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.”
Boxer set to compete in Germany
CARDIGAN light-welterweight boxer Ben Rees-Davies returns to the scene of his greatest performance this week (Oct 19-22) when he competes in the prestigious Eindhoven Box Cup in Germany.
Seventeen months ago, the talented 25-year-old acquitted himself superbly by winning a bronze medal in a tournament which invariably draws some of the finest amateurs in Europe and the world.
Rees-Davies – a lance corporal in the Royal Welsh Regiment – eventually lost in the semi-finals to Russian number one Arman Zakaryan, the 2015 European champion and an Olympic qualifier.
A series of injuries mean that the former Cardigan ABC man has not boxed since losing in the Welsh Championships quarter-finals in March.
But Rees-Davies says he is now fully fit, fuelled by the nagging belief he has never quite fulfilled his potential – and by the fact he may soon have to hang up his gloves.
“I’m entered into an 18-man strong group with boxers from all over the world, it’s a Commonwealth Games qualifying tournament so there will be a fantastic pedigree of boxers,” he told the Herald.
“I’ve had a few frustrating injuries since the Welsh Championships so I haven’t been active, but if anything it’s made me more hungry to get back in the ring and achieve big things this year.
“For me it’s a massive season, and it could be my last so I’m aiming to achieve as much as I can and show my true potential once and for all.”
Rees-Davies said the time was approaching when he would have to focus wholeheartedly on his Army career.
He explained: “I want to progress with promotion. I love boxing with all my heart, but I have to think of my career also.”
He said he was ‘eternally grateful’ to long-time friend Anthony Studley, of Hair Lounge 4 Men in Cardigan – himself a former Cardigan ABC boxer – for helping him with funding.
“I massively appreciate help from him and he’s a credit to the town,” he said.
Aber knocked out by Reds
Aberaeron • 1
Llanelli Town • 6
JD Welsh Cup
LLANELLI TOWN proved too strong for Aberaeron last Saturday (Oct 7), as they were knocked out of the JD Welsh Cup by their Welsh League Division 1 opponents.
With the pitch looking immaculate the scene was set for a memorable cup tie but unfortunately that dream only lasted five minutes.
Aberaeron, who have regularly conceded easy goals from lost possession, were left in no doubt that it should be safety first.
A cleared defensive header from an early corner for Llanelli should have been dealt with but possession was lost and a quick cross was easily headed in to the net.
Before Aberaeron could settle, Llanelli’s star player Lee Trundle beat three players to give himself a sight on goal and he thundered an unstoppable shot in off the underside of the bar.
Aberaeron woke up and Matty Davies was twice through on goal but no end product. Llanelli were passing well and Lee Trundle found himself one on one against Sion Clark. He turned cleverly leaving the defender in his wake and was unceremoniously upended for a clear penalty. Trundle drove it hard to the keeper’s left for number three.
Once more Aberaeron came in to the game, but passes were awry and often intercepted. A long clearance from Llanelli was not caught by Edwards, the Aberaeron keeper and the ball was easily tapped in to an empty net.
The second half was an attempt at a pride salvaging operation and Aberaeron gave a good account of themselves without finding the opponents net.
Trundle was kept at bay for the majority of the half but his trickery once more led to him being fouled in the box and he, once more, slammed the ball to the keeper’s left for five nil.
Aberaeron did get a consolation goal from the penalty spot from Matty Davies before another calamitous defending error gave Llanelli a sixth.
The score did not truly reflect the game but it reflects the ruthlessness of an ex professional striker who, clearly writes his own headlines- quite deservedly.
For Aberaeron, these are worrying times and the next three fixtures are ‘must wins’.
If Aberaeron cannot eradicate the problem of losing simple possession then it’s going to a long and very difficult season.
Aber climb off the bottom
Aberystwyth Town • 0
Barry Town • 0
ABERYSTWYTH TOWN earned themselves a point to climb off the bottom of the JD Welsh Premier League table last Saturday afternoon (Oct 7), as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Barry Town United at Park Avenue.
Both sides missed good opportunities to win the game in the second half, but the game ended in stalemate as both managers settled for a point apiece.
Aber manager Nev Powell made one change to the starting line-up from Tuesday’s Nathaniel MG Cup defeat to Airbus UK Broughton, with John Owen replacing Cledan Davies, which meant Mathew Jones started at left back for the first time in his Black and Greens’ career.
Both sides started the game cautiously, with the game lacking any real rhythm through the first 15 minutes. Barry came closest to opening the scoring on 16 minutes, as Chris Mullock somehow pulled off an instinctive point-blank save from Kayne Mclaggon’s close range shot.
Mclaggon was forced off through injury shortly afterwards, and Macauley Southam fired a long-range effort over the bar for the visitors.
Aber continued to struggle to get any threatening attacking play going, with Ryan Wade shooting well wide of the post on separate occasions.
The half time whistle could not come soon enough for the 233 spectators at Park Avenue.
The first 15 minutes of the second half again proved to be rather uninspiring for the neutrals, as both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances.
On 60 minutes, Aber’s midfield maestro Malcolm Melvin, and soon after striker Craig Hobson were introduced in place of Ryan Wollacott and Joe Phillips, with manager Nev Powell looking for some fresh impetus from his side.
Aber began to slowly crank up the pressure on the visitors’ rear guard, as Ryan Wade shot straight at Barry keeper Mike Lewis, before Hobson almost converted an in-swinging Ashley Young free kick.
Barry themselves continues to look dangerous on the counter attack with the pace of wide men Tyrrell Webbe and Drew Fahiya, but on 87 minutes Aber again came close to the breakthrough as Hobson headed Wade’s cross into the side-netting.
Aber looked for one last chance as the game headed into three minutes of added time, and they very nearly found the winner in the dying seconds as right back Declan Walker brought the ball down from the sky and fired a low shot towards goal, only for it to hit the outside of the post.
This was another occasion where Aber have to settle for a point when it could so easily have been three, but manager Nev Powell will take encouragement from the organisation and defensive qualities his side showed today, keeping their first clean sheet in the league this season.
Town now turn their attentions to their next JD Welsh Premier League fixture away to Llandudno, on Saturday (Oct 14).
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