Lewsey targets end to player drain
August 31, 2013
WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis and new WRU head of rugby Josh Lewsey © WRU
New Welsh Rugby Union recruit Josh Lewsey is determined to help heal the rifts that have threatened the future of the game in Wales.
The former England international was unveiled as the WRU's new head of rugby on Friday and will take on responsibility for the operational and strategic management of the whole game in Wales, from community to elite level outside Warren Gatland's senior international squad, next month.
He joins the union at a crucial time for Welsh rugby with the country's cash-strapped sides struggling to retain the services of their leading players and the regions having only recently agreed a truce with the governing body. Lewsey is wary of the enormity of his role but is excited by the challenge.
"There's a huge amount of initiatives going on here and it's exciting," he told the Western Mail. "But there's also big strategic decisions to be made going on over the next few years for the long-term well being in the game. I spoke to a few friends down here who are not involved in the WRU and the term that kept coming up was guardianship in terms of preserving that long-term platform."
Lewsey will sit on the Professional Regional Game Board tasked with managing the professional game in Wales and will hope to stem the player drain with a host of big names having turned their back on the Welsh game in favour of lucrative moves to France and England.
"There's always challenges, whether it's economic downturns or other factors," said Lewsey. "People need players who they can touch and the challenge is how to keep that talent in the country and how do you maintain that?
"If all your experience of watching rugby is at a game with 75,000 people in the stadium, you don't necessarily have the tangible traction to the players. That personal aspect makes our game unique."
Lewsey is also hoping to lay the foundation for domestic success to rival that of the national side but is aware there is no quick fix. "We have to get it right with the regions," he said. A lot has been made of the regional game but I think there's been some very positive meetings taking place recently.
"I think the PRGB was set up to try and rectify some of those challenges but, by all accounts, those initiatives are having a massive tangible effect. That doesn't mean it's going to be fixed overnight, but they are being addressed. I've got a lot of reading material to get through first. I've spent a lot of time listening to people's thoughts, what the challenges are and trying to understand as best as possible.
"Inevitably, when you've got challenges like that there are no simple fixes. It's a matter of solving them over time. Over the next month or two I want to spend some time getting to understand the situation in more detail."
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