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Wales Online
Wales Online
Ben James

Tonight's rugby news as clubs told future of Welsh rugby in danger and Irish reveal Gatland respect

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Monday, January 30.

Welsh clubs warned future of game is on the line

Welsh Rugby Union interim chief executive Nigel Walker has warned the future of the game in Wales is at stake if changes aren't made.

Allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia have rocked the union in the past week, leading to the resignation of CEO Steve Phillips. The widespread outrage has also led to calls for change throughout the union, with an independent taskforce being set up to look closer at the 'toxic culture'.

However, the union themselves are also trying to revolutionise the governance of the WRU from within, with chair Ieuan Evans saying it was his responsibility to "go out to clubs and drive change" at an Extraordinary General Meeting planned for March. Changes in governance had been sought at the previous Annual General Meeting in October, when the WRU failed in their attempt to give the board an option to appoint an independent figure as the organisation's chair.

Read more: WRU employee who allegedly made 'rape' comment to stay in job pending new investigation

The special resolution required a voting share of 75% from the clubs present, but only managed 65.4% - with some clubs afterwards citing a lack of communication and clarity on the proposal from the union ahead of the meeting. The decision was met with widespread condemnation, with Dragons chair David Buttress calling the failure to get the motion passed "appalling" as he criticised clubs for putting "self interest and personal gain" ahead of the bigger picture.

After the AGM, previous chair Rob Butcher, who had endorsed the proposal, stepped down - with former Wales and Lions wing Evans stepping into the role with the same agenda of getting the ability to appoint an independent chair, that would technically replace him, past the member clubs.

Walker was stark in his warning when asked what would happen if clubs voted down change again.

"You come up for a compelling argument for change because where we are now is not sustainable," he said.

"If we are not prepared to change, the future of Welsh rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union is in danger. I can't put it any more bluntly than that.

"We've accepted we need change and we want to get to that change programme as quickly as possible."

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Irish respect for Gatland

Ireland and Lions star Tadhg Furlong has spoken of his respect for Wales coach Warren Gatland ahead of Saturday's Six Nations opener.

Furlong revealed how different Gatland's approach is to what he is used to with Leinster and Ireland but said he loved working with him for the Lions.

“The game, the week, it’s totally different [under Gatland. You go on the Lions tour and it’s a different way. It’s a different way of going about it," Furlong told the Irish Sun.

“The meetings are very short, keeping lads fresh, a lot more contact in training than we would do in Ireland.

“Double days a lot, he works you very hard, so it’s different.

"I’ve never seen a Welsh training session but they have that element of a spike during the week.

“In Leinster and Ireland, we tend to wrap it up on one session, lace up once.

“I know the Welsh lads have a huge amount of respect for him and he really gets the most out of those Welsh players. They really buy in.

“I loved him because he always picked me!

“He is incredibly clued in. I suppose he was a hooker, so he takes a good interest in the scrums, but a lot of it is just on tactics, getting the motion of it right, framing the week, he does it very, very well.”

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Ireland call up hooker

Uncapped Tom Stewart has joined the Ireland squad as preparations continue for their Guinness Six Nations opener against Wales.

The Ulster hooker comes into the group as additional cover for Ronan Kelleher, who will be monitored after picking up a hamstring injury.

Stewart is a former Ireland Under-20 international and was also involved in the matchday preparations for the Ireland A game against the All Blacks XV in November.

Ireland go into the Six Nations tournament top of the World Rugby rankings and will travel to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff to face Wales on Saturday.

Walker 'hasn't thought about full-time CEO job'

WRU interim CEO Nigel Walker says he has not thought about taking on the role on a full-time basis.

Walker stepped up from his role as performance director on Sunday following the resignation of Steve Phillips. Phillips had previously gone from filling the role at the head of the WRU on a temporary basis to a full-time one, but it's not a move that the former wing has even considered throughout a hectic 48 hours.

"I've genuinely not thought about it," he said. "The last 48 hours have been interesting and I've not had time to even converse with my wife, honestly.

"I was there until 11 o'clock last night on a board call, I was at Scrum V, I was here yesterday afternoon, I came back from Los Angeles on Saturday morning, drove home and I've spent the next five or six hours conversing with Simon (Rimmer, WRU Head of Comms) amongst others,

"I've not had time to think about it but that really isn't my focus, my focus is to do everything that I can to help the Welsh Rugby Union to recover from the position it's in."

Former Wales captain settles case

Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas has settled the legal case filed against him by his former partner who accused him of hiding his HIV status during their relationship.

The former Wales and Lions captain had been sued for £150,000 in damages by Ian Baum, who claimed Mr Thomas had failed to take "reasonable care" before allegedly passing the virus onto him. He was also accused of removing labels from his HIV medication and using controlling and coercive behaviour to stop his HIV status from being disclosed. Details from the court papers are here.

Mr Thomas - known to most rugby fans as Alfie - had strongly denied the accusations that he had deliberately concealed his HIV status from Mr Baum, but admitted the the subject was not initially brought up during their relationship and he was never asked, while he also did not believe he could transmit the virus to others.

The case was due to be heard in the High Court later this year, but the former Wales star confirmed on Monday that the case had been settled, in what he described as a "hugely positive outcome". Mr Thomas said he had made a Part 36 offer to settle the dispute by paying £75,000 plus costs, just a fraction of what he would have to pay to defend himself in court.

Confirming the news on Twitter, he wrote: "I'm making this announcement first before the tabloids take my truth. I am delighted to say that the legal case against me has been settled by means of a Part 36 offer. This is not an admission of liability or guilt. I maintain my innocence in all the meritless allegations.

"In personal injury cases like this the accuser has no financial risks even if they lose, but for me winning had huge financial implications. Paying £75k plus costs now is nothing compared to the many multiples of that sum I'd have had to pay to successfully defend myself in court."

"For my own mental health and that of my family, this closure and acceptance from the other side is a hugely positive outcome," he added. "As the largest HIV charity in the UK said, there are no winners in HIV cases like these, and that is certainly the case.

"To all my family, friends and supporters and sponsors, I love you and thank you xxxx."

Case documents had claimed that Mr Thomas and Mr Baum had a "volatile and unpredictable" relationship between October 2013 and January 2016, with the claimant allegedly only learning of the former rugby player's positive status in May 2014, after discovering a large pill on their bedroom floor that was later found to be anti-viral HIV medication.

After discovering the pill, Mr Baum alleged that he took a rapid HIV test and received a positive result. He had claimed that only Mr Thomas could be responsible as he had been "wholly monogamous" in his relationship with the defendant, while he also alleged that the former Wales captain was "very repentant and apologetic" when he rang him to demand an explanation.

However, Mr Thomas denied that such a phone call ever took place.

Read more:

WRU employee who allegedly made 'rape' comment to stay in job pending new investigation

WRU chair Ieuan Evans says he backed Steve Phillips because he's 'very loyal' as he's grilled on own integrity

Today's rugby news as Welsh player contract talks finally start and All Black comes out as gay

Jiffy calls out 'absolute shambles' and asks Nigel Walker key question live on TV

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