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WRU Inclusive Coaching Conference

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WRU Inclusive Coaching Conference

We would like to welcome you to the inaugural Welsh Rugby Union Disability / Inclusion Coaching Conference. The Welsh Rugby Union is delighted to be able to offer a packed programme around the importance of inclusion in sport and creating the best environment to thrive.

The conference is aimed at anyone with an interest in developing opportunities for people with disabilities in sport, through coaching and partnerships, focusing on the following areas:

  • Inclusive Coaching Practices
  • Visually Impaired Rugby Coaching Experiences
  • Coaching Elite Wheelchair Rugby
  • Coaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing Players
  • Coaches & Talent Transfer

We are delighted that athletes, coaches and sector experts from across the Disability Rugby Landscape are with us to share their knowledge across these areas through a range of keynotes, presentations, and panel discussion.

Finally. the conference aims to provide a platform for the sharing of good practice and learning lessons from each other. This includes supporting attendees during and post event with a range of resources specifically developed to support us all in creating the best environment to thrive.

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday 23rd August 2020 with a 10am start time and 2pm finish.

Book your place here.




A background to each of the presenters at the conference outlines the level of expert knowledge that will be shared on the day. Please scroll through the exciting list below!

 Russell Earnshaw - Magic Academy

Rusty worked with England u18, u20 and Senior England 7's, from 2008 to 2018, helping to establish the performance pathway for England Rugby, producing a vast number of current internationals, such as Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly & more recently Tom Curry, Nick Isiekwe, Marcus Smith, but also does a tremendous amount of work at the grassroots level of the game developing players and coaches.

His coaching style has been described as ..."put simply he likes to tear up the rule book. As Performance Coach for the English RFU, he believed in “supporting players to have fun and become adaptable, skilful players who can rock it and coaches to help develop good learning environments”"

Through his 'Magic Academy' Rusty and John Fletcher (Newcastle Falcons and England Rugby) are at the forefront of efforts to improve minis and youth coaching.


 Robert Townsend - University of Waikato

Dr Robert Townsend is a Lecturer in Sport Coaching and Pedagogy in the Te Huataki Waiora School of Health at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Rob completed his PhD at Loughborough University researching coaching in disability sport.

He is currently researching coaching across the disability sport pathway from community through to elite and Paralympic sport. In particular, he is working closely with disability sport organisations to produce evidence-based resources to support Para coach development. 

Rob is an ECB qualified cricket coach with extensive experience of coaching in disability sport. Until recently Rob worked in the England and Wales Cricket Board's disability performance pathway with the national learning disability squad. He has consulted for Paralympics New Zealand, Special Olympics New Zealand and the European Paralympic Committee on para coach education.

Most recently, he was invited to join the International Council for Coaching Excellence Para Coaching working group with other leading academics to develop a strategy for Para sport coaching across the European Union.


 Alex Bassan - Head of Business Development and VI Rugby Manager

Trained over 1,500 Trainers, Project Managers and Coaches globally in sport for social change over the past 12 years including Asia, Africa, Europe, Australasia, Middle East and U.K.

Designed, developed and implemented the Qatar 2022 World Cup Legacy programme.

Created, developed and then launched the game of Visually Impaired Rugby in New Zealand during the Lions test in 2017 and during the Rugby World Cup in Japan 2019.

London Paralympic Torch bearer in 2012, nominated for my services to disability cricket.


 Paul Shaw - Head Coach GB Wheelchair Rugby

Paul started his career as a player after sustaining a spinal cord injury. He first represented GB in 1995 at the World Championships in Switzerland. Paul was a hardworking and technical player, and he had a defensive role on court.

His career continued until 2008 – within this time Paul attended Europeans, World Championships and 3 Paralympic Games. His final Games was Beijing in 2008 and it was after this he retired. Paul’s playing career highlight was being part of the team at his first Paralympics, Sydney 2000.

Paul had a short break and realised his love for the sport remained strong, and although no longer wanting to play, he turned his skills to coaching. Initially coaching club team West Coast Crash, he helped them develop from a new club to now one of the Division 1 top teams.

Recognised by GBWR that Paul was a skilled coach he became involved in the GB Development team in 2011, where he assisted in nurturing young Talent who potentially would become part of the GB team in years to come.

Paul became Head Coach of the GB team in 2013. Since then he continues to lead the team and has shown he is a coach with experience and fresh ideas. Paul has coached the team at all tournaments since he took the role, including the Rio Paralympics and World Championships. His coaching highlight was when the team won the European Gold in 2015. GB then returned and successfully retained the title in 2017, so remain European Champions.

GB successfully retained their European title in 2019 and in doing so secured  qualification for the Paralympics in Tokyo 2020. The GB team were also runners up at the Quad nations in Leicester in 2020. 


 Robert John Coles - WRU Deaf

Profession - Head Teacher at Priory Queenswood School

Finished playing back in 2003 and has been involved in coaching ever since.

Currently volunteer with the Newbridge Hurricanes U8’s and Arrows Girls Hub all ages.

Favourite rugby moments include, , being a BUSA Winner with UWIC, representing Welsh Universities, playing for Pontypool RFC, attending the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2010 as a Performance Analyst and when the WRU Deaf became the World Deaf 7’s Champions in 2018.


 Harrison Walsh

Job (Coaches) Title:  Para Athlete

Organisation:  Disability Sport Wales, Cardiff met athletics and BA futures

Background of speaker: 

  • Ex rugby player with the Ospreys and Swansea RFC
  • Was injured at 18 during a game of rugby and was left unable to play ever again and walk without a serve limp.
  • Went on to pick up para athletics through DSW and has gone on to break the shot put world record just 3 years after starting the sport  


 Josh Clark 

Job (Coaches) Title:  Athletic Throws Coach

Organisation:  Disability Sport Wales

Background of speaker: 

  • Twice world junior silver medallist 
  • Coached two athletes to two world records 
  • Coached an athlete to a world bronze medal


 Nathan Stephens 

Job (Coaches) Title:  Senior Performance Pathway Officer

Organisation:  Disability Sport Wales

Background of speaker: 

  • 3 x Paralympian, 2006 Turin winter Paralympics (Ice Sledge Hockey), 2008 Beijing & 2012 London Paralympics (Athletic) 
  • 2011 Javelin world champion and world record holder
  • After retiring from athletics in 2014 went on to compete for Wales in powerlifting at the 2018 Commonwealth Games out in Gold Coast.


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