Welsh rugby reshuffle: Premiership 'streamlined' and U23 teams introduced

WRU chairman Gareth Davies on Welsh rugby reshuffle

Wales' rugby regions will have an Under-23 competition from next season, to be played in September, October and April.

There are plans in place to play between 10 and 12 games which will involve cross-border competition.

The Premiership is to be cut back from 16 to 12 clubs from the 2019-20 season.

Funding will be reduced to £50,000 a club in four years time, although the WRU say there will be increased off-field support.

Squads of between 30 and 35 players are being proposed along with detailed plans for each player which could see them placed in a region, moved to Wales Sevens, based with a Premiership club or even given an overseas placement.

Welsh rugby union bosses say the professional game is 89 percent more intense than Premiership in terms of workrate.

"Over the last five months we've had a huge consultation process and we need a performance model to underpin the regional model," said WRU head of performance Geraint John.

"Currently we don't have what I call a performance model, we have it scattered around the season at various times.

"What we need is continuous training of young players, a performance model is important for the regions and national team.

"It's important for the development of the players to help them along that pathway."

There are talks over cross border competition but the WRU wouldn't say whether that was Ireland or Scotland.

Losing four sides

The Premiership will be streamlined from 16 to 12 sides from the 2019-20 campaign with promotion and relegation from the Championship being reintroduced.

The division will have home and away league games plus four teams contesting end of season play-offs.

"People might say we've gone back to what it used to be but perhaps that wasn't wrong," added John.

"We think it's the right model to fit in everything we want to do. It's not just about playing in the league, we will look at a revised cup competition, we need to also fit in opportunities for possible cross-border competitions which is our objective.

"We're going to bring promotion and relegation back in which hopefully makes it simple for supporters and people to look at. If you're bottom of the league, you're going down.

"We've had ring fencing in the past, some people support it and some people haven't, but it also stops the clubs trying to climb back up the ladder.

"It allows us to put all this into a competitive season, there's no more gaps in the season, there are regular fixtures and a little bit of jeopardy which is exciting."

Losing funding

During the 2019/20 season funding will be at £96,000 but the Premiership sides will gradually have their finances reduced to £50,000 per club per year over a four-year period.

John says the governing body will support the clubs.

"We're going to support them in other means," added John.

"There's a four-year plan, a business model, we're putting commercial support behind them, a designated person to help them grow their investments so it's a long-term plan.

"We're also looking at cross border competition which will support coaching resources, with prize money on offer, there's also travel grants, so when you look at the figure there's actually more than that in terms of support and we feel it's the right model.

"We will support them, but support them with certain criteria. Importantly we've got to give them the money to actually deliver what is right on the field."

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