2 Nov 2007

The Welsh Rugby Union today published the findings of a Sports Council analysis of WRU club information which shows a significant increase in the number of teams run by grassroots clubs in Wales. The most significant increases are in the number of teams in the Under 8 and Under 9 age groups where the number of teams has risen by 13 and 12 percentage points respectively.

These findings are encouraging at a time when society is looking for ways of improving levels of physical activity amongst children and adults. The rise is partly due to WRU led initiatives over the past two years, with an emphasis on tag rugby in the younger age groups. This is one area of the WRU’s response to Health Challenge Wales which has received help from the Welsh Assembly Government.

There has also been a 12 percentage point rise in the number of Youth (Under 19) teams which is also encouraging as youth rugby is a vital bridge between junior and senior club rugby. Youth teams are a vital player resource for clubs’ first and second teams.

WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said:

"We know that rugby holds a unique position within Welsh society and we are pleased that our clubs and our community rugby staff around Wales can help us become a fitter, healthier nation through increased physical activity."

The WRU has chosen the publication of this audit to publicly recognise the contribution of the thousands of volunteers who give up their time week in, week out to nurture and develop our young talent and to give something back to our communities, ensuring rugby remains the heartbeat of our nation.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for sport said:

"Grassroots rugby, like all grassroots sport, depends on volunteers who give of their own time and these volunteers are the foundation that sport in Wales is built upon. I am pleased that volunteers in rugby clubs across Wales are being acknowledged as their efforts have been vital in the increase in the number of age-group teams reported in this research. The increased opportunities to participate in physical activity that this has provided are to be applauded and welcomed."

WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis added:

"Our grassroots clubs and the coaches, team managers, first aiders, referees, administrators and other volunteers within those clubs are our lifeblood, and the lifeblood of our communities in Wales.

"They sustain club rugby by producing generation after generation of players, coaches, administrators and referees, a rugby family which does so much, not only for their clubs but also for their surrounding communities. In introducing rugby to so many children and young people, the clubs provide the tools for youngsters to go on and achieve their potential in the game, whatever their level."

Sports Council for Wales Chair Philip Carling said:

"These results are particularly encouraging and I want to commend the WRU on its dedication to increase the numbers of junior teams. Of course, the work that happens at the very grassroots level in our communities is down to the commitment of an army of volunteers. They are at the coalface of rugby in Wales, encouraging youngsters into the game, keeping them motivated and ensuring that they are able to take part in regular competitive activity."