Huge progress gained in WRU Disability Rugby opportunities - New wheelchair rugby opportunities launched to mark one year on from launch
The Welsh Rugby Union has been recognised for making significant strides in its levels of inclusion seen throughout the game in Wales.
The Welsh Rugby Union launched a Disability Rugby strategy last March and a quiet revolution has since been taking place all over Wales with opportunities to be part of the national game now more inclusive than ever.
The WRU is determined to broaden rugby’s appeal to ensure everyone in Wales has the opportunity to experience the power of rugby union.
Inspirational coach Darren Carew was employed to implement the strategy and his unique personality and inclusive approach is infectious. Under the stewardship of Greg Woods who leads on all alternative forms of the game, Darren was armed with an ambitious to-do list of priorities, and 12 months in, many of these have already been achieved.
“We were determined to ensure there were opportunities for everyone to take part in the national sport,” explained Carew, who personally suffered life-changing leg and brain injuries while serving in Afghanistan.
The latest development in the WRU’s pioneering Disability Rugby strategy is the acquisition of 10 specially designed wheelchairs for use in introducing new players of all ages to wheelchair rugby, which will add to the wheelchair rugby opportunities currently on offer.
The wheelchairs were used for the first time today (Friday 29 March) at the first Disability Six Nations event for school children in the Ospreys region.
The chairs, commissioned by the Prince’s Gate Trust were gifted to Disability Sport Wales who handed them over to the Welsh Rugby Union at today’s event which saw 250 young people have a go at wheelchair rugby.
Disability Sport Wales’ Tom Rogers praised the WRU’s progress in this field.
He said, “Over the last 12 months the number of Wheelchair Rugby opportunities has continued to grow across Wales, with the newly established Dragons Wheelchair Rugby Club adding to the established offer within the Ospreys, RGC, and Scarlets regions.
“With the support of the Prince’s Gate Trust, an additional 10 specialised wheelchairs will further the reach of the sport, enabling school and community delivery nationally. Disability Sport Wales are excited to see this programme continue to develop.”
The WRU was recently award the insport NGB Bronze standard for their inclusion work across the business.
Rogers added: “The insport panel felt that the Welsh Rugby Union are at an exciting time in their journey towards inclusion and the Panel are confident that the commitment shown to inclusion and insport NGB and will continue to deliver positive changes to the governing body and rugby as a sport.
“The Welsh Rugby Union clearly have a broad philosophy of including disabled people in their sport. The range of NGB staff involved in developments, as well as the level of knowledge on inclusion within the wider staff continues to grow significantly, placing the Welsh Rugby Union in a strong position to continue on their journey.”
Darren Carew’s first task was to provide opportunities in every region to take part in disability or mixed ability rugby, for example:
INCLUSIVE CLUBS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY
Young people aged between six and 16 with a range of disabilities and needs are now attending fun-based, Inclusive Community Clubs (ICCs) around Wales led by engaging community coaches who are in tune with the needs of the young people.
In addition to the original ICC established in the Dragons region, five more ICCs have been established around Wales in the last 12 months – one in every region plus a second in the Ospreys region.
Jo Williams one such community coach. She is the Lead for the Cardiff Blues ICC, based at Rhondda Fach Sports Centre, Tylorstown.
“The young people are growing in confidence, learning social skills and having fun,” she said. “They are proud to be part of the national sport and to wear the badge of their region, in our case the Cardiff Blues ICC.
“It’s great for parents too, to feel that their kids are being given the same opportunities as other children.”
MIXED ABILITY RUGBY
In addition to the two established mixed ability clubs – the Llanelli Warriors and the Swansea Gladiators, there are now six mixed ability clubs around Wales – the Cardiff Chiefs, the Dragons All Stars, the Colwyn Bay Stingrays and the Newtown Dragons are now also providing playing and volunteering opportunities for adults.
“It is important the opportunities are sustainable and that there is a pathway for participants to stay involved in the game throughout their lives,” continued Carew. “We are thrilled there are now opportunities in every region and those will continue to grow I’m sure. The Llanelli Warriors, who this season played their 300th game, and the Swansea Gladiators have greatly helped to grow the mixed ability game around Wales.”
A key element of the Disability Rugby strategy was to ensure the whole game adopts a more inclusive approach and 103 hub officers, WRU and teaching staff have already completed a level of inclusion training to enable this to become a reality.
The 90 full-time rugby hub officers at schools and colleges around Wales are now are now offering all pupils the chance to take part in the rugby opportunities on offer, including those within SEN groups, units and schools.
The Ospreys in the Community Disability Six Nations event is an example of those opportunities. Previously there was only one event of this kind in Wales, the Sport Caerphilly Disability Six Nations, but now every region in Wales will host a disability rugby event involving more than 1000 children.
Regional Disability Rugby events 2019:
Sport Caerphilly – 320 participants
Ospreys in the Community – 250 participants
Scarlets - Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth – 327 participants
Cardiff Blues - eight schools will attend a Disability festival at the Urdd WRU 7s
RGC – 92 participants at satellite events and an event planned to coincide with RWC
“This is going to make such a difference to those pupils, they will feel more engaged within their schools and grow on and off the field”, added Carew.
WRU Entreprise Manager Greg Woods concluded, “We are very proud of the work we have already done to make our game more inclusive.
“We have also developed closer relationships with key partners such as Disability Sport Wales, Wales Deaf and GB Wheelchair Rugby to increase the ways in which people can take part. There are no limits to what we can achieve and we won’t stop breaking down barriers and adapting the game to give everyone access to our national sport on a local level.”
WRU Performance Director Ryan Jones said at the launch of the strategy, "We know that participation in rugby boosts well-being, social integration and physical health. We want to give everyone the chance to benefit from being part of the rugby family and that means increasing the amount of quality disability rugby opportunities on offer but also helping to change perceptions so that our rugby communities are more inclusive to disabled people. We want to ensure everyone feels truly engaged in our game and has a sense of pride in the contribution they make.”
Tom Sloane, Disability Lead for Ospreys in the Community said at the Llandarcy event, “Since the Disability framework was put in place and Darren employed in his current role we have seen a huge increase and awareness around disability and inclusive rugby throughout the region.
“Following the success of our first Inclusive Community Club based at Heronsbridge School, we have now set up another ICC at Morriston Leisure Centre, with regular participants enjoying the new opportunities on offer and Ospreys players Lloyd Ashley and Tom Habberfield have enjoyed supporting some of these activities. “Heronsbridge and Pen y Bryn schools took part in the Rookie Rugby week for girls and Ospreys in the Community staff are now an ‘Autism Aware’ organisation following ASD Wales training.
“There is a more inclusive approach throughout the organisation and Swansea Gladiators played Worcester Warriors Mixed Ability team at Liberty Stadium ahead of Ospreys v Worcester this season and the region has led the way in setting up both and adult and youth wheelchair rugby teams. Numbers and awareness of those clubs has increased this year following the launch of the strategy, with more children now taking part in the sport and having a positive rugby experience. The youth team has gone on to become British champions in less than 18 months. We are looking forward to providing even more positive experiences for all.”