU told WalesOnline: “Oakwell has been commissioned by the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) to produce a report exploring the strategic options available for professional play in Wales. It contains a number of recommendations which are part of ongoing discussions at PRB There are other reports informing these discussions and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.
Senior Welsh rugby sources have said all options will be considered and admitted tough decisions will have to be made. Any proposal to remove a region is sure to be met with strong opposition from fans and admins alike.
The boss of the Dragons responds
Dragons chairman David Buttress has responded to recommendations to cut Wales’ four professional teams to three.
A report assessed the viability of the current setup in Wales and one of the recommendations it returned was that the Dragons should cease to exist, continuing with three regions.
The Rodney Parade side are the least successful region of the four and have won two games this season. They also belong to the Welsh Rugby Union.
But in response to a worried fan on social media, Buttress tweeted, “Worrying is a pointless waste of time, fighting, believing, building, supporting each other and sticking together is where I’ll put my energy.” . We have a long way to go together. Again.
“Winston said it well: ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in anything, big or small, big or small – never give in, except to convictions of honor and common sense Never give in to force”.
Hallam Amos speaks after the end of his career
Wales and Cardiff star Hallam Amos has paid tribute to all those who have helped him in a moving statement after his career ended.
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 focus on his medical career.
In a statement, he said: “It’s still surreal to say that I’m retiring at 27. (And no doubt I’ll have some flickers of regret in the middle of my first night shift…)
“Over the past decade, rugby has provided unforgettable memories. Putting on the jersey of my country, my home region and the Welsh Capital Region is something I will always be grateful for, and making those things alongside some of my closest friends was an incredible privilege. Rugby has also given me the opportunity to travel the world – I’ve had the chance to play on 6 of the 7 continents (Antarctica will have to be a goal in retirement) I will look back on these last years very grateful for what I have been able to experience.
“Rugby is a pretty brutal sport and I’ve certainly had my fair share of injuries, from 4 shoulder surgeries, knee surgery and elbow dislocation to this recent hamstring tear. Time away from the pitch gives you some perspective and a chance to reflect, and injuries have allowed me to catch up on my studies, so sometimes a blessing in disguise.As I start my life on the other side of the injury, I have a lot of gratitude for all the physios and docs who helped me out of the game (relatively) unscathed.
“Most importantly, thank you to everyone who has supported me over the years. To every team-mate I’ve shared a dressing room with, all the coaching and behind-the-scenes staff, the fans and the rugby family in general it has been an absolute pleasure. To the WRU, Cardiff Rugby, 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 really excited for a new chapter to begin. Diolch.”
WRU in talks with Welsh Premiership clubs
It’s not just regional play that faces huge changes in the near future, with the WRU meeting with Welsh Premiership clubs to discuss changes that could see fewer teams in the league.
There is increasing talk of an increased role in developing players for the competition and a possible reduction in the number of clubs. The suggestion is that standards need to be raised and competition made more elite to provide a suitable breeding ground and pathway for talent. With that in mind, rumors have swirled that the WRU are looking to reduce the number of clubs from 12 to nine for the following season, with two from each region, plus a side from North Wales. Such a move is certain to meet with strong opposition.
WRU community leader Geraint John told WalesOnline: “The question is how can we help develop our players – particularly between the ages of 17 and 22. Is that conversation happening? The answer is yes Have there been discussions with the Premiership to see how they can Yes, conversations have taken place.
“Nigel Walker’s mandate is to consider what is the best path to develop players below regions. Regions have been involved in these conversations. Premiership clubs have been involved in these conversations. Staff have been involved in I am wrong to go into detail about these conversations, but the Premiership is involved in these conversations.
“Nigel has met with all the Premiership clubs and has met representatives of this group. These discussions are still ongoing. The key is to find the right performance path for players, coaches and referees and if the club lands – which includes the Premiership – can and should play a role in this performance pathway.”