The Principality Premiership kicks off this weekend, with a bright future ahead for the 14 club competition.
Principality Building Society has renewed its title sponsorship of the premier club competition in Wales in a three year deal, while Welsh language broadcaster S4C has announced it will cover up to 10 live Premiership matches this season (2008/09), giving the top club competition in Wales increased profile and value.
These announcements follow changes to the Premiership rules which are set to raise the standard of rugby in the Principality Premiership and create a more competitive environment for the development of future regional and international players.
The new rules include a regulation to allow Premiership sides to utilise an unlimited number of regional and regional academy players not involved in regional games.
The Principality Building Society Premiership kicks off on (Saturday) September 6 with four times champions Neath facing a fierce battle from a host of contenders wishing to take the top spot.
WRU Group Chief Executive Roger Lewis said, "I am delighted to confirm Principality Building Society's continued support of the Premiership for the next three years. The Premiership has gone from strength to strength since Principality joined us three years ago both on and off the field and the next three years promise to be even more exciting.
"There is a genuine new-look to the top flight of our club game with the reforms of the regulations promising to forge even stronger and more meaningful bonds between the regions and their feeder Premiership clubs, a partnership that is vital to the nurturing and development of the latent talent with which we are blessed.
"The changes mean the coming Principality Premiership season has all the potential to significantly raise the bar and set new highs of quality, intensity, stature and excitement and, in the process, play an increasingly prominent role in the long term health of the national game.
"It is fantastic news for the Premiership that S4C have recognised the value of the Principality Premiership and decided to increase their level of coverage at this level. Television is a vital tool in the promotion of our game and we are grateful to both S4C and our other broadcast partners BBC Wales for their continued support."
Graeme Yorston, Chief Operating Officer at Principality Building Society, said: "The Premiership is a great fit for us. We have had a long association with rugby in Wales and we are delighted to work in partnership with the WRU once again. We believe that Welsh rugby should be celebrated and as such we are pleased to also be the broadcast sponsors of the Principality Premiership on S4C, helping to raise the profile and appetite for our game throughout the country.
"The Premiership is pivotal in the Welsh rugby triangle - developing talented, young players and helping them progress to the regional sides and the Welsh team. It's great that we can support the WRU in ensuring that the Principality Building Society Premiership is a highly competitive and progressive division.
"We look forward to the next three years with excited anticipation. The Premiership is a vital stepping stone in helping players get from the village playing field to the professional game and I am sure we will be in for another top quality Principality Building Society Premiership season starting this weekend."
Geraint Rowlands, S4C's Sports Content Editor said: "There is a great deal of passionate support for the clubs in the Principality Premiership and we are delighted to be able to show some of the top matches involving clubs that have such a rich tradition. The coverage completes our comprehensive line up of Welsh rugby action that includes the Magners League, Heineken Cup, SWALEC Cup and Invesco Perpetual Autumn Series and RBS Six Nations matches."
Byron Mugford, representative of the Premier Division, said:
"The Premiership clubs wish to thank the Principality Building Society for their continued support of the Premier Division. The Premier Division is very competitive and its role in developing the rugby stars of the future has been given an additional boost by this sponsorship announcement.
"The additional match exposure provided by S4C will also help to enhance the profile of the Premiership, enabling Welsh rugby followers to better appreciate the high quality of rugby being played and recognise the Welsh Internationals of the future."
S4C televised matches in 2008 (2009 televised matches tbc)
Saturday October 4th Ebbw Vale v Newport 17.30
Saturday October 11th Neath v Newport 17.30
Saturday October 18th Llanelli v Pontypridd 17.30
Saturday November 1st Pontypool v Pontypridd 17.30
Saturday December 13th Aberavon v Swansea 17.30
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.