THE WELSH RUGBY UNION has made two new high level appointments to boost its performance department and coach development provision.
Ben Ryan, the sevens specialist coach who helped Fiji lift their first Olympic gold medal in the 2016 tournament in Rio, who is currently working with the National Basketball Association in Amercia, joins Welsh Rugby in a consultancy role.
Peter Drewett has been appointed as the new WRU performance coach manager and will join Welsh Rugby from a similar position with the Hong Kong Rugby Union on March 1.
Former England sevens player Ryan guided Fiji to a record nine sevens tournament titles, including Olympic gold, after leaving his position as England sevens coach to take charge of the South Sea Islanders in 2013.
The 45-year-old has a wide-ranging remit to support, advising the programs and preparation planning of WRU national Age Grade sides and his expertise will be made available to all teams outside of the national squad – which includes the national U20s, national U18s, Women’s national programmes and both men’s and women’s sevens.
Drewett, 58, takes over the position vacated by Geraint John – who was himself appointed to the WRU Executive Board as a ‘Head of Rugby Performance’ last year – and will support the current coach education department with specific responsibilities to improve and support coaching in Wales at the performance level.
He is a former Sports Science lecturer at Exeter University who has worked on 230 international matches across 10 World Championship campaigns with England and Hong Kong to date. He was at the Rugby Football Union between 1992-2006 working in player development and managing the U21s, U19s, schools and youth sides at different stages, before becoming Exeter Chiefs’ Director of Rugby and Head Coach until 2009.
During his time with the Chiefs, he oversaw a period of transition in which they became a professional club and reached the EDF Cup final twice, before working in a range of high profile consultancy roles, coaching Plymouth Albion in 2012 and then being appointed as Head of Elite Coach Development for HKRU in 2014.
He will mainly manage and support the delivery of the WRU coaching courses at level three and four and ensure coaches are right up to speed with new developments with a continuous programme of refresher courses to run alongside official qualifications – specifically covering Premiership, Regional Age Grade and national sevens, national women and national Age Grade coaching.
“Ben Ryan’s appointment is a real coup for Welsh Rugby,” said John. “He is a much sought after high performance coach, who has been courted around the globe since his significant successes with the Fijian national sevens side.
“We are particularly interested in benefiting from the meticulous attention to detail and major planning experience which Ben showed to maximum effect during the Olympics in Rio and we want him to cover the whole of our performance division from U20s, U18s to the women’s game and, of course, his specific experience in sevens is a huge bonus.
“Ben will also be on hand to enhance our Coach Development programme, where he will support our coaches through his knowledge and experience of the world game. This will be done through a series of club visits and coach development sessions.
“Peter comes on board as a full time member of staff in March and his role is very much about safeguarding the future of the game in Wales and making sure we have the very best systems in place to not only produce the best coaches, but to ensure the continued progression of those coaches.
“Our aim is to have the best coaching provision in the global game in Wales; we want to attract the best talent but also produce home grown coaches that are the envy of the rugby watching world and Peter, with the necessary help and support, is just the man for the job.”
WRU CEO Martyn Phillips said: “We have a clear strategy in Welsh Rugby, with coaching and coach development a central priority at all levels of the game.
“These two announcements today are a further example of our continued commitment to ensuring Welsh Rugby creates the finest breeding ground for coaching in the world game.
“We want attract the very best rugby minds to Wales as well as cultivate home-grown coaches who are the envy of the rugby-watching world and we have taken significant steps towards achieving those aims with the two appointments announced today.
“Ben brings a wealth of experience and expertise to strengthen our performance department and his appointment will be of benefit to both players and coaches throughout Welsh rugby.
“In Peter we are appointing a coach development manager who comes highly recommended and who has significant relevant experience of the role on a worldwide scale.”
Ben Ryan said: “I’m delighted to be joining the WRU in what is an incredibly exciting role and I am really looking forward to all that lies ahead.”
Peter Drewett added: “Helping Welsh Rugby fine tune and further improve its production line of Welsh coaches is an exciting challenge.
“There is a wide array of existing coaching talent to be nurtured and we will also be reviewing the systems and structures in place, designed to safeguard and expand the future of coaching in Wales.”
Swans grab last gasp play-off spot
WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).
Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.
The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.
The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.
And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.
The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.
Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.
The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.
But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.
John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.
Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.
Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.
Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.
But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.
However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.
Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.
With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.
Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.
With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.
Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.
However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.
Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.
Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.
They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.
The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.
And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.
Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.
Glamorgan launch new kit
GLAMORGAN Cricket has unveiled its new Vitality Blast playing kit for the 2020 season.
Designed by the Club’s official kit supplier, Masuri, alongside Glamorgan’s management, players and coaches, the brand-new Vitality Blast strip contains a subtle Welsh twist.
Fitting Glamorgan’s traditional colour schemes, the top is dark navy with a tonal dragon across the front – a nod to the old Glamorgan nickname and the Welsh identity – while a sharp yellow trim on the neck and sleeves frames the top.
The famous ‘Daff’ sits on the heart of the shirt, with MiPost’s strong Welsh brand centre-stage. Appearing on the collars are the logos of ‘Official Players Car Partner’, Mon Motors and Welsh company, Philtronics Solutions, with Discover Leeks on the right sleeve and SA Group on the back.
The famous Aston Martin logo features on both side of the Glamorgan T20 cap, as they continue their ongoing support of the club.
Head of Commercial, Huw Warren, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with Masuri throughout the design process and together developed an exciting new kit we’re sure our supporters will love with its strong connections with Wales.
“Our Masuri kits have always been hugely successful with players and fans alike and we look forward to continuing our commercial partnership with them.
“We can’t wait to see our players wearing the new kit when the Blast gets underway later this summer.”
Masuri CEO, Sam Miller, said: ‘’Once again it has been a pleasure working with the team at Glamorgan to bring this year’s kit to life, and we are looking forward to seeing it in use during the much anticipated Vitality Blast this year.’’
Wembley trip for Giggs’ men
CYMRU will travel to Wembley Stadium on Thursday 8 October for a home nations international against England.
Ryan Giggs’ side will return to action this autumn for the first time in 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kicking off with the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League campaign. The match against England will be one of two additional international matches scheduled as triple headers in October and November. In keeping with current Government guidelines, this fixture is scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors.
Since their first encounter in 1879, England are Cymru’s second oldest opponents with 102 matches in total producing 14 wins, 21 draws and 67 defeats. Cymru’s last visit to Wembley Stadium was in 2011 for a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier, with Ashley Cole scoring in a 1-0 defeat.
Ryan Giggs’ side will be using this match to prepare for the rescheduled EURO 2020 finals next summer where they hope to return to Wembley, one of the host stadiums, for the latter stages of the tournament.
Looking ahead to the autumn, Cymru are in Nations League Group B4 alongside Bulgaria, Finland and the Republic of Ireland with fixture dates as follows:
Thursday, 3 September – Finland v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 6 September – Cymru v Bulgaria (2:00pm)
Sunday, 11 October – Republic of Ireland v Cymru (2:00pm)
Wednesday, 14 October – Bulgaria v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 15 November – Cymru v Republic of Ireland (5:00pm)
Wednesday, 18 November – Cymru v Finland (7:45pm)
All fixtures are scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors for the foreseeable future.
The FAW will continue to adhere to relevant Government guidelines and supporters will be notified should arrangements change and tickets become available.
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