Welsh rugby establishes new professional body

LONDON Wed Dec 5, 2012 12:07am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the four regions have moved to confront the major issues facing the sport in the country by establishing a new body to strengthen the professional game.

It is hoped the Professional Regional Game Board (PRGB), which will include representatives of the WRU, Newport Gwent Dragons, Cardiff Blues, Scarlets and Ospreys, can work to improve the situation at the elite level in Wales both on and off the field.

Among issues to be addressed include the continuation of a top-level player exodus, with midfielder Jamie Roberts the latest in a long line of big names to quit the domestic game.

Seven successive test defeats in 2012 aside, Wales have enjoyed success on the international stage in recent years.

Three times in eight years they have won the Six Nations grand slam and they were semi-finalists at the 2011 World Cup.

The WRU has also excelled with a record turnover of 63 million pounds ($101.47 million) recently announced.

But a recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers into the sport in Wales painted a dark picture with the current system of four regional teams deemed "financially unsustainable".

Poor management of those teams and the country's history of political infighting is said to be hindering progress.

"The formation of the new Professional Regional Game Board is a landmark moment in the history of Welsh rugby," WRU chief executive Roger Lewis said in a statement.

"By working together, we will create a unity of purpose for Welsh professional rugby which will be underpinned by collective management, enhanced with greater central resources and structured to ensure effective decision-making."

The PRGB is expected to hold its first meeting later this month.

($1 = 0.6209 British pounds)

(Writing by Tom Bartlett, editing by Ed Osmond)

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