The Welsh Rugby Union has made two new high level appointments to boost its performance department and coach development provision.
Ben Ryan, the Sevens specialist coach who helped Fiji lift their first Olympic gold medal in the 2016 tournament in Rio who is currently working with the NBA in the USA, joins Welsh Rugby in a consultancy role and is available immediately.
Peter Drewett has been appointed as the new WRU performance coach manager and will join Welsh Rugby from a similar position with the Hong Kong Rugby Union on March 1.
Former England Sevens player Ryan guided Fiji to a record nine sevens tournament titles, including Olympic gold, after leaving his position as England Sevens coach to take charge of the South Sea Islanders in 2013.
The 45-year-old has a wide-ranging remit to support, advise the programs and preparation planning of WRU national Age Grade sides and his expertise will be made available to all teams outside of the national squad – which includes the national U20s, national U18s, Women’s national programmes and both men and women’s sevens.
Drewett, 58, takes over the position vacated by Geraint John – who was himself appointed to the WRU executive board as a ‘head of rugby performance’ last year – and will support the current coach education department with specific responsibilities to improve and support coaching in Wales at the performance level.
He is a former Sports Science lecturer at Exeter University who has worked on 230 international matches across 10 World Championship campaigns with England and Hong Kong to date – he was at the Rugby Football Union between 1992-2006 working in player development and managing the U21s, U19s, schools and youth sides at different stages, before becoming Exeter Chiefs director of rugby and head coach until 2009.
During his time with the Chiefs he oversaw a period of transition in which they became a professional club and reached the EDF Cup Final twice, before working in a range of high profile consultancy roles, coaching Plymouth Albion in 2012 and then being appointed as head of elite coach development for HKRU in 2014.
He will mainly manage and support the delivery of the WRU coaching courses at level 3 and 4 and ensure coaches are right up to speed with new developments with a continuous programme of refresher courses to run alongside official qualifications – specifically covering Premiership, Regional Age Grade and national sevens, national women and national Age Grade coaching.
“Ben Ryan’s appointment is a real coup for Welsh Rugby,” said John. “He is a much sought after high performance coach, who has been courted around the globe since his significant successes with the Fijian national Sevens side.
“We are particularly interested in benefitting from the meticulous attention to detail and major planning experience which Ben showed to maximum effect during the Olympics in Rio and we want him to cover the whole of our performance division from U20s, U18s to the Women’s game and, of course, his specific experience in Sevens is a huge bonus.
“Ben will also be on hand to enhance our Coach Development program where he will support our coaches through his knowledge and experience of the world game. This will be done through a series of club visits and coach development sessions.
“Peter comes on board as a full time member of staff in March and his role is very much about safeguarding the future of the game in Wales and making sure we have the very best systems in place to not only produce the best coaches, but to ensure the continued progression of those coaches.
“Our aim is to have the best coaching provision in the global game in Wales, we want to attract the best talent but also produce home grown coaches that are the envy of the rugby watching world and Peter, with the necessary help and support, is just the man for the job.”
WRU CEO Martyn Phillips said: “We have a clear strategy in Welsh Rugby, with coaching and coach development a central priority at all levels of the game.
“This strategy has been evident with our approach to the national squad in terms of the new appointments we have recently made for the Six Nations [Alex King] and in taking three key coaching figures from the Regional game (Danny Wilson, Matt Sherratt and Stephen Jones) on our tour this June, with Robin McBryde also stepping up to take charge of that campaign as head coach.
“We have been clear in our belief that Warren Gatland and, more recently, Rob Howley will benefit from their British and Irish Lions experiences in New Zealand and return to Wales with further developed coaching credentials after the summer.
“These two announcements today are a further example of our continued commitment to ensuring Welsh Rugby creates the finest breeding ground for coaching in the world game.
“We want attract the very best rugby minds to Wales as well as cultivate home grown coaches who are the envy of the rugby watching world and we have taken significant steps towards achieving those aims with the two appointments announced today.
“Ben brings a wealth of experience and expertise to strengthen our performance department and his appointment will be of benefit to both players and coaches throughout Welsh rugby.
“He will primarily be engaged in helping teams with their strategic planning, but his contacts around the world game will also be invaluable as we bid to increase exposure and development for Welsh coaches throughout rugby and other sports in the immediate future.
“In Peter we are appointing a coach development manager who comes highly recommended and who has significant relevant experience of the role on a world-wide scale.”
Ryan, added: “I’m delighted to be joining the WRU in what is an incredibly exciting role and I am really looking forward to all that lies ahead.”
Drewett added: “Helping Welsh Rugby fine tune and further improve its production line of Welsh coaches is an exciting challenge.
“There is a wide array of existing coaching talent to be nurtured and we will also be reviewing the systems and structures in place, designed to safeguard and expand the future of coaching in Wales.”