Picture caption: Wales U20 player Ioan Davies, Wales Women's Manon Johnes (both Ysgol Glantaf) and Wales international Aaron Wainwright from Bassaleg School played in the Urdd WRU 7s before graduating to representing Wales.
Next month, the largest schools sevens tournament in Wales, the Urdd WRU 7s will be held at Pontcanna and Llandaff playing fields in Cardiff between 8-12 April and in Llandudno/ Colwyn Bay 3-4 April. Between both events, more than 100 schools, 431 teams and over 5,000 players are expected to take part. For the first time, a rugby festival for participants with disabilities will also be included this year.
Wales Grand Slam winner, Dragons back row Aaron Wainwright won the tournament with Bassaleg School just three years ago. He said, “I have very fond memories of the event. It was great to be part of a tournament like that and be successful with your school mates, some of whom didn’t play regular rugby so it really helped develop skills and fitness. It really helped me, I think I was picked up by the Dragons soon after that.
“It’s fantastic to see how the tournament has grown since then, moving to a bigger site, engaging more boys and girls and now involving a disability element too.”
Wales Women international Manon Johnes won the senior girls’ tournament with Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf two years ago and went on to represent Wales U18 Sevens at the Youth Commonwealth Games later that summer, winning Bronze, and travelled to Brisbane as part of the Wales Women Sevens squad within the same year. She now has seven senior caps under her belt and still a pupil at Glantaf will return to the competition next month as coach of the school’s Year 7/8 team.
She said, “The Urdd 7s is fantastic, especially for girls’ participation in the game. It’s fun, the short games mean lots of game time and everyone can pick it up quite quickly.
“It was great to win the tournament with my own year group two years ago, and now as a coach I can see even more value in it.
“We’ve been training for the Urdd 7s already, the girls are excited. As a coach I’ll try not to be too competitive but that won’t be easy, I can’t help it!”
“We’ve got such big girls’ playing numbers in school now that we’ve been able to play 15 a side matches this year.The girls love to train but once they get a taste for rugby, they want to play games so it will be good to have a full day of competition.
Eight schools are expected to take part in the disability festival on 12 April which will form part of the Cardiff event. WRU Community Director Geraint John said, “Welsh rugby is a vital part of the fabric of our nation, I think the whole world has seen that since our Grand Slam win on the weekend.
“Thanks to sharing a set of goals and philosophies with Chwaraeon yr Urdd, we are able to harness our combined resources and use the power of Welsh rugby to inspire the next generation and promote another intrinsic part of our culture – the Welsh language.
“Playing sevens in a school environment is a fantastic way to develop skills, fitness and game awareness while having great fun with your school friends. Whether they go on to represent the senior Wales sides such as Aaron (Wainwright) and Manon (Johnes) and many others who competed at the Urdd in their younger days or go on to play for their local rugby teams for years to come, the pupils participating in the Urdd WRU 7s nedxt month are the future of our national game.
“Along with the wider benefits of this partnership with the Urdd, such as the collaboration between our respective apprentices to take rugby opportunities to non-traditional communities, the competition helps support our core aims of more boys and girls enjoying rugby - and developing better players for the game at all levels.
“Sevens is such an accessible format that can be played with fewer pupils in school year groups, and by boys and girls who are new to the game. There’s more space and more touches on the ball.
“We feel strongly that there is a place in rugby for everyone and are thrilled that for the first time, a rugby festival for participants with disabilities will also be included in the programme.
Sian Lewis, Chief Executive at Urdd Gobaith Cymru said, “Our partnership with the WRU continues to go from strength to strength as we strive to develop and enhance the provision and experience for all. Rugby is a game for everyone and we are especially pleased to announce the inclusion of the rugby festival for children and young people with disabilities as part of the 2019 event.”
“The Urdd WRU partnership enables us both to achieve key goals by increasing rugby participation and developing skills while also encouraging the use of the Welsh language outside of the classroom in a fun and informal environment.”
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM added, “I am very grateful to the Urdd and the WRU for continuing to work in partnership with more than 100 schools across Wales to put on an event which involves thousands of children up and down the country.
"I hope that the fantastic efforts of our national women’s, men’s and under 20’s teams can inspire performances at the competition.
"I was also delighted to hear that a rugby festival for children and young people with disabilities will also be included this year – rugby, with all its various formats, is a sport for all. I wish everyone involved the very best of luck and once again, my sincere thanks to the Urdd and the WRU for their hard work in making this event possible.”
It’s fantastic to see how the tournament has grown