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WRU introduces reality television career training
The East Terrace
December 21, 2012
Wales centre Gavin Henson is unveiled as a contestant on <i>Strictly Come Dancing</i>, BBC Television Centre, London, England, September 8, 2010
Gavin Henson's reality television exploits will now aid a new WRU venture © Getty Images
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Teams: Wales

The Welsh Rugby Union has responded to the crisis currently engulfing the game in the principality by offering new employment packages to Welsh based players and completely overhauling its junior, youth and academy guidelines.

Faced with a stream of top players leaving Wales to play in England and France, as well as a barrage of embarrassing results at both international and domestic level, the WRU has been forced to act to stop the rot from setting in permanently. At a packed press conference in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the WRU unveiled its 'Reality Rugby Pathway Project' (RRPP).

The RRPP programme will seek to ensure that Wales' top players have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the lucrative world of reality television once they retire from the game.

Inspired by the success of Welsh stars Gavin Henson (Strictly Come Dancing/71 Degrees North) and Gareth Thomas (Celebrity Big Brother/Dancing on Ice), the WRU is looking to ensure as many players as possible are able to pursue reality television careers when they are no longer able to make a living from sport. The RRPP will offer all professional players in Wales individually tailored training programmes to best prepare them for a career in reality television.

"We simply don't have the money in Wales to compete with the glamorous French clubs like Toulon and Toulouse," said Mike Williams, the man the WRU has appointed as director of the RRPP. "If we want to keep Welsh players playing in Wales we need to offer something more than just financial inducements. We need to offer them long term options.

"We need to make sure that when they hang up the playing boots they have career options in front of them. In recent years we have a proud tradition of Welsh players bringing pride to the nation by representing us on the screens of commercial television and on the pages of classy publications like Heat and Hello! magazine. We want to ensure this continues and offer as many of our players a chance for fortune and glory as is possible."

The WRU revealed that the RRPP will be an intensive three year course that upon completion will see players given a qualification equivalent to that of a bachelor's degree from a university.

"Traditionally Wales is known as the land of song," added Williams. "But why not be the land of song and dance? Gavin and Gareth have been trailblazers in this regard and we would be negligent not to build upon the trail they have blazed. With Welsh reality television taking a recent boost from the Valleys documentary on that popular youth music television channel, the WRU simply had to make the most of the current climate. We equip our players with the tools they need to succeed. "

The RRPP course will include, but not be limited to, the following modules:

  • Paparazzi avoidance training
  • Paparazzi baiting training
  • How to leave your dignity at the front door when you leave home
  • The history of Welsh rugby on mainstream television: From Glen Webbe to Gareth Thomas
  • The contribution of Bridgend RFC to mainstream television entertainment: From Glen Webbe to Gareth Thomas
  • 'Sing, O Muse…' - The impact of Charlotte Church upon the perception of Welsh rugby and Welsh culture
  • How to dig up the family dirt to maximise publicity and media opportunities
  • Striking a balance: how to be Welsh enough to be loved by the London press, but not so Welsh as to alienate them
  • Why wearing ridiculous dance costumes on national television is worth it

Whilst the introduction of such a comprehensive training programme for the elite game is being welcomed in most quarters in Wales, the accompanying decision to implement similar (if limited) programmes at all levels of the game down to mini rugby is proving to be more controversial.

"We will be asking all coaches who work with children to incorporate dance sessions at the end of any session," said Williams. "We recommend about fifteen minutes of dancing per week. We would also want some kind of ice skating tutoring put in place, where funds allow. We can't waste this opportunity to inspire a nation. We must not leave the youth of our country behind."

However, traditionalists are furious that the game they love seems to be focusing more on marketing and publicity than core rugby skills.

Meanwhile, troubled Welsh region the Cardiff Blues, who are struggling on and off the field, are rumoured to be in talks to be making a reality show about their escapades. However, television producers are apparently concerned that the club is in such disarray the show would be dismissed by casual viewers as slapstick, fictional comedy.

"There is no way people would believe it was true," said the head of programming at television production company ReelVision. "There is only so much the public can swallow."

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