WRU Head of Rugby Josh Lewsey opens the new sand training pitch at Fishguard & Goodwick along with Under 11 player Max Jones.
WRU Head of Rugby Josh Lewsey has officially opened Fishguard & Goodwick's pioneering new sand training pitch, part funded by a Welsh Rugby Union facilities grant.
The £105 000 project of which £10,000 came from the WRU, comes on the back of the £1.3million Phoenix Project, completed in 2010 which included a £20,000 grant from the Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust for the construction of new facilities for the club and other sports clubs.
Like many rugby clubs in Wales, Fishguard's pitches are often subject to flooding, causing training and junior matches to be called off so in early 2013, the club decided to look for an alternative solution.
Chairman James Morgans said, "We needed a surface that would enable our teams to undertake in full rugby training all year round and having looked into it and following discussions with Tenby United who also have a sand training pitch, this seemed like a perfect option. With substantial drainage and stone foundations, we are able to use it 24/7 all year around if we wish, and the sand option means the impact is much softer compared to other non-grass pitches.
"We also have new floodlights and as it's fully enclosed, the pitch is secure so we are able to make it available to other local clubs and groups and hire it out for beach parties, birthday parties with bouncy castles etc."
And it's not only coastal clubs around wales who could take up this idea either.
"The sand is a specific, fine sand that is brought in, so any club could do what we've done in theory, especially if their training facilities are often flooded like ours," added Morgans. "And it takes hardly any upkeep."
In addition to the £10 000 from the WRU, Fishguard & Goodwick received £15 000 from Sport Wales, £45 000 from the MoD and various amounts from local organisations such as Fishguard & Goodwick Town Council, Round Table, Rotary, Lions and Inner Wheel. The club also contributed £25 000 towards the project through club fundraising events, raffles, sponsored walks and club savings.
"We have 13 teams ranging from Under 7s to the First XV so the sand pitch will make a huge difference to us as a club. It means we can guarantee training on a safe surface all year round which is vital when you want to grow both on and off the field."
Lewsey added, "What has been achieved at Fishguard & Goodwick shows what can be done at community clubs where there is sufficient drive, energy and ambition.
"Grassroots clubs are the heart of Welsh rugby. They are where children and young people learn to love the national sport and also where traditional rugby values are conveyed to the next generation of players, coaches and supporters.
"It's important our clubs are safe, inviting places which attract players, supporters and volunteers alike and this initiative is a great example of how clubs can help themselves both on and off the field."
The WRU club operations team helps clubs to access WRU grants and loans and can also support clubs in applications for monies from other bodies. For further information, clubs should contact ClubOps@wru.co.uk
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.