By David Roberts
Ieuan Evans admits to feeling the same tingle of excitement that greeted the first of his then record 72 Welsh caps as he prepares himself for a possible return to national duties.
His glittering array of rugby credentials – five Welsh cup wins and a try in the triumph over Australia with Llanelli, a Heineken Cup victory with Bath, three British and Irish Lions tours, 34 Test tries and 28 games as Wales captain – provide a solid bedrock for his bid to take a seat on the Welsh Rugby Union council.
But the 56-year-old World Rugby Hall of Famer wants the 300 clubs to consider his business background first and foremost as he prepares for a special webinar Q&A session on Thursday ahead of the election for a seat as a national representative.
Up against him will be friend, and former Llanelli and Wales team mate, Nigel Davies, as well as the highly respected chairman of Old Illtydians RFC, the former Wales Youth, Cardiff, Newport and South Wales Police lock John Manders.
“The first question everyone keeps asking me is ‘why are you standing?’ That always gets the same answer – because I feel I have something valuable and positive to offer,” says Evans.
“It has been a terrible year for the rugby clubs in Wales with flooding, COVID-19 and now such an uncertain playing and financial future.
“They need help, they need business and organisational experience as well as rugby knowledge.
“I believe I can bring solid decision making and planning skills to help benefit the game in Wales. Through my experience and profile I want to help to connect the clubs with the right people both within the Union and outside.
“They need a strong voice and I hope to be their mouthpiece.”
Having played his part in helping to bring the Ryder Cup to Wales in 2010, the legendary former wing certainly knows how to promote and market his country.
Evans sat on the board of the Wales Tourist Board, has chaired government advisory panels, and would bring a wealth of experience at both operational and strategic levels after working at a number of commercial companies.
Add in two decades of experience of working in the media with Sky Sports, BBC, S4C and the Sunday Telegraph and it is easy to see why Ieuan Evans MBE is considered a national treasure since hanging up his boots.
“After the floods came the virus and what is to follow is anybody’s guess. There is a need for cohesion, clarity and leadership,” he says.
“We have generations of experience and talent embedded at our clubs that could be better harvested.
“The countless hours of hard work given freely by volunteers needs to be resourced, supported and encouraged to find new revenue streams through better co-ordinated business development.
“The livelihoods of players, coaches and support staff may be at stake in the professional game, but it is the very fabric of so many communities across Wales that will be under threat if the 300-plus clubs struggle to survive.
“The Welsh rugby clubs are at the heart of communities across our nation and need to play a part in its healing and regeneration.
“The role of a national representative on the WRU council is to look after the interests of the clubs and the whole game and our history shows that you ignore the base of the playing pyramid at your peril.
“I’ve spent the past 10 or more years standing on touchlines supporting my son, Cai, on his journey from Cowbridge U8s, though the Wales age grade teams into a professional career at the Ospreys.
“Now, I’d love to help provide greater clarity, cohesion and communication to all levels of the management process within the game.”