Coaches fear for future as rugby loses its appeal
MANY youth rugby clubs in South West Wales say they are struggling to put out teenage sides.
Over the last few weeks the junior sections of several local clubs have approached the Evening Post to make an appeal for new players.
It would appear that despite a new golden age of rugby that rivals the 1970s youngsters are just not pulling on their togs in the same numbers as in years gone by.
Whether the reason is down to the fierce competition from football, a lack of PE in schools or just a general reluctance to take part in sport is unclear.
But there are warnings if the issue is not addressed then the game will be in trouble.
Amanda Nye, who is trying to attract players to Bonymaen's under-14 team said: "I have an older son in the youth team and it was never a problem when he was younger but since the Swans have started doing well they all seem to be playing football. It's a shame because it's our national game.
"I have even phoned the schools to ask if the can help but they appear to be struggling as well."
Gary Maal, junior rugby co-ordinator at Taibach RFC, said: "The big issue is the parents, they are the driving force. If a parent is not interested and is not from a rugby background then the journeys are too far for them to go, and they have to get up early on the weekends for matches.
"Also, children are getting lazy because of technology — whether it's mobile phones or computers."
Adrian Byrne, who as a former Swansea schools rugby coach, and is also involved with Pontardawe's junior section, said: "Generally there are fewer youngsters playing rugby than a few years ago."
Chris Penhale, chairman of Trebanos RFC, said: "We have worked hard on establishing a junior section, but there are teams out there not so lucky.
"We know that we have to be on top of our game because other clubs, who haven't got enough players, are circling.
"Numbers are definitely dwindling, you can see that at senior level with lots of local teams being unable to field second teams."
Mumbles is another club that has worked hard to reverse the trend.
Vice Chairman, Gareth Bennett, says: "The key thing is to focus on community rugby and encourage families to the club - parents join in and volunteer. It's not just playing rugby, it's a social experience."
A spokeswoman for the WRU said that it was waiting for the latest survey results on participation but added that there were more junior players actively involved in rugby clubs now than ever.
However she added: "There has always been a drop in participation in the 14 to 16 age group and we recognise that as a challenge.
"We have launched a scheme called Max the Minis which aims to increase participation in the younger years to try to ensure there are still enough players left to sustain teams as they get older.
"We are also reaching out to children and young people in other ways such as via Scorch, the WRU's new digital mascot which will be used to help young people identify with the game of rugby."