James Evans has shed light on the importance of grass-roots rugby in Wales.
During a Senedd speech, the Brecon and Radnorshire MS delved into the heart and soul of Welsh rugby, emphasising the vital role that grass-roots initiatives play in shaping the sport's foundation.
With a personal connection to the game, having played for Gwernyfed RFC and even the Senedd rugby team, he underlined the significance of grass-roots rugby in fostering a love for the game from a young age.
Highlighting the impact of grass-roots rugby on Welsh development, Mr Evans acknowledged the numerous clubs, schools, and communities nurturing talent, instilling values, and creating a sense of belonging beyond the rugby field. He shared personal experiences, noting that some of his best friendships were forged on the rugby field, creating lasting connections that extend beyond match days.
The MS also emphasised the role of grass-roots rugby in fuelling dreams of donning the iconic red jersey, citing examples of players from his constituency who progressed from local clubs to the national team. Notable figures include Mark Jones, Dan Lydiate, and Welsh captain Jac Morgan.
While celebrating the economic impact of grass-roots rugby on local businesses and communities, Evans acknowledged the challenges faced by these clubs. Limited resources and a shortage of senior players pose obstacles to growth, requiring collective efforts to ensure the resilience of Welsh rugby foundations.
Mr Evans said that grass-roots rugby is not just about the game itself but about “building character, fostering community and nurturing dreams” - as well as instilling values that transcend the rugby field.
Following the debate, Mr Evans said: “Wales, a nation of rich rugby history, passionately embraces the game at the grass-roots level, shaping character, fostering community, and nurturing dreams in clubs that serve as crucibles for aspiring talents, instilling values of hard work, discipline, and camaraderie.
“Last year, a surge of over 50,000 young players in Wales attests to the dedicated efforts of coaches, volunteers, and parents investing in the next generation of Welsh rugby stars.
“I’m passionate about grassroots rugby for its profound impact on my own mental and physical well-being as well as others. Studies show that regular sports activity correlates with improved general health and increased happiness.
“Rugby plays a pivotal role in promoting inclusivity and diversity, welcoming individuals from diverse backgrounds. It fosters unity and a shared purpose, including LGBT-inclusive and disability-specific teams, making rugby a sport for everyone.
“Beyond community unification, grass-roots rugby fuels local economies, supporting businesses. However, challenges like limited resources and a shortage of senior players necessitate a collective effort from enthusiasts, governing bodies, and sponsors to fortify the foundational pillars of Welsh rugby.”