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WRU strengthens exile programme to combat talent drain

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THE WRU is intensifying efforts to preserve Welsh talent and prevent young players from being lured to England, amid a growing concern over the loss of dual-qualified athletes. This strategic shift includes the expansion of the exile programme and the establishment of a robust scouting network within England.

Recent high-profile defections have underscored the urgency of this initiative. Cardiff-born Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Haverfordwest’s Kane James are among the notable young talents who have crossed the Severn Bridge, opting to pursue their careers in England, with Feyi-Waboso making his senior debut for England in this year’s Six Nations.

Richard Whiffin, Wales Under-20s coach, emphasised the critical need to address this trend during the Six Nations, stating, “We have to start challenging some of the issues, especially around dual-qualified players. These are the battles we need to get hold of because it’s turning into a race to the bottom.”

To counteract this, the WRU is investing in the exiles programme, aiming to improve scholarship offers with Welsh educational institutions and create a network of scouts specifically targeted at identifying Welsh talent in English schools. Huw Bevan, WRU Performance Director, highlighted the importance of engaging these players not just in the rugby system but in fostering a sense of Welsh identity. “We have to look at identifying talent already in other countries, but particularly England. We need to engage them in the system but also in the feeling of being Welsh, not just Welsh-qualified,” Bevan explained.

The WRU’s plans include collaboration with 20 coaches within the English education system, who are of Welsh descent and keen to participate in scouting potential players. This initiative is crucial to persuade young talents to stay and develop their rugby careers within Wales, rather than accepting scholarships at English schools.

Gruff Rees, Cardiff’s academy manager, noted the historical disconnection that contributed to the exodus, citing a decade of inadequate support for regional age-grade programmes by the union. The situation has been exacerbated by recent budget cuts across Welsh regions, forcing a shift towards developing homegrown talent.

The emphasis on improving the quality and appeal of both rugby and educational programmes within Wales is seen as key to retaining young players. Josh Hathaway, a promising full-back from Aberystwyth who now plays for Gloucester and has represented England Under-20s, exemplifies the type of talent Wales is striving to keep.

The WRU’s approach also seeks to promote the benefits of Welsh education systems, as highlighted by Bevan’s mention of an upturn in interest at Coleg y Cwmoedd following the success of its graduates Cam Winnett and Mackenzie Martin, both recent Wales caps.

In response to the funding challenges and the need for a sustainable talent pipeline, Welsh regions are focused on nurturing and utilising local talent more effectively. The efforts to ensure talented players consider educational opportunities in Wales as seriously as those across the border are intensifying, as the WRU aims to build a future where Welsh rugby talent thrives within its national borders.

Image: BBC News Hub

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Castle Square Bike Night raises funds for Blood Bikes Wales

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HAVERFORDWEST was abuzz with excitement recently as Castle Square hosted its much-anticipated Bike Night. The event, held on Wednesday, 22nd May, saw an impressive turnout of motorcycle enthusiasts from across the region, all gathering for a worthy cause.

Castle Square Bike Night, which began at 6:30 PM, transformed the heart of Haverfordwest. The event aimed to bring together bikers of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate their shared passion for motorcycles while supporting Blood Bikes Wales, a charity dedicated to providing free, out-of-hours transport of essential medical items to NHS facilities across Wales.

The square was a sea of colour and chrome, with bikes of all makes and models on the town square. From sleek sports bikes to vintage classics, the variety on display was a testament to the diverse biking community in Pembrokeshire. Riders and spectators alike admired the impressive machines, swapped stories, and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Donations were collected throughout the evening, with all proceeds going directly to Blood Bikes Wales.

The charity relies entirely on volunteers and donations to operate, and events like these are crucial in ensuring they can continue their vital service. “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported us tonight,” said a representative from Blood Bikes Wales. “The generosity of the biking community is truly heartwarming, and it makes a significant difference in our ability to provide life-saving services.”

As the evening drew to a close, the success of Castle Square Bike Night was evident in the smiling faces and the positive feedback from attendees. The event not only celebrated the love of motorcycles but also highlighted the power of community action in supporting charitable causes.

Castle Square Bike Night has firmly established itself as a key event in the Haverfordwest calendar, and the organisers are already looking forward to the next gathering. With its combination of passion, community spirit, and charitable giving, it is sure to remain a highlight for years to come.

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Pembrokeshire farm tent camping site plans backed

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Plans to expand a tent site at a Pembrokeshire farm which has diversified into tourism since the 1980s have been backed by councillors.

In an application before Pembrokeshire County Council’s May meeting of its planning committee, Mr and Mrs James sought permission to expand a tent site at South Cockett Caravan and Tent Site, Broadway, Broadhaven.

The application included a number of enhancements which would improve its visual appearance.

The Council Landscape Officer has raised no objection, advising that the additional hedgebank is to be encouraged.

Speaking at the meeting, agent Andrew Vaughan-Harris said three generations of the James family had been farming some 140 acres, in a mix of sheep, beef and cattle, and now had 70 touring caravan pitches on-site after diversifying in the 1980s.

“It’s a good news story over the last 30 years, it’s now up to 50 per cent of their income,” he told planners, adding the applicants had invested £180,000 on-site in the last couple of years.

“They still want to have a site for tents, now we have the application in front of us for a further field,” he added.

He finished: “This is helping sustainable farming; it is creating jobs.”

Members of the committee unanimously backed a recommendation to approve the scheme.

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General Election: Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion hopefuls for new seats

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WITH a July 4 date announced for the General Election, confirmed candidates for the two new seats in Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion will be gearing up their campaigns.

As part of constituency changes, Pembrokeshire’s current seats of Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire have changed.

As part of the changes, parts of north Pembrokeshire – including St Davids – are joining the new Mid and South Pembrokeshire constituency, which will replace the Pembrokeshire parts of the current Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

The north of the county will be part of a new Ceredigion Preseli constituency joining parts of north Pembrokeshire – including Crymych and Maenclochog – with Ceredigion.

Current hopefuls for the Mid and South Pembrokeshire seat are Welsh Liberal Democrat Alistair Cameron, with Stephen Crabb for the Conservatives and Henry Tufnell for Labour.

Candidates confirmed to date in the neighbouring constituency of Ceredigion Preseli are Ben Lake for Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams, a former MP for Ceredigion, and Welsh Labour’s Jackie Jones, and  Conservative candidate Aled Thomas.

The constituancy changes follow a Westminster vote to cut the number of Welsh MPs from 40 to 32; each constituency  must contain between 69,724 and 77,062 voters, with the exception of Ynys Mon.

The new Ceredigion Preseli constituency has a road distance of nearly 75 miles from the extreme north to southwest of the new constituency.

The Boundary Commission for Wales made minor changes to previous proposals, removing St Davids, Solva and Letterston from the proposed Ceredigion Preseli constituency and including the Maenclochog ward instead.

Mid and south Pembrokeshire, under the changes, will have the largest number of electors of any of the constituencies in Wales, at 76,820.

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