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.”
Wales v Scotland postponed
WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.
The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.
A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.
“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.
“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.
“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”
Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended
THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.
The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.
The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.
Exercise Referral Scheme doing more for health intervention than ever before
A record 35,069 participants attended Exercise Referral classes during 2640 hours of health classes in 2019.
The National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) is an evidence-based health intervention scheme which incorporates physical activity and behavioural change techniques to support referred clients to make lifestyle changes to improve their health and well-being.
NERS Ceredigion has seen a dramatic increase in demand over the past year. A coordinator and four full time exercise professionals work to deliver the scheme, delivering 73 classes per week. The age of participants range from 16 years old, with the eldest participant in Ceredigion being 95.
Exercise class options include Gym, Circuit, Postural Stability (seated), Spin Bikes, Aqua Aerobics, Tai Chi and Pilates. Venues include council and community centres in Aberystwyth, Aberaeron, Lampeter, Tregaron, Cardigan and Llandysul.
Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet member with responsibility for Leisure, highlighted the benefits of the scheme, “There are many physical, psychological and social benefits to being part of the scheme, including confidence-building, better self-esteem, meeting new people and being generally fitter and healthier. Ceredigion Actif’s highly qualified Health Intervention Team provide opportunities to exercise that are fun, rewarding and that can be incorporated into everyday life.”
NERS Ceredigion targets people with a medical condition through various pathways including generic, cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary, PSI falls, stroke rehabilitation, mental health, cancer and weight management. The 16 week tailored programme of exercise is delivered by a team of specialist Level 4 qualified exercise professionals who guide referred participants towards realising their individual goals.
A participant in Aberystwyth said, “This has been the best thing I have ever done. I have thrived from doing different activities and pushing myself out of my comfort zone which has not only helped my self-esteem but also my depression and everything else including my pain. I have also made new friends which I didn’t even consider would happen and we’re not only being social but we’re having fun too which is a bonus”.
There is ongoing monitoring from the instructors with follow up assessments at 16 weeks as well as on completion at 52 weeks. Long-term ‘maintenance’ options are available post 16 weeks which include the continuation of exercise classes as well as opportunities to join clubs such as walking basketball, walking football, golf sessions and walking rugby.
During 2018-2019 there were 913 referrals to the scheme. To gain access to the scheme, a person needs to be referred by a Health Professional, usually a GP, Practice Nurse or a condition specific Physiotherapist.