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Rugby News: 'Year to forget' - ‘One Wales’ strategic plan unveiled to reverse fortunes, SBW says Manu deserves a chance for Japan switch

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2nd January, 2024
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WRU’s new chairman Richard Collier-Keywood has announced a six point plan to turn around the fortunes of the game in Wales, as outlined in an open letter to union members.

While the women’s team enjoyed improved performances throughout 2023, the men’s team took time to adjust to Gatland’s return, coming second last in the Six Nations before recovering to make the quarter finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Despite this, Collier-Keywood admitted openly that 2023 was “a year to forget” for Welsh rugby.

Wales players in a huddle

(Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

The governing body in Wales has had a comparably dismal twelve months to that of Rugby Australia, with provincial sides underperforming and the removal of Wayne Pivac as coach and reinstatement of Warren Gatland.

It also had to deal with the results of the Rafferty report, following allegations of sexism and misogyny being rife within the organisation surfacing in January 2023.

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Adopting recommendations from the report is high on the list of goals for the new chairman, alongside greater collaboration between the provincial teams, encouraging an inclusive culture, player welfare investment, streamlining of the body’s governance model, and a new ‘One Wales’ strategy for investing in the professional and community games.

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“We are committed to building improved relationships with regions and community clubs that should help with this process,” the chairman wrote in an open letter to rugby fans. 

“We need to work together across the regions and clubs to deliver a One Wales plan. A key part of this will be ensuring that rugby in Wales is put on a sound and sustainable footing so we can invest in the game and the communities that support it across Wales.

“The goals of this plan are clear all our national teams – men’s, women’s and age grade – need to compete with the best in the world. For this to be achieved we need strong domestic teams and a pathway that includes our clubs with a passionate and inclusive fan base.”

SBW a fan of Manu’s Japan plan

Joey Manu’s rumoured link to move to Japanese rugby from the Roosters has received a ringing endorsement from fellow cross code hopper Sonny Bill Williams, who believes Manu would flourish in the 15-player code.

The Roosters star is set to come to the end of his contract after the next season in the NRL, and has had plenty of interested parties vying for his signature, with the Dragons reportedly offering a long term deal, and his management also in talks with the Roosters to continue on.

The third option of playing in Japan in 2025 could see Manu pick up a $1.5 million paycheck, more than he could earn at the Roosters. However, should he be cleared to return to the Roosters for the second half of the NRL season, he could end up with a massive $2 million pay day for the year. 

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Joseph Manu. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Many have called such a planned season for Manu as an ‘SBW-like move’, and the man himself thinks the Roosters star will thrive there.

“When you’re an elite player like Joey is, that’s what you can do,” Williams replied when asked by the Sydney Morning Herald.

“As long as it’s done respectfully, he deserves a chance to see what’s there for himself.

“I’m proud of him for stepping out there and doing his thing. When you have that talent, that talent deserves to be seen.

“[Japanese rugby has] a fast tempo and great skills. It’s like the Samurai movies where they train from dusk until dawn.

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“These lads are at training two hours early working on their skills and finer details of the game to make up for the smaller size and different physicality.

“The beauty of Japanese rugby, and it shocked me, is how fast the game is.”

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