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.”
Scarlets set up Toulon showdown
SCARLETS head coach Wayne Pivac, as an ex-policeman, orchestrated a crime of immense proportions at the Recreation Ground in Bath on Friday (Jan 12), when his Scarlet side won their must win European encounter 35-17.
Greeted onto the pitch by Greenhill School’s year 10 students as flag bearers, the game got off to an electric opening when Wales international centre Scott Williams caught the kick off and immediately referee Jerome Garcos awarded a penalty.
Outside half Dan Jones line kicks missed touch in the initial stages and his nervousness in such a titanic game was obvious.
Second row, Irish international Tadgh Beirne, rescued the situation by taking the line out ball against the throw, with the tackling strong from the visitors who were unable to recycle the ball as the game settled.
A blooded nose for skipper Ken Owen as ‘Bread of Heaven’ rang loudly from the Thatcher’s terrace, alongside sympathy for former outside half Rhys Priestland, whose birthday celebration were ruined when he limped off with a pulled hamstring to be replaced by Freddie Burns.
The Scarlets, now set and stable and got a nudge on at the scrum to establish the mantra for the evening with scrum half Gareth Davies darting clear on the blindside; England international full back Anthony Watson showed a clean pair of heels himself in response when running 40 metres from deep in his danger zone with flanker Sam Underhill in support.
A score was inevitable with such a frantic opening and it was the Scarlets who got the scoreboard rolling in a scintillating manner after nine minutes, starting from Beirne’s clawed line out ball.
Williams made the initial break, finding the support of second row David Bullring; centre Hadleigh Parkes took up the mantle finding Australian winger Paul Asquith, to flanker Aaron Shingler as they moved the ball with silky hands hitting gaps before it fell once again to the marauding Beirne.
From 15 metres out, he produced a Phil Bennett sidestep to screech in for a try converted by outside half Dan Jones.
Hymns and Arias was resounding into the cold air but the try was sweet, Neil Diamond’s appreciation of Caroline perhaps a better analogy for possibly the try of the season from the Land of my Fathers.
Freddie Burns pinged the Bath opening score after No. 8 John Barclay stopped their forward impetus and left the field for ten minutes on the French referee’s direction.
It was the Scarlets however who then dug deep, making ground and managing the game time superbly.
Shingler, running straight and with purpose made the gain line.
Full back Rhys Patchell and Parkes endeavour had the 13,822 crowd on the edge of their seats, which put Asquith in corner for a score despite being down to 14 men.
There was no stopping the red tide as five minutes later scrum half Davies rumbled 25 metres and found Welsh international Parkes on his shoulder and the centre crossed for his ninth try in 71 appearances, under duress, for a converted score and a 19-3 lead.
Williams was on fire, making another break to set up a scrum when the Scarlets were living in the moment; if he timed the pass his side were clear again for a score and perhaps on reflection needed just to consolidate their exuberance and make half time with their tail feathers unruffled may have suited.
A war of attrition with short passes and yardage in the tight areas wore down the clock and with it the Bath players and supporter’s hearts. The dominant scrum was verbalised loudly from prop Rob Evans and Jones slipped over the penalty for a half time lead of 22-3.
Bath as a city welcomes an array of nationalities but the atmosphere that trounced around the English fortress in January was full of ‘Heart and Soul’.
The Welsh contingent were delirious with their melody for a team of ‘Samson Lees’ eloquently reverberating around a city’s proclaimed architecture. Having been missing from the front row for many weeks before Christmas the prop was quite superb alongside fellow international Evans and his skipper, Ken Owens anchored between them.
Pivac has been coaching for 22 years since his first footstep on the rung in Northland, New Zealand but the victory in the back yard of the Aviva Premiership rugby giants was surely up with his best moments. Pro 12 champions last season having beaten Munster in Dublin to return a week later and rumble Leinster in the same venue included.
The ‘Rec’ was a cultural phenomenon, when Scarlets rugby once more came of age as they sat on the brink of a place in the European quarter final for the first time in 11 years. Bath rugby had lifted this trophy 20 years ago under the leadership of Scottish scrum half Andy Nicol’s but through their parade at half time, would have been in awe of the first half performance.
Music and Wales go hand in hand. Greenhill School, on tour at Backwell with the year ten students playing football, rugby and netball had the experience of a lifetime arranged through PE teacher Phil ‘Taffy’ Williams.
A school whose equally renowned musical talent under Samantha Hughes would have taken the Irish love ballad ‘Fields of Athenry’ to new heights given the opportunity.
Innate to the Irish famine of 1845 this anthem of the ‘underdog’ often resonating at Landsdowne Road or even Anfield a mercurial throw back to the task that sat before the visitors.
Top of Conference B the Scarlets took control early in the second half as they went in search of their bonus point try. The home eight were not match at the scrum set piece as Owens didn’t hesitate in choosing a rumble instead of taking a pot at goal.
Three times they drained the time and the Bath spirit, perilously close to crossing the try line through forward drives. Six minutes into the second half Patchell received the ball to deftly put a grubber kick through, allowing Williams to dab down wide out and Jones add the extras for 29-3.
The red tide were feeding the baying supporters cries for evangelical bread, where the ‘manna’ and intensity was unyielding. The team of Samson Lee lost their talisman on 55 minutes as his replacement Werner Kruger was rock sold as the choristers ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ resonated loudly and proudly.
Bath coaching guru Todd Blackadder needed his side to develop a pattern of play as they refused a kick at goal in search of a try, which came when winger Matt Banahan caught Burns kick in the corner allowing the outside half to convert with an hour played.
‘Long John’ Welsh second row Luke Charteris, a man with a biochemist degree and a fluent French speaker to boot took the hand-me-down inspirational singing to his hear. Not one for ‘losing my religion’ the boiler house man’s efforts allowed him a well earned rest at the same time as opposite number Bullring.
Over 150 years of rugby history in North Somerset has placed foundations from which the home side ran with their head of steam. Pivac manipulated his cast list with the game and full points in the bag, with Aled Davies arriving at inside half. Tried and trusted combinations saw Owens and Beirne orchastrting the line forcing Watson to desperately run from deep as the ‘big shift’ put in from down West was recognised.
Owens, Hong Kong born Barclay, and Evans were done but still the tide wouldn’t subside, drawn to their supporters in the Dyson stand as Pivac’s decision to play a six to two forward split off the bench drew a scrum penalty.
Jones added the points for a 32-10 and a fourscore lead with 12 minutes to play. The defensive patterns were as impressive as any offensive effort, Patchell making a last ditch cover tackle on Zach Mercer with five minutes to play typifying the ‘hywl’.
Top of the ball line out and replacement Josh Macloed madeground and play was outside the danger zone with Jones clearance. Back came Bath and No. 8 Zach Mercer couldn’t be denied in the opposite corner for a converted try after a cutting run from winger Aled Brew, skipper Matt Garvey and second row Paul Grant.
Williams and Prydie responded to gain a penalty for offside with ‘Sospan Fach’ finishing proceedings fittingly, with Jones boot, edging the score to 35-17.
The Bath faithful, forlorn and remorseful took an early bath wondering what had happened.
LTC Mobility sponsored Furnace rugby club members summed it up amidst their exuberant acclaims.
Centre and club vice captain Scott Davies hoarsely crooned: “It’s the best away trip I’ve experienced. Our 1800 strong choir left nothing in the changing room and it was certainly a factor in lifting the squad.”
On Saturday (Jan 20) another blockbuster awaits, when Toulon visit Parc Y Scarlets and the home side need a minimum of a bonus point to progress into the knockout stages.
Davies smiling face finished the evening with: “Let this be the springboard to the next level. This could be the year we lift the Heineken trophy and the whole of Europe will stand up for the champions.”
Aber slip to second Old Gold defeat
FOR the second time in a week, Aberystwyth Town were beaten by bottom side Carmarthen Town in the Welsh Premier League.
The Old Gold won 1-0 against the Seasiders on Boxing Day and on New Years Day (Monday, Jan 1), Carmarthen came away with a 2-1 victory to boost their hopes of getting out of the bottom two.
On a blustery Monday afternoon at Park Avenue, a bizarre 66th minute goal from Carmarthen goalkeeper Lee Idzi, followed by a late Liam Griffiths strike were enough to hand the Old Gold all three points, despite a consolation goal by Aber’s Matthew Jones in added time.
The defeat leaves Aber in 10th place in the JD Welsh Premier League and mathematically ends Nev Powell’s side’s hopes of finishing in the league’s top six positions ahead of the second half of the season.
Visitors Carmarthen Town came into the game having won just two of their previous nineteen league games, but buoyed by their Boxing Day victory over the Seasiders.
Nevertheless, it was the hosts who started the game strongest, with the gale force wind at their backs, as Declan Walker fired an early shot straight at Lee Idzi in the Carmarthen goal.
Aber continued to dominate the early stages as Craig Hobson volleyed over the bar before Ashley Young’s in-swinging corner came inches from crossing the goal line.
On 28 minutes, Aber again went close as Walker tried his luck from long range once more, before Jonny Spittle fired an effort wide of the post.
The visitors struggled to get a foothold in the game as the strong winds significantly impacted both teams’ efforts. As half time approached, Luke Borrelli swivelled on the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a shot that was deflected straight into the grateful arms of Idzi, as the first half ended in stalemate.
Aber came out in the second half playing into a stiff breeze, but there appeared to be more urgency in their play.
On 55 minutes, Town created the best chance of the game as Luke Borrelli’s goal bound effort was cleared off the goal line after a scramble inside the penalty area.
However, the turning point in the game came on 66 minutes as Carmarthen took the lead through the most unlikely of scorers.
Goalkeeper Lee Idzi collected the ball inside his penalty area before launching an innocuous clearance downfield, which got caught in the wind and looped over the head of Aber ‘keeper Chris Mullock and into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Nev Powell sensed it was time for changes as he introduced Joe Phillips and Malcolm Melvin to try and create some added goal threat.
On 77 minutes, Aber again went close, as Declan Walker broke free down the right flank before narrowly shooting over the bar.
Aber were becoming increasingly desperate as they searched for an equaliser, and on the stroke of full time Carmarthen delivered the sucker punch goal that finished the game.
Keiran Lewis played in substitute Liam Griffiths who slotted a neat finish past Mullock to make it 2-0.
Town were able to grab a consolation goal before the full time whistle as Matthew Jones tapped in Ryan Wade’s cross at the far post, but it was too little too late for Nev Powell’s side.
The defeat confirms Town’s place in the league’s bottom half for the remainder of the season, as the Seasiders now aim to finish in the lucrative 7th place come the end of the season and the potential for a European play-off game.
Aber must now turn their attentions to their next JD Welsh Premier League fixture, away at Cardiff Metropolitan University on Saturday in a 5:30pm kick off, live on TV in front of the Sgorio cameras.
Jones’ stunner earns win for Street
A LARGE holiday crowd enjoyed a very competitive local derby on Saturday (Dec 30) which the home side won with a spectacular goal by former Borth player Ben Jones.
Bow Street took an early lead when Mark Gornall took a quick free kick and Garmon Nutting controlled the ball superbly and beat the goalkeeper.
Despite huge amounts of possession, and numerous opportunities, the home side were unable to add to their lead.
The same pattern followed in the second half but with 25 minutes to go, on a rare foray in to the visitors’ penalty area, James Davies equalised for Borth following a defensive mix up.
The last twenty minutes saw huge amounts of pressure from the home side and with five minutes left a sublime move involving many players was finished by a spectacular finish by Ben Jones for what was a deserved but hard-fought win.
Manager Barry Williams said: “We almost paid for not taking our chances again. But delighted to have come through in the end and it was brilliant for the boys to play in front of such a large crowd.”
The win for Bow Street moves them up to sixth place in Division 1 of the Mid Wales League while Borth remain second from bottom in the table.
On Saturday (Jan 6), both sides are in action in the third round of the Central Wales Cup.
Bow Street are away to Carno while Borth are also away as they take on Llandrindod Wells.
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