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Watch: Welsh pundits claim 'faceless' WRU isn't fit for purpose

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images)

A hard-hitting TV debate featuring an ex-Wales international and a former Celtic League title-winning coach has claimed that the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) isn’t fit for purpose. The alleged mismanagement of the sport in Wales culminated in last weekend’s latest defeat for the men’s national team under Wayne Pivac, whose job is now said to be in jeopardy.

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However, that dissatisfaction with Pivac is only seemingly part of the current malaise in Welsh rugby and James Hook and Sean Holley have both called for change. In recent years, the Scrum V programme has had a habit of sitting on the fence too much but new presenter Lauren Jenkins is a no-nonsense operator and she didn’t hesitate in putting the WRU negatively in the spotlight in the most recent show.

Speaking in the wake of Wales’ defeat to Australia, Jenkins didn’t hold back when canvassing Hook and Holley for their thoughts on what many perceive to now be a crisis in Welsh rugby.

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“This is the situation as we sit here: We are three weeks on from Rob Butcher leaving as chairman, expressing his utter disappointment at the failure to appoint an independent chair. We’re a year on from Amanda Blanc, one of eight women in the FTSE100, leaving the board because she felt she could have no impact and wasn’t listened to,” began Jenkins.

“Club games are being called off, and there is no long-term financial deal between the union and the regions. Sean, is the Welsh Rugby Union fit for purpose?”

“No, I don’t think it is,” responded Holley, who was at Ospreys during their trophy-winning era more than a decade ago. “It’s archaic. I did a lot of work around this Autumn Nations Series, I speak to loads of stakeholders all over, players, coaches, administrators, sponsors, CEOs of regions, lots of different people and very rarely do you get somebody who says a positive word about the WRU. I feel it has become a faceless institution.

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“You only rarely hear from the CEO (Steve Phillips); we have had a very bland and grey statement in there (on the future of Pivac). When David Moffett was there, alright some people didn’t agree with him but you saw and heard him a lot.

“Who is the head of elite performance, the head of coach development? It becomes quite faceless when you put it like that and the Amanda Blanc interview was the most damning in recent times about how unprofessional, the community bias in terms of major boards that make major decisions rather than independent business high-performance people that we probably need now in a high-performance multi-million-pound company isn’t there.”

Ex-Wales out-half Hook now joined the chat. “We need to get that relationship back together, the WRU, the community clubs, because that relationship has gone by talking to the community clubs,” he reckoned. “Are the WRU mapping out what they want to achieve, are the community clubs listening, how do we get out relationship back?”

That was the prompt for show presenter Jenkins to make her follow-up remark. “That is the point because eight of the twelve directors on the board are from the community game, the Welsh Rugby Union are responsible for 300-plus clubs but not even the community clubs are happy they don’t feel they are being listened to.

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“There must be a way of saying, ‘Look, we’ll give you what you want in return for a bit of power, dialogue, communication’ and just bringing that relationship a bit closer?”

Holley responded: “There is that feeling that turkeys won’t ever vote for Christmas and that is what we have in that situation or maybe there is a lack of communication around why we need this and the benefits it could have, the greater benefits. There is a tremendous amount of self-interest in Welsh rugby at all levels.”

Hook added: “Everyone realises there needs to be change but they don’t want to upset their own house really, so that is the problem we have got at the moment.”

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