The Welsh Rugby Union has announced plans to future proof and safeguard the community game after a wide-ranging review has looked at all areas of the national adult male pathway and its competitions.
An exhaustive and transparent process has been undertaken by players and representatives from 150 clubs across the nine senior districts. Information collated was then discussed by a working group led by John Manders and then taken to the Competitions Committee before further discussions at Community Game Board where the recommendations were finalised and agreed.
From season 2022/23, there will be a revised format of national knock-out cup competitions to enhance meaningful involvement. There will be a National Cup competition per division starting with a pool phase before concluding with the knock-out stages.
This will allow an opportunity for more clubs to get to Principality Stadium while ensuring clubs will get the chance to play against opposition of a similar standard. It’s hoped this could increase desire and excitement for both clubs and players, particularly as the pool stages will be drawn nationally which could mean clubs travelling nationwide.
Rolling subs – currently in place – will continue this season and will be reviewed at the season’s conclusion to determine whether or not they remain for next season.
Clubs are encouraged to be flexible when it comes to scheduling matches over weekends. So long as clubs agree, playing is not restricted to Saturday afternoons. If clubs wish to change kick-off times and they agree then they should.
A clear and aligned League and season structure will ensure regular, meaningful and competitive rugby. There will be 12 teams per League, and Admiral league fixtures will be played at times during international windows. Leagues will be categorised by numbers not letters, with the notable exception of Division West 3A and 3B due to specific geographical circumstance.
From season 2023/24 the Championship will become two divisions of 12 – East and West. This will include North Wales clubs if they progress and wish to be part of this league. Funding for the Championship will fall under the same criteria as all other WRU Community Clubs apart from the Premiership.
The WRU is also looking at the future funding model and will have more detail imminently which will be done in consultation with the Districts and representatives.
The Premiership will increase to 14 teams from season 23/24, subject to ongoing conversations with the Premiership clubs, Community Director Geraint John and Performance Director Nigel Walker.
Representative adult community rugby will also be increased. The promotion of tier-based, district rugby in designated periods will support meaningful competition for players with aspirations while ensuring player welfare and a pan-Wales district competition will be explored.
A working group will be established to trial law variations to future proof the community game in Wales whiles Sevens rugby will be promoted within designated blocks of the season to aid transition and attract new players. The possibility of District 7s and League 7s will be explored.
WRU community Director Geraint John, said: “We’re hoping the changes will enable community rugby In Wales to thrive and it is aligned to our community rugby strategy moving forward.
“We’ve taken on board all the recommendations from the survey and district meetings with the aim to provide a seasonal calendar to increase playing opportunities in clear blocks, so you know as a player or club where you are.”
John thanked the players and clubs who took part in the consultation process and also the working group and Community Game Board in making the final decisions.
“We’re trying to let people know as early as we can about the changes. We know there is more information required such as rules and regulations and the community investment model which we will do in consultation with the clubs and their representatives. We will provide that information over the forthcoming months so the clubs have everything they need way in advance of next season and certainly before the majority of these changes are implemented in season 2023/24.”