Sam Warburton: WRU must invest in elite game not grassroots, says ex-Wales captain

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Former Wales captain Sam Warburton says the Welsh Rugby Union should not prioritise spending on grassroots to solve the problems of Welsh rugby.

Instead the ex-British and Irish Lions captain says the solution lies in investment in the professional game.

Wales were winless in the 2024 Six Nations and their four regions have struggled in recent years.

“I just think you’ve got to invest more in the pro game and then the interest will naturally come,” said Warburton.

The WRU is currently undertaking a structural review of the game in Wales which chief executive Abi Tierney said would “not only cover the elite men’s and women’s game” but would be “an all-encompassing strategy that covers the community and regional game”.

Tierney, who took up her role in January, has promised the results will be announced by June.

There have been concerns over a fall in the number of players and teams at grassroots level, but Warburton does not believe that should be the WRU’s financial priority.

“A lot of people won’t like this but I just think it’s true,” he told the BBC’s Rugby Union Daily podcast.

“It’s the easy thing to say – they just moan about the fact there’s grassroots clubs who can’t put kids out and can’t make teams – ‘oh the WRU need to invest more in grassroots’. I completely disagree.

“Let’s go Premier League football, if you look at them as businesses. If you said to Arsenal, where is the majority of your budget spent, it’s on the first team. If you actually looked at their income it’s on the first team. And yes of course you do community, of course you support grassroots.

“Everyone back home just goes ‘oh we need more grassroots, we need to increase the pyramid’. No, you increase the pyramid by having something aspirational like kids want to chase.

“Having a successful national team, having successful regions, will generate much more interest in the game. So you need to invest money into your national team, into your regions.”

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