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Welsh Rugby Union launches search for new women’s head coach

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The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a search for a new women’s head coach to lead the side through until the 2021 World Cup and 2022 Commonwealth Games.



Rowland Phillips left his role officially in March 2020 after missing all of Wales’ 2019 autumn matches and this year’s Six Nations.



Phillips was replaced by Chris Horsman, Geraint Lewis and Gareth Wyatt.



Wales lost four games, including a 66-7 defeat by England, before the Scotland match was postponed amid Covid-19.



The head coach of the senior women’s national programme will take charge of Wales Women Sevens as well as the 15-a-side team affairs.



The WRU is also looking for a physical performance lead and performance analyst for the female programme.



It is hoped the new three roles will be filled by the autumn of 2020 to build up to the 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and the sevens tournament at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.



Despite the union facing large financial losses due to the outbreak of coronavirus they say they remain committed to improving women’s rugby.



“We have approved plans to grow the women’s game and to strengthen its performance side,” said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.



“Covid-19 has impacted those plans like all areas of our organisation, but we have taken the conscious decision to continue with planned investments.



“We hope this will allow us to make progress in closing the gap with the top nations in women’s rugby.



WRU performance director Ryan Jones is responsible for the women’s game in Wales.



“We are keen to talk to professional coaches with the ability to be world-leading within women’s rugby,” said Jones.



“This is an exciting period for the women’s game globally with the Rugby World Cup and Commonwealth Games around the corner.



Unlike the set-up in England, Wales does not currently have professional players or a top flight domestic side with many of the internationals featuring for English clubs in the Premier 15s league.



The WRU says it is working more closely with the English clubs ahead of plans to produce two “super clubs” in Wales.



“In the short term, the intention is our performance players will train and play for Premier 15s clubs,” said WRU women and girls general manager Charlotte Wathan.



“Longer term we aim to establish two high performance centres in Wales, hopefully leading to the development of two competitive ‘super clubs’.



“We know we have talented players in Wales and we believe these measures will help to further harness that talent and create an environment which increases competition for places in the programme.



“We are committed to increasing female participation numbers and raising standards at all levels of the game for women and girls in Wales.



“Part of the role of the new staff will also be to raise coaching and conditioning standards across the female game in Wales.

“.

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7s World Cup

Rugby Canada set to start review after disappointing Olympics and turbulent leadup – Trail Daily Times

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No medal and a lot of questions. The post-mortem on Rugby Canada’s Olympic performance and the turmoil that proceeded it is set to start.

The Canadian women’s sevens team, bronze medallists five years ago in Rio, headed to Tokyo after a turbulent run-up to the Olympics marked by complaints of an abusive training environment. They failed to live up to expectations and finished ninth. The men, first-time Olympians, placed eighth — matching their position in the World Rugby Sevens Series standings before play ground to a halt last year due to the pandemic.

The performance on the field and division off it demonstrate the size of the challenge facing Rugby Canada.

“There absolutely is more work to be done,” Rugby Canada CEO Allen Vansen said in an interview. “And we have a long way to go. Our review, which is coming up, will initiate that now that our Olympics tournaments are over.”

That includes ensuring Inclusivity and respect, which he calls key parts of rugby’s value system.

“Clearly we have some work to do as a culture and as an organization to live those day-in day-out,” he added. “And I don’t that that work is ever going to stop.”

The governing body is no stranger to reviews after setbacks on the field.

In 2016, Rugby Canada opted not to renew the contract of men’s sevens coach Liam Middleton for missing out on the “very attainable” goal of Olympic qualification.

Earlier that year, Kieran Crowley quit as coach of the men’s 15s team, just weeks after agreeing to an 18-month contract extension — a contract length that came from the recommendation of Rugby Canada’s World Cup review committee. Crowley, frustrated at the financial limitations of the Canadian program, left for Italy to coach Benetton Treviso.

But this review promises to be more wide-ranging, sparked by a formal complaint from the women’s sevens team in January under Rugby Canada’s bullying and harassment policy.

In the wake of the complaint filed by 37 current and former team members, an independent review concluded that while the conduct described in the complaint reflected the experiences of the athletes, it did not fall within Rugby Canada’s policy’s definition of harassment or bullying.

Unhappy at that conclusion, the players said their complaint “explained the psychological abuse, harassment and/or bullying these athletes feel they were subjected to in the centralized training environment.”

Head coach John Tait, while maintaining he had done nothing wrong, subsequently stepped down.

Rugby Canada has since approved an “updated safe sport policy manual.”

The controversy has caused division in Rugby Canada ranks with most of Tait’s staff leaving, believing he had been unfairly treated.

Former sevens captain Jen Kish spoke out this week saying in a social media post, saying there are players in the program “who have contributed to the very same environment that they have gone public with regards to John Tait.”

Some players, she added, had “used their position to push their agenda by intimidating and bullying other players to a very frightening extreme point.”

Jamie Cudmore, a former star player who ran Rugby Canada’s national development academy and was an assistant coach with the men’s 15s team, lost his job this week after belittling the women’ sevens team in a series of tweets that were subsequently deleted.

Cudmore, who goes back a long way with Tait, apologized for his words.

“Jamie thankfully was quick to take them down. But you can’t take those words and comments back once they’re out there,” said Vansen.

Cudmore’s social media tirade effectively ripped the scab off the open wound exposed by the women’s complaint.

Charity Williams, a member of the sevens team, said the tweets were an example of “the consistent hatred we have received from people in our own organization.”

“The bullying and harassment that we have received for coming forward is outrageous and scary at times. This is the reason we called for an internal investigation because we haven’t been safe,” she added in a social media post.

The Rugby Canada review will examine the challenge of balancing the demands on elite athletes.

“Absolutely,” said Vansen. “Part of this is looking at the extreme commitment that our national team athletes, men’s and women’s, have to make to be competitive on the international stage.”

“As our athletes have rightly said, they’re more than just athletes,” he added. “These are people, they’re community leaders. We’re very proud of that.”

When it was announced in April, the review was billed by Rugby Canada as “an independent assessment of the national senior women’s 7s program, and our other performance rugby programs, to help us understand the journey and experiences of our athletes and staff involved with our national teams.”

The process is slated to start this month and end “mid-fall,” according to Vansen. Its recommendations will be released late October or in November.

How independent the probe is remains to be seen. Vansen says while “an independent individual” will lead the process, “it is a Rugby Canada review.”

“We are in the process of establishing exactly who will be involved in that review,” Vansen said.

Those involved will include representatives from “our core stakeholders and our funding partners,” as well as Rugby Canada officials and players.

How the Olympic performance affects funding remains to be seen.

The women’s seven team, thanks to its medal in Rio and performance on the World Series, received $10.5 million in Own The Program funding in the Tokyo quadrennial, which actually covered five years because of the pandemic. The Canadian men, whose funding took a nosedive after failing to qualify for Rio, received just $130,000.

Vansen says while interim women’s sevens coach Mick Byrne will be a “huge part of our debrief process,” there has been no determination yet on the Australian’s future with the program.

Former Canadian international Phil Mack will run the developmental academy “in the immediate future.” Rugby Canada will look for a new forwards coach to fill the 15s job vacated by Cudmore.

The World Series is set to resume this fall with stops for the men in both Vancouver (Sept. 18-19) and Edmonton (Sept. 25-26). The women return to action Oct. 2-3 in Paris.

—-

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


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Irish Rugby Sevens stars ’embarrassed’ after Olympic showing in Tokyo

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Ireland’s Rugby Sevens campaign at the Tokyo Olympics came to a disappointing end on Wednesday morning, the side comprehensively outclassed by Kenya during a 22-0 loss. The game was a play-off for ninth place, with both teams failing to reach the knockout stages from their group.

“That game showed really what we were like through the whole tournament,” said Hugo Lennox.

“We were lacking a bit of grit and we never really got going. The Olympics is probably the biggest tournament we’re ever going to play in. We’re embarrassed to be honest.”

The Irish left themselves with a huge hill to climb during the group stages with losses to South Africa and USA, and while they recovered to beat Kenya 12-7, their points difference wasn’t good enough to be one of the best-ranked third-place finishers.

They outclassed South Korea on Tuesday night to advance to the ninth-placed play-off against Kenya where they were no match for their rivals and finished the tournament in 10th.

“It’s a poor result but you have to be grateful and honoured to be here,” said Lennox. “If you had told us 12 months ago we’d be going to the Olympics we would have said that would be a really big ask. France were a big force on the World Series at the time and it was incredible to turn them over on their own patch.” Bryan Mollen believed the outlook bright for the team after a breakthrough year.

“We want to show what we can do,” he said. “We’ve done that in the World Series but we haven’t done it here. We want to build towards the World Cup in South Africa. Like the Olympics, it only comes around every four years.”

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Australia make early exit from Rugby Sevens after heavy defeat to Fiji

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There were tears and heartache as Australia’s men’s sevens team made their way off Tokyo Stadium.

Shocked and bitterly disappointed, their five-year dream was shattered before it ever got going as Fiji smashed Australia 19-0 in the quarter-finals.

Fjii-born Wallaby Samu Kerevi could hardly talk as he collected himself on the sidelines of Tokyo Stadium, while Lachie Miller was crying and left speechless.

“I don’t know where to start. It’s heartbreaking,” Kerevi told News Corp.

“I know how hard these boys have worked for the program and to come out here and represent our country.

“It just sucks, bro. We knew it was a tough task, but we had belief in each other and the group’s worked f**king hard to get to this point.

“It’s heartbreaking.”

Lachlan Anderson drops the ball over the line as Australia make an early Sevens exit.Source: AFP

For Kerevi, this could be the last time he plays for Australia.

Japan-based, current eligibility laws mean Rugby Australia would have to go against everything they are preaching to players to pick him again for the Wallabies.

It’s why the experienced Wallaby, who was controversially penalised in front of a sold out crowd against Wales in the World Cup two years earlier, was so emotional.

If that happens, it will be a travesty because the 27-year-old cares for everything that rugby represents: family, love and his nation.

“I don’t know (if I will play for Australia again),” he said.

“I guess that’s what hurts. I love putting this jersey on for Australia with my Fijian heritage.

“I’m gutted.”

Australia had all sorts of trouble containing the Fijians.Source: AFP

Kerevi was one of Australia’s best and almost single-handedly changed their path into a difficult quarter-final assignment against the reigning Olympic champions after starring roles against Argentina and New Zealand.

Despite his heroics, they were not enough as Tim Walsh’s men suffered pool defeats to Argentina (29-19) and New Zealand (14-12), but scraped through to the final eight because of a big win over South Korea and a superior points differential than other countries.

Maurice Longbottom almost got Australia back on level terms late in the first-half after being injected off the bench.

The livewire should have sent Lachie Anderson in to score, but the hard-working outside back dropped the ball over the line.

Nick Malouf tries to break through the Fijian defence.Source: AFP

It was a killer blow after Fijian captain Jerry Tuwai’s opening try.

Fiji buried Australia into the ground in the second half, denying Australia territory and scored two more tries and will now meet Argentina, who incredibly beat South Africa in an incredible quarter-final 19-14.

Longbottom was also gutted following the loss.

“It hurts,” he said, with his head facing the turf.

“Throughout this whole tournament we’ve had our back against the wall.

“That was our last chance to go out there and play for a medal and make our country proud.

“It always hurts a loss, but it makes it that much harder at the Olympics.”

Walsh, who five years ago celebrated wildly in Rio after masterminding the women’s gold medal run, was left rueing the rocky road to get here after Covid, pay cuts and a Rugby Australia program that does not want to pour resources into it.

“They’re absolutely shattered, as I am,” he said.

“You can’t deny them the hurt.

“They’ve put their blood and sweat and tears into it over a long period of time. We had to be at our absolute best to win that one and we weren’t.

“Of course they’re disappointed, but they’ve delivered every bit of effort that they possibly could.”

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