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Today’s rugby headlines as seismic call to ax a region discussed on most important day for Welsh game in many years

Here’s your round-up of all the latest rugby headlines for Wednesday, May 11.

Welsh rugby D-Day

Welsh rugby bosses will today discuss whether to ruthlessly ax one of the four regions as part of a huge shake-up for our game.

The Professional Rugby Board agrees this afternoon to thrash out the future of the sport in Wales, with the radical step of losing a region one of the options on the table. It has been suggested that either the Dragons or the Ospreys could go.

Those teams each have representation on the Board who will doubtless strongly make the case for retaining the status quo. Ospreys chief executive Nick Garcia and Dragons chairman David Buttress sit on the PRB, the body that runs the professional game in Wales.

READ MORE: Who actually sits on the PRB Board

Other regional chiefs will also be involved in today’s crunch talks, as well as Welsh Rugby Union powerbrokers and independent members.

The meeting is being dubbed ‘the biggest in Welsh rugby for years’ as the crisis gripping the Welsh game is laid bare. Wayne Pivac’s Wales lost to Italy during a woeful Six Nations campaign while Cardiff, Scarlets, Ospreys and Dragons have endured a torrid time on the pitch in Europe and also the United Rugby Championship.

The PRB say their purpose is “to create an environment where professional rugby in Wales is successful on the field and sustainable off it.”

Board members will go through the findings of a bombshell report into the state of Welsh rugby which has put forward recommendations for major change. The potential loss of a region is the headline-grabbing suggestion.

Other options include an alternative player funding model and the way Welsh rugby is run amid a call for the game to develop a sustainable commercial model for the next 10 years.

Any decisions from today’s meeting would need to then go to the full WRU Board who would make the final decision. They hold the ultimate power and may choose to embark down a different route, meaning the threat of the loss of one of the regions clearly remains firmly on the table.

Hooker cited for allegedly pulling Etzebeth’s hair

London Irish hooker Agustin Creevy has been cited for allegedly pulling South African World Cup winner Eben Etzebeth’s hair, writes the Press Association.

It follows Sunday’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final between Irish and Toulon in France. In a statement, tournament organizers European Professional Club Rugby said: “Creevy is alleged to have pulled the hair of the RC Toulon second-row, Eben Etzebeth, in the 35th minute of the match in contravention of Law 9.27 – a player must not do anything that is against the spirit of good sportsmanship.”

Irish lost the game 19-18, with former Argentina captain Creevy now facing a hearing on Wednesday.

Wilkinson left ‘shivering like a child’ in lockdown

Jonny Wilkinson says he was left “shivering like a child” due to his struggles with anxiety during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The 42-year-old has opened up on the difficulties of his experiences which hit most when Government rules forced UK citizens to remain in their households in 2020 in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.

He described his feeling as “not the kind of one where you go, ‘oh, there’s the old anxiety’, but [it was] one that hits you and floors you so you’re shivering like a young child again.

“You ask what creates this resistance, but it’s a lot of emotional reactions to old traumas that have embedded themselves. Chemically, mentally-stored pathways, everything linked in… it hits you and it floors you.”

Wilkinson inspired England to World Cup success in 2003. The fly-half kicked a vital drop-goal to seal victory for Sir Clive Woodward’s men against Australia as they became the first northern hemisphere side to win the Webb Ellis Cup.

He also represented Newcastle Falcons and Toulon during a glittering club career while featuring on two British and Irish Lions tours.

Marler sounds concern over state of game

Joe Marler believes the appeal of rugby is shrinking.

The Harlequins prop addressed the current state of the game in an interview with Rugby World, stating that fans are wary of matters that deviate from the norm. And the 31-year-old believes the sport needs to find new ways to attract supporters and keep them engaged.

“Away from individuality, this sport is shrinking,” he said. “We all love the sport, play it, report on it, watch it, but it’s shrinking. People want more access to players, to connect with players and know who you are. Why wouldn’t you give that for the sport to grow and get bigger?

“It’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with myself but having kids and seeing the impact meeting Gareth Southgate had on my son, Jasper, recently… If I can have a similar effect on someone who likes rugby as much as Jasper likes football and they want to engage in the sport, why wouldn’t I do that?

“I remember when I first came through and had a Mohican, people said: ‘You have to make sure you play well if you look like that.’ That works both ways – it forces me to back it up.

“People aren’t used to players not having a short back and sides or coming from a private school, but this is who I am, this is how I enjoy being. It’s not the norm for rugby but to grow the sport we have to appeal to different people. People who love rugby will keep coming back but we need to engage others.”

Ex-England skipper makes Dubai move

Dylan Hartley has been appointed as director of rugby for the Dubai Sharks.

The 36-year-old – who won 97 England caps between 2008 and 2018 – retired from the game in 2019 following a significant layoff with a knee injury. But it has been confirmed that the former hooker and Englnad captain will make a stunning return to the game in the United Arab Emirates.

“Sharks are developing. We are aware of that, and we are realistic in terms of our ambition,” he said, as quoted by The National News.

“I think every club should have ambition. I wouldn’t join an organization unless we had ambition. We want to win. We want to do things and achieve, but there is a process to that.

“Long-term, if we think about playing Premiership rugby and competing there, that could be a realistic long-term goal for us. In terms of the short-term and where we focus now, it is on our youth. We have a great youth set up, with 350 kids growing to 400.

“Imagine if we could do such a good job with our kids and retain them, we could be playing on the big stage in a few years’ time because we are not looking for players, we have grown our own and are looking after our own .”

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