...By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
Welsh Rugby Union Warned about Changes to Dewar Shield
The Dewar Shield is a prestigious annual under-15s rugby competition that has been played in Wales since 1904.
Many players have used the tournament as a springboard for successful professional careers.
However, the future of the Dewar Shield is now uncertain due to proposals to change it into an under-16s competition.
The plan is to replace the Dewar Shield with a festival-style competition at U16 level and incorporate the former into the regional pathway.
Critics of the proposal have voiced their concerns.
Former Welsh fly-half Lee Jarvis criticised the proposed changes on Twitter.
Chris Jones, senior rugby development officer for Rhondda Schools, expressed his fears for the future of Welsh rugby, outlining why a shift to U16s level would not work.
Jones argued that the Dewar Shield is respected worldwide and has been a tried and tested development programme for over 120 years.
Many great players, including Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts, Leigh Halfpenny, and Dan Biggar, have played in the competition.
Jones believes that the problems in Welsh rugby lie beyond the Dewar Shield age-group, such as the exodus of Welsh players to England and the lack of intensity in the U16s regional programme.
The proposal suggests that the Dewar Shield for U16s would run between September and December, while U15s would be training without meaningful games in the same period.
Jones also expressed concerns that players would not be allowed to play senior schools rugby, effectively ending senior schools rugby in Wales for most schools.
A phase-based approach is proposed to target different age-groups to suit development, but Jones believes that the lack of competitive rugby within the first bracket goes against human nature.
He said that kids want to be involved in competition and need aspiration.
Jones suggests that the Dewar Shield at U15 level was a flagship of junior development in Wales and recommends replicating what is happening at the Dewar Shield at U16s instead of changing it.
Jones is concerned that tinkering with the competition could put the future of Welsh rugby at stake.