Welsh rugby struggling at grass-roots level
ESPN Staff
March 18, 2014
Wales' Shane Williams takes a lap of honour with his children, Wales v Australia, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, December 3, 2011
© Getty Images

The future of Welsh rugby is far from rosy after a report that it is struggling to retain interest at school level.

Former World Cup-winner Josh Lewsey was appointed as the WRU's head of rugby last October and he immediately undertook a review of the structure. He met with representatives from clubs, schools and regions, as well as talking to a number of current and former players. He also conducted a brand survey and leant on findings from other bodies.

Although he found that mini rugby was flourishing, there is then a significant drop-off in competitive schools rugby, decreasing by as much as 30% from the age of 16 to 17. That in turn has led to problems for clubs who are finding it harder to field junior sides.

"While rugby is provided in some form at almost every school, this provision is often short-term, intermittent and hasn't led to long-term engagement," Lewsey said. "There is a rapid drop off in participation in the late teenage years and second- team rugby is struggling."

Lewsey's role is to underpin the game from professional down to grass-roots level by introducing new structures aimed at tackling the concerns revealed by his report. He said: "The process has highlighted some fantastic work that is going on, as well as some challenges we face."

His initial task will be to increase participation within schools and the help forge stronger links between schools and local clubs. "[We need to] increase habitual participation, especially within schools and reinforcing the transition into adult club rugby, in addition to combating some of the misconceptions about the game," he said. "Namely that it can truly be a game for both sexes, all shapes and sizes."

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