They will be called Dragons, be both sustainable and forward thinking, and become a Welsh-centric production line of talent, thriving both on and off the pitch and rewarding the 73 Gwent clubs they represent.
That’s the vision for Dragons rugby Martyn Phillips and Stuart Davies have outlined on the day newly appointed head coach Bernard Jackman also revealed his ambitions for the immediate future of his squad.
Jackman spoke for the first time since his appointment, in front of a refreshed logo for the region – which will be simply called ‘Dragons’ with immediate effect – alongside chief executive Davies and WRU CEO Phillips.
The WRU officially assumes control of the region on 1st July, but advanced plans are already in place for improved facilities and the installation of a new hybrid pitch at Rodney Parade, and the launch of the refreshed brand follows swiftly after Jackman’s appointment.
Alongside fellow WRU executives, who specialise in rugby, rugby development and operations (elite and community), finance, legal affairs, events, facilities, ticketing, commercial sales and communications and CEO Davies, Phillips has created a roadmap for success in the region with specific one year and three year goals.
Elsewhere in year one the vision for the Dragons includes the appointment of a new Board and Chairman, setting the standards for player welfare, coaching, governance, business and engagement and improved spectator experience.
By 2020 the Dragons should be playing in front of bigger crowds at Rodney Parade and be making significant contributions to a thriving club, junior, community and amateur scene throughout the region as well as achieving improved performance on the pitch.
The overriding message within the detailed plans is that rugby should thrive at all levels in the Dragons region, with the amateur and professional game aligned at every turn with men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ rugby given equal status in Gwent.
The working document, which will evolve over time, spells out a vision which explicitly targets the key development areas for the Dragons and means recruiting quality personnel in a range of areas.
By year three the Dragons will have an enhanced reputation throughout the rugby world, it will be an environment in which elite players thrive and which equally attracts players, supporters, coaches and outside investment for the benefit of rugby throughout the area.
The 2020 Dragons are expected to be made up predominantly of Welsh-qualified players, with a handful of ‘marque’ signings from outside Wales to bring in experience and increase competitiveness if necessary, all watched by bigger crowds at a revamped Rodney Parade.
New head coach Jackman’s ambition, which mirrors that of Wales head coach Warren Gatland, is for the Dragons side to be more skilled more powerful and more explosive and boast a high quality back room team, whilst producing a pipeline of Welsh internationals.
“We will be taking the team out to the region at large and ensuring we are visible amongst all of the clubs in Gwent,” said Jackman.
“We will be ensuring we are accessible to supporters, clubs and players throughout the region.
“Producing home grown talent is a primary ambition for any successful sports team and it will be vital to the long term success of the Dragons.”
Gatland himself is already booked in to lend his expertise to pre-season training sessions and WRU head of rugby Geraint John is working closely with Bernard Jackman and staff at the Dragons on player recruitment, with Welsh exiles and young Welsh talent high on the wish-list.
“We know we need a new brand identity, one that recognises the values we have described and shows the Dragons as the elite end of a pathway which encompasses 73 clubs in the region and which is in place for the mutual benefit of all rugby in the area, both amateur and professional and for men, women, boys and girls in equal measure,” said Phillips.
“Once the vote went through in May we said ‘the hard work starts here’ and that has very much been the case.
“We are ready to put the first spade in the ground on the new pitch and have plans in place to further improve the facilities at Rodney Parade.
“The brand work has been completed in time for the new season and we have also been looking in detail at the ticketing operation not just at the Dragons, but across all of the regions, which is going to be all important to sustainable success.
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to consult with the likes of Warren and rest of the national squad coaching set-up and we are confident we have the best man for the job in Bernard Jackman.
“A key priority will be player welfare and we also want to make a significant impact on the community game, increasing participation and creating a real community hub at the Dragons, but also reaching out to clubs throughout the surrounding areas
“We are concentrating WRU resources on achieving a successful outcome not just for Dragons rugby, but for the game throughout the region.”
Work on the installation of the new hybrid pitch at Rodney Parade begins imminently and the refreshed logo and brand name will be proudly worn on the new Dragons kit for the season ahead.
“These are exciting times for us at the Dragons,” said CEO Davies.
“We have a new momentum with the advent of WRU involvement and a tremendous opportunity to evolve into the successful, thriving and sustainable region we know we can be.
“We plan to be Gwent-centric off the pitch too, where we have a role to play beyond rugby.
“Our ambition is to sell Gwent produced products and engage with Gwent-based service providers.
“We have a refreshed brand, a new direction, renewed vigour, but many of the same core values that have seen us survive through some tough times will now be instrumental in us achieving the success we crave both on and off the pitch.
“We need the support of rugby fans throughout the region and we are determined to be filling Rodney Parade to its rafters by 2020.
“We know that if we get it right on and off the pitch the supporters, and also investors, will follow to the benefit of all.
“We have given ourselves three years to do it, but the process starts now.”