The club announces its intention to withdraw from the Premiership competition for 2023/4 in light of a “unique” rugby season ahead in Welsh Rugby.
Llanelli RFC, with the support and agreement of its committee and the Scarlets Board has voted at its most recent Board Meeting (Weds 22nd March 2023), that it will give notice to the WRU of its intention to withdraw from the expanded 14-team Indigo Premiership competition next season (2023/24) to focus solely on player development in partnership with the Scarlets.
The decision has been made in light of an unprecedented season of rugby ahead in Wales which sees the number of Premiership league fixtures and Cup games increase to 30, coupled with significant pressures on player availability during the Rugby World Cup and once-in-a-generation cost pressures.
The 2023/24 season and its pre-season training programmes in the semi-professional and professional games do not align with competitive fixtures planned to start some seven weeks apart – with the Indigo Premiership starting in early September and the professional game at the end of October 2023.
Llanelli RFC will continue to operate fully and intends to play competitive matches outside of the Premiership calendar as a development team next season, supporting the Scarlets player pathway and true to its heritage, purpose and success in developing future rugby talent from within the region for Scarlets and Wales.
Llanelli RFC will fulfil all five of its remaining Indigo Premiership fixtures this season.
Withdrawal from the Premiership in 2023/24 should not in its view preclude Llanelli RFC from being part of any proposed new development competition in 2024/25, which could come under the remit of Welsh Rugby’s Pro Rugby Board (PRB) and Rugby Management Board (RMB) to underpin the professional game.
The decision has the full backing of the Scarlets Board and its Executive, including Scarlets Head Coach Dwayne Peel, as a unique and unprecedented season of rugby approaches in Wales with increased pressures on player availability in professional squads which will be reduced in size due to international call-ups, tighter playing budgets and season average injury rates of 20%.
Scarlets Heritage Director, Rupert Moon has responsibility on the Scarlets Board for the semi-professional and community game. He played 272 games for Llanelli and the Scarlets between 1990 and 2002. He said: “This may seem to be a bold decision, but it is made with responsibility and common-sense at its heart. For the good of Llanelli RFC and Scarlets, the club must stay true to its purpose and focus on helping develop and support future Scarlets and Wales players next season.
“Llanelli RFC can be stronger and more focused as a result of this decision with a streamlined and structured season focusing solely on player development, training and support with the intention to play some exciting, meaningful and high-profile competitive fixtures outside the Premiership calendar next season.
“The new-look Premiership next season is not a model for player development. The semi-pro and pro rugby seasons don’t align. The pressures of a 30-fixture Premiership season for Llanelli RFC without senior development players being available as they integrate with Scarlets, plus increased financial pressures and player availability issues in a World Cup year means competing next season in the Premiership competition is just not possible. Llanelli RFC simply would not be able to fulfil all its fixtures next season, which would disrupt the competition and stretch its resources too far, detracting from its key purpose to bring young players through.
“We fully appreciate and respect how passionate our supporters and partners are about rugby in this part of the world and with their support, understanding and unity we can stay true to our values as a rugby community, protect our heritage and support our future success in challenging times.”
Jon Daniels, Scarlets Rugby General Manager said: “The decision by Llanelli RFC has our full support. The Scarlets have a proud history of developing home-grown rugby talent, whether that is through our Academy or our three feeder clubs of Llanelli RFC, Llandovery and Carmarthen, who all play a crucial role in giving young players competitive game time and valuable match experience at the right level which helps support future Scarlets success.
“Since 2003, when Llanelli RFC became a semi-professional team we have worked closely together and our joined-up approach to player development and shared philosophy and vision and has seen us produce some of Wales’ and The British and Irish Lions most successful players with the likes of Jonathan Davies, Gareth Davies, Liam Williams, George North, Owen Williams and many others all coming through our rugby pathway.
“Llanelli RFC has been and continues to be a vital part of the development of young talent for the Scarlets. This season alone a group of 18 young players (aged 18 and 19) from our region have been handed debuts with Llanelli and shown great promise. This is something we should be excited about and support. The exposure and experience playing for Llanelli RFC is of huge value to our region now and in the future.”
Gareth Jenkins, who has been part of the fabric of Welsh rugby as a player, coach and administrator for more than five decades has been working within the Scarlets region to identify young talent. As Scarlets Heritage Director, he added: “Welsh Rugby needs to place a sharp focus on developing young players. We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. The role of Llanelli RFC continues to be vital in helping develop and nurture the next generation of Scarlets players.
“Next season brings a set of unique rugby challenges in terms of season structure, player availability and we know well the impact of injuries and suspensions on performance, so to have Llanelli RFC working cohesively alongside the Scarlets to help support their season and future player development is really vital.”
The WRU has been informed of Llanelli RFC’s intention. Players and backroom staff at Llanelli RFC have been informed in a briefing and discussion with Scarlets Board members, Llanelli coaches Phil John, Paul Fisher and Scarlets Pathway Manager Kevin George.
Llanelli RFC has a strong track record of developing players and staff for Scarlets and Wales with proven success since 2003 when it became a semi-professional club. Llanelli RFC has supported the Scarlets bringing through their development players from 18 upwards, whilst also recruiting late developers in rugby who have come through to be Scarlets and international players. (See details below)
LLANELLI RFC – PLAYER DEVELOPMENT SUCCESS
Later entry players (ie non Academy)
- Morgan Stoddart – Pontypridd – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Ben Morgan – Cardiff Blues U20 – Llanelli – Gloucester- England
- Liam Williams – Waunarlwydd – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales – British & Irish Lions
- Aaron Shingler – Hendy – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Owen Williams – Ystradgynlais – Llanelli – Scarlets – Gloucester – Wales
Academy players played for Llanelli at 18 years old
- Jonathan Davies – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales – British Lions
- Samson Lee – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- George North – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Gareth Davies – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Dan Davis – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Josh Macleod – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
- Ryan Conbeer – Llanelli – Scarlets – Wales
LLANELLI RFC youth of today: Llanelli RFC debutant players aged 18/19 in 2022/23 season
Jac Davies, Rhys Harris, Tal Rees, Luca Giannini, Tom Pritchard, Tomos Davies, Tom Zoogah, Ioan Lewis, Archie Hughes, Iestyn Gwilliam, Caleb Salmon, Harri Williams, Lewis Morgan, Will Couch, Elli Evans, Harry Fuller, Isaac Young, Lucca Setaro.