A new WRU scheme will ensure careers continue after rugby for Wales' stars
The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has launched a Professional Player Development Programme to support the future aspirations of all professional Welsh rugby players upon retirement from the game.
We want to enable lifelong success as opposed to just playing success. We are trying to offer the players a 40- year career, 15 of which will be playing rugby and the other 25 doing something else.
The initiative will provide a pipeline of talented leaders into Welsh industry as well helping to increase retention of players within Wales during their playing careers.
The programme consists of five elements including mentoring - provided by senior leaders from business and sport - psychometric testing to help determine future job compatibility and performance, support to obtain academic qualifications, work placements, and financial management and advice.
Welsh national age grade sides, women and all regional professional players will be covered by the scheme in future and, resource permitting, the WRU is also currently looking to support recently returned Welsh players where possible.
"We have been clear about our desire to retain talented players in Wales and this programme is part of our commitment to that goal," said WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips.
"A rugby player's career is relatively short compared to that of somebody in more traditional employment and we feel we have a duty of care to ensure a successful playing career is followed by a successful career post retirement from the game."
The WRU has agreements in place with the majority of Welsh universities, as well as other further education establishments, to provide access to education and training on a part time basis as part of the programme and the scheme will eventually extend down to regional players, women and into the academies.
Many senior leaders from the worlds of business and sport have already signed up to the mentoring part of the programme, with the Union appealing for further interested parties in Wales to get in touch and join the scheme.
"We went right to the top and asked the Universities if we could send players their way, asked that they be flexible about the players' time when they are still playing, and for them to help facilitate the whole process - we were warmly received," said Phillips.
"There are up to 300 careers available, everything from the traditional trades like bricklaying and plumbing to those that require academic qualifications like accountancy, law and medicine and we are appealing for new mentors from Welsh business to come forward.
"We see our players demonstrate courage, integrity, dedication and team work week-in-week out on the pitch.
"These are characteristics which are valuable in any modern business environment and I am confident that any player who embarks on the programme will be a huge asset to any organisation.
"With the level of drive the players show, their leadership and resilience as international sportsmen, they are very likely to be successful in their careers.
"We want to enable lifelong success as opposed to just playing success. We are trying to offer the players a 40- year career, 15 of which will be playing rugby and the other 25 doing something else."
The Welsh senior international squad were told of the plans - warmly welcomed by Warren Gatland and Sam Warburton, the coach and captain - at a recent meeting.
Phillips has also spoken to many ex-Welsh Internationals who have helped reinforce the need for such an initiative.
And the WRU has set up a new department and solid structures to lead players into new careers of all sorts when their active playing careers end.
"Rugby should not mean that you have a decent career then we throw you to the wolves," he added.
"We are trying to take away the pressure on players and their families when they are trying to earn it all when still playing.
"We are going to be working on the next thing in which they can be successful, the next thing that gives them a buzz."
Wales and Ospreys back row James King, who came through the North Wales age grade system, nominated North Wales Regional Community Rugby Manager Marc Roberts, in the WRU's 'Diolch' initiative where squad players thanked those who played a part in their rise to the top.
Beating Merthyr has boosted Carmarthen Quins hopes of reaching a top eight spot in the Principality Premiership. Quins captain Haydn Pugh is delighted with his team's progress and is determined that everyone from the Under 6s through to the senior team, enjoys the ride.
When the Wales squad were asked to nominate individuals who played a big part in their early playing days, Wales and Dragons full back and wing Hallam Amos thought of his former Monmouth School rugby coach John Bevan.
Sam Cross and Luke Treharne have been named as co-captains of the Wales Sevens side as head coach Gareth Williams names his 12-man squad to play in the first leg of the HSBC World Series in Dubai next weekend.
Bedwas head coach Steve Law and players Nicky Griffiths and Alun Rees extol the virtues of the close knit club as they prepare to host third place RGC 1404 - who are one place head of them on the Principality Premiership points table - on Saturday.
Many of the Wales squad have said Diolch (thank you) to someone who played an important part in their early playing days by nominating them to be invited to the Wales v South Africa match. One person, Gowerton Comprehensive geography teacher Mr Dean Mason was nominated by two of his former pupils, Dan Biggar and Sam Davies.
The second WRU disability rugby pilot has been delivered, this time in Caerphilly schools, culminating in a festival at the Caerphilly Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach tomorrow. Plans are in place to set up a Disability Rugby Club in Newbridge to provide long-term playing opportunities.
WRU TV: Hear from inside the Wales camp as Neil Jenkins discusses this weekend's clash with South Africa and how the squad are looking to put in a strong performance to round of the 2016 Under Armour Series