The Welsh Rugby Union yesterday handed core Sevens contracts to eight players which will make them available for all eight IRB Sevens World Series tournaments this season.
Under the new Participation Agreement, signed by the WRU and Welsh Regions, up to 10 players can be contracted per season, with additional Regional and club players to be added for each pair of tournaments from an agreed wider squad.
The core squad is made up of a mix of experienced Sevens players and development players, for whom it is hoped the experience of participating in the IRB Sevens World Series this season will be of great benefit.
Joe Lydon, WRU Head of Rugby Performance and Development, said: “Contracting a core squad of players is geared to increase performance and enhance the development of players through continuity of selection for training and competition phases.
“It is important that we build on the success we achieved at the Rugby World Cup Sevens and this is one step towards regularly fulfilling our potential on the IRB circuit.”
Wales Sevens head coach Paul John, who was appointed on a full-time basis as Wales Sevens coach and National Academy skills coach from September, said of the move: “This initiative will radically our preparation for international Sevens tournaments. It will give us a level of consistency of selection that we have never been able to achieve to date.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work to do, nothing’s going to miraculously change overnight, but the core contracts put us on a more even footing with other international Sevens sides whose players are able to concentrate fully on the truncated game.
“We are looking forward to the start of the Sevens season, which begins in early December with the Dubai Sevens. The new agreement means we are able to take part in a training tournament in France in November, playing against France, Scotland and Tunisia which will give the whole squad, and in particular the uncapped players, a chance to get used to Sevens competition before we attempt to tackle a very tough Pool in Dubai which includes current IRB champions South Africa along with Australia, who we failed to beat all last season, and the Arabian Gulf.
“The intensity of the Sevens circuit has stepped up quite considerably in the last year. The breakdown is more vital than ever and as with all aspects of Sevens, one mistake can turn a game on its head. Sevens really hones skill levels both in attack and defence and as one of our key development arms, we hope a number of players will become better XV a side players as a result of this season.
“Winning the Rugby World Cup Sevens gave a number of our squad a chance to take up opportunities within the fifteen a side game, and it also gives us a chance to start afresh in terms of developing a new squad with new leaders and new young players.”
Wales core Sevens players 2009/10:
Jevon Groves (Cross Keys), Darren Daniel (Scarlets), Lloyd Williams (Blues Academy), Craig Hill (Newport), Chris Davies (Aberavon), Nicky Thomas (Swansea), Ifan Evans (Llandovery), Chris Morgan (Aberavon).