Welsh Rugby Union appoint new man to ‘complex and vital’ role

John Alder has been appointed as the Welsh Rugby Union new head of player development, with the governing body lauding him as a potential asset to the game in Wales.

He teams up again with the union’s performance director Nigel Walker, the pair having previously been colleagues at the English Institute of Sport (EIS).

The new man has vast experience in player development and performance pathways with the EIS and UK Sport. He has also worked for the past five years with athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sports and was earlier a former high-performance lead for the New Zealand Rugby League.

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A key dimension to his latest role will see him responsible for ensuring the various elements of pathway talent in Wales work together in harmony.

Walker, a former national director at the EIS, said: “I’m delighted John has agreed to head up our performance pathway team, not least because I have worked directly with him in previous roles and I know what an asset he will be to Welsh rugby.

“This is a complex and vital role at the WRU, with co-ordination of pathway talent through the regional academies, our Premiership clubs and our age-group sides, in both the men’s and women’s game, a central priority.

“This is a simple task and there is a lot of hard work ahead which is vital to the future sustainability of performance rugby in Wales, but it is absolutely a challenge that I know John will be equal to.”

Hailing from Gloucester, Alder is an ex-England U18 international in union and spent the early part of his career working in education as a rugby specialist and studying high-performance sport, securing a PhD in High Performance Sports Management from Auckland University of Technology ( AUT).

He’s on record as naming former Wales center Scott Gibbs as his sporting hero, saying: “It was the way he played, and he played in my position. I aspired to be like him and modeled the way I play off him. ” A spot of supplementary information is that Alder can also play the piano.

He is looking forward to his new role, saying: “I am excited to return to rugby and to be joining an ambitious organization which cares deeply about the game, its people and community. I have been fortunate to be supported by some great leaders so far during my career and Nigel Walker is one of those who has been a significant influence, so I am delighted to be linking up with him once again.

“I look forward to helping create a thriving development environment that enables young men and women to fulfill their potential and dreams on and off the rugby pitch.

“There are foundations to build on, but I am now looking forward to exploring, together with the performance rugby community, the question of ‘what will it take to make Wales the best place in the world to be a developing rugby player?’ and I am incredibly enthusiastic about bringing all I have learned to this big adventure with the WRU. ”

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