Two elite, young rugby players have been selected by a WRU panel to receive Higher Education bursaries in honour of Vernon Pugh and Keith Rowlands, two Welshmen who rose to prominence in the administration of the world game.
North Wales product and Scarlets academy lock Joel Galley and Blackwood-born Dragons academy centre Matthew Pewtner will receive £2,500 per year for the next three years, subject to certain conditions, to help fund their University studies.
The bursaries were set up at the end of last season in memory of former WRU president Keith Rowlands and former WRU chairman Vernon Pugh to help elite young players continue their higher education while developing their rugby skills.
Vernon Pugh was a Cardiff based barrister who was WRU Chairman for three years from 1994 before becoming chairman of the International Rugby Board and playing a hugely influential role in the development of the professional game.
Keith Rowlands won five international caps for Wales and represented the British and Irish Lions in three tests against South Africa. After his playing career he became a rugby administrator and was the first full-time secretary of the IRB before later becoming President of the WRU.
Joel Galley, born in New Zealand but raised in Rhyl is currently entering his second year of a Psychology and Childhood Studies Degree at Swansea University, while Matthew Pewtner has been accepted into the University of Newport to study History.
Galley excelled for Wales U18 two seasons ago and was accepted into the Scarlets academy but last season suffered a serious knee injury requiring two operations. He has fought back to fitness and is set to return to action this term. He has been awarded the Keith Rowlands Bursary.
He said, “Last season was difficult, juggling rehabilitation with my University studies and receiving this bursary has given me a massive boost on both fronts. I can’t wait to get back to playing rugby after a long lay-off, but having experienced a major injury last season, I realise more than ever how important it is to keep your options open and to have something to fall back on so I am really grateful for this financial help. I have to travel back and forth between Llanelli and Swansea most days and good nutrition is also costly, in addition books and added extras.” Galley previously attended Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan in Abergele and Ellesmere College.
Pewtner, recipient of the Vernon Pugh Bursary, was included in the Wales Under 20 squad last season and is hoping to continue with his development within the Dragons region and internationally this year. He has just completed A levels at Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni, Caerphilly County Borough, in History, Biology and PE.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be training with the Dragons during the summer and I hope to make it into the Wales U20 squad again this season and try and break into the Dragons squad through my performances in the Principality Premiership for Cross Keys. I really appreciate the opportunity this Bursary has given me which is to continue with my studies, and I’m honoured to accept the award in the name of Vernon Pugh.”
WRU Player Welfare Manager Alun Davies is charged with ensuring elite young players can continue to pursue educational and vocational avenues while developing as rugby players. He said:
“There are no guarantees within the rugby environment and that’s why these players, and many others want to carry on with their studies and education, alongside their rugby. With the cost of living, fees and all the additional extras that come with Higher Education study, it’s great that this help is available to two young players so that they don’t have to compromise their rugby or educational studies.”
WRU president Dennis Gethin chaired the Bursary panel that chose the recipients. He said:
“With the untimely deaths of Keith Rowlands and Vernon Pugh who were both giants not only in the Welsh game but in world rugby, it’s marvellous to be able to offer these Bursaries in their honour. Rugby can be such a short career, and both these great Welsh rugby men valued the importance of education for rugby players.”
“Many of those who applied were all worthy of the honour but sadly only two could be successful and I’m sure those two young lads will benefit, not only themselves, but Welsh rugby in general.”