Welsh rugby is heading towards a near £12m bonus from the IRB and Rugby World Cup over the next three years.
Having granted the WRU's application for a maximum grant of £400,000 per annum for the next three years towards elite player and community game development, the IRB also announced at their meeting in South Africa last week that the top eight nations will receive a £3m dividend for taking part in the 2007 Rugby World Cup. That bonus figure will come on top of the money the WRU earns from the host nation France through its reciprocal arrangement with them for hosting four games in the tournament and a warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium against Les Blues.
"The IRB dividend, added to the £5-7m we will make from our deal with the French, could see us earn as much as £10m from the 2007 Rugby World Cup," said WRU Chairman David Pickering. "We will also get some preparation money for the tournament and we are very close to agreeing a second warm-up fixture against England. That game would be played at Twickenham after we hosted a similar warm-up match at the Millennium Stadium before the 2003 Rugby World Cup."
The WRU would be able to claim half the proceeds from that fixture, which would be more or less guaranteed to net them another £1m+. Pickering is also in discussion with Argentina about possibly hosting a third game ahead of the 2007 tournament. The IRB Executive Board, of which Pickering is one of ten members recently elected for a three year term, is also considering a formal request from Wales to host an extra Autumn International in 2006 against Australia.
"We already have the very exciting Pacific Islands team set to come to Cardiff for the first time next year to play in November. Canada and New Zealand are also due to play at the Millennium Stadium," explained Pickering. "What I've also asked is to fit in a further fixture, just like we have done with New Zealand this year, against the Wallabies. The deal is more or less done with them and we simply need the IRB to give us the green light to conclude another wonderful Autumn Series for next year.
"The whole issue of November and summer international matches is being addressed by the IRB at present following their announcement that they are investing £30m in developing the game across the world. This is fantastic news for the game as a whole and we want to ensure that Wales, currently ranked five in the IRB World Rankings, remains at the top of what is likely to become and even more competitive tree."
As part of their new, annual financial package from the IRB, which will be worth £750,000 more over the next three years than the previous period, Wales will also be invited to send an A team to compete in an expanded Churchill Cup in the USA or Canada or a new Rainbow Cup in South Africa. The IRB are pledging accommodation and flight support for these tournaments, which will also be open to the A teams from the other Six Nations teams.
"We need to examine these new opportunities very closely. We will be sending a Welsh team to the Commonwealth Games next spring to take part in the sevens tournament in Melbourne and we are planning to re-introduce our national sevens side into four tournaments in the IRB World Sevens Series," said Pickering. "We will be discussing with the both the national and regional coaches the best way to use these new tournaments to develop our top talent without putting too much pressure on them."
Wales is also bidding to host the 2008 IRB U19 Rugby World Championships - a tournament they last hosted in 1999. The IRB also announced last week they will be providing accommodation and flight support to countries to take their teams to these tournaments.
Wales U20 duo Leon Brown and Lloyd Lewis face a busy couple of weeks ahead. Not only will they have a Junior World Championship to take part in, they are both sitting A Level exams during the competition.
Wales U20 face a tough group in the Junior World Championship with France, England and Japan lying in wait but Attack coach Jason Strange and back rower Tom Phillips are looking forward to the campaign ahead.
Angus O'Brien has quickly settled into the Wales Sevens squad after solid performances in Hong Kong and Japan. With two rounds remaining in Glasgow and Twickenham on the World Series, WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie chats to the rising star.
Wales winger Luke Morgan has established himself as one of the deadliest finishers on the Sevens World Series. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie catches up with him on the eve of this weekend's round in Glasgow.
All roads lead to Cardiff on Sunday for the SSE SWALEC Finals Day at the Millennium Stadium. Cambrian Welfare tackle Ystradgynlais in the Bowl final, Ystrad Rhondda play Newcastle Emlyn in the Plate final while defending champions Pontypridd face Bridgend in the Cup final.
WRU Chief Executive Roger Lewis, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism Ken Skates and WRU Chairman Gareth Davies earlier this week launched a new competition in conjunction with the WRU unveiling its archive room.
Welsh players and management joined Deputy Minister for Sport Ken Skates at the Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay earlier this week to reveal the Union's pioneering school-club hub initiative has been so successful the project will now almost double the scale of the original project.
The Scarlets, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys look ahead to Judgement Day III which sees the Blues take on the Ospreys (2.30) and the Dragons tackle the Scarlets (4.45pm) at the Millennium Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Ystradgynlais and Ynysddu played out a titanic struggle at Taffs Well in the SSE SWALEC Bowl semi-final. At the end of the game neither team could be separated after a 15-15 stalemate but Ystradgynlais go through on try count.