THE Welsh Rugby Union has launched a Disability Rugby Strategy which aims to grow, develop and enhance opportunities for all communities to be an integral part of the national game.
This means broadening rugby’s appeal to ensure it is inclusive and engaging to all ages, genders, abilities and communities, removing any current and future barriers to participation.
The WRU aims to provide ‘positive rugby experiences’ for all, whilst contributing to improved health and well-being throughout Wales.
- Increased inclusive rugby opportunities for people with disabilities including Mixed Ability Rugby, Deaf Rugby, Wheelchair Rugby
- Ensuring the community game is inclusive for disabled people
- Ensure coaches, referees, WRU staff and wider rugby family are supported and upskilled to help them adopt a more inclusive approach
A key element of the strategy is the appointment of inspirational coach Darren Carew as Operational Lead for Disability Rugby.
Darren, who received life-changing leg and brain injuries when his armoured vehicle was hit by an IED in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, has already worked extensively as a WRU community coach around Wales. He has run a series of pilot WRU disability rugby programmes for children with special educational needs in schools, some of which have already led to the establishment of sustainable disability rugby ‘clubs’ outside school, such as DTagRugby in the Dragons region.
Now, as a full-time employee, he will be able to drive the implementation of the strategy which will include a widespread training programme in order that coaches, referees, hub officers and WRU staff around Wales are confident and inclusive in their approach within their everyday work in schools, clubs and other environments.
Darren will work with clubs, Disability Sport Wales and other partners to ensure there are opportunities for everyone in Wales to take part in some form of rugby. This includes increased opportunities to play Mixed Ability rugby, a form of the game which has brought huge benefits to individuals and their communities through teams such as the Llanelli Warriors and the Swansea Gladiators, along with the newly established Cardiff Chiefs.
There is also a commitment to provide additional support for other disability rugby groups such as Deaf Rugby and Wheelchair Rugby.
WRU Head of Rugby Participation Ryan Jones said, “We know that participation in rugby boosts well-being, social integration and physical health. We want to give everyone the chance to benefit from being part of the rugby family and that means increasing the amount of quality disability rugby opportunities on offer but also helping to change perceptions so that our rugby communities are more inclusive to disabled people. We want to ensure everyone feels truly engaged in our clubs and has a sense of pride in the contribution they make.
“Darren represents the essence of our plan perfectly. He gives everyone he works with true belief in their abilities and what they can achieve, working out a way of adapting the game so that everyone can take part.”
Darren Carew added: “I’m really excited about this opportunity. From my background in the military, I’m used to making a difference and I know I can definitely make a difference in this role to the disabled community in Wales.
“As an injured soldier, adaptive sports gave me back a sense of purpose that I’d lost and coaching means I can pass that feeling on to others which is fantastic.
“Regardless of illness or injury, rugby is engrained in our national psyche, we all want to put on the jersey and be part of the game so to provide that to children and adults in Wales who perhaps haven’t previously had the opportunity is hugely rewarding.”
Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Elis-Thomas added: “Participating in sport and physical activity brings a wide range of benefits to our health, wellbeing and personal development. Providing more accessible and inclusive opportunities to take part is key to ensuring such benefits can be felt by more people across Wales, whatever their circumstances and it was fantastic to be at the launch of the WRU’s Disability Strategy today, which further supports that goal.”