New WRU chief executive Abi Tierney with Nigel Walker, left, and Richard Collier-Keywood
New WRU chief executive Abi Tierney with Nigel Walker, left, and Richard Collier-Keywood

MSs have scrutinised representatives of the WRU following allegations of bullying, sexism and sexual harassment in Welsh rugby.

Delyth Jewell, who chairs the Senedd’s culture committee, raised concerns about repeated warnings of a looming crisis being missed.

Nigel Walker, the WRU’s executive director of rugby, recognised that the union failed to join the dots between individual incidents.

He told the committee: “I think some of our policies and processes were not fit for purpose….

“When you have a television programme which lays bare the ills of an organisation, all in 30 minutes, you’d be rather foolish not to take heed.”

Llyr Gruffydd, the Plaid Cymru MS for North Wales, asked the witnesses to characterise the atmosphere among staff working at the WRU today.

Abi Tierney, who has only been in post as chief executive for 13 days, told MSs that staff are optimistic that the review will allow the WRU to draw a line under the scandal.

South Wales East MS Delyth Jewell speaking in the Senedd
South Wales East MS Delyth Jewell


“There is a real sense of hope and looking forward,” she said. “But that is balanced with a real sense of tiredness – they went through a lot last year.”

Ms Tierney said she has been impressed by people’s commitment, passion, sense of purpose and a real determination to turn it around.

Tom Giffard, for the Conservatives, asked about the relationship with the Welsh Government.

Conservative MS Tom Giffard
Conservative MS Tom Giffard

Richard Collier-Keywood, who was appointed as chair six months ago, said the WRU met Dawn Bowden, the deputy minister for sport, last week.

Pressed about an £18m Covid recovery loan, he said the WRU is in talks with Welsh ministers and NatWest about renegotiating the terms.

He explained that the initial total interest rate was 2.75% but it has since risen to 8.5%, warning that it is having a severe impact on the regions.

Mr Collier-Keywood said the Welsh Government loan takes £2m a year – including £1m of interest – out of the regions every year.

Asked whether the number of regions could reduce if no breathing space is forthcoming, he told MSs that the WRU will have to move to an as-yet-undefined plan B.

He said moving to fewer regions would not be a magic bullet as they would inherit the debt.


Carolyn Thomas, the Labour MS for North Wales, asked which of the independent review’s 36 recommendations have been implemented so far.

Labour MS Carolyn Thomas
Labour MS Carolyn Thomas

Mr Collier-Keywood told the meeting on Wednesday January 24 that the WRU has a new 12-strong board committed to culture change.

He highlighted the appointment of Dame Anne Rafferty as chair of an oversight group after she led the independent review.

Mr Collier-Keywood also raised the importance of appointing Jamie Roberts and Amanda Bennett, two former Wales internationals, to the board.

Mr Collier-Keywood said the new governance arrangements will be reviewed in 2025 and the WRU will report on progress against the recommendations every quarter.

He told MSs that most of the recommendations will be met by the end of the calendar year.

Pressed by Hefin David about changes in the women’s game, Mr Walker said more than 30 professional contracts have been issued to the senior team for the first time.

Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David speaking in the Senedd
Caerphilly’s Labour Senedd Member Hefin David

The former track and field athlete told the Labour MS for Caerphilly that there is little difference between the investment in the girls’ and boys’ junior game.

However, he recognised a disparity in higher age groups and a gulf in the senior game, saying the WRU is committed to closing those gaps over the longer term.


Labour’s Mike Hedges, who represents Swansea East, asked how community clubs will benefit from changes afoot at the WRU.

Mr Collier-Keywood said he attended Caerphilly vs Porthcawl on the weekend and he was struck by the dedication of a relatively small band of volunteers running the clubs.

He told the committee: “Ultimately – if we do our jobs correctly at the WRU, there will be more money flowing into community rugby … that is clearly one of our two main focuses.”

Mr Walker warned that rugby unions across the world are struggling to maintain the number of male players although the women’s game continues to grow.

“We have got to come up with a strategy which enables clubs to go from strength to strength,” said the former Wales wing. “If you ask me for the answer now, I couldn’t give it to you but we need to review every aspect of what we do.”