THE Welsh Rugby Union has appointed the Gwent duo of Liza Burgess and Byron Hayward as age-grade coaches.

Burgess, who grew up in Newport, will be head coach for Wales Women Under-18s while Hayward, from Blaina, will be in charge of the Wales Men Under-20s.

For the latter, it is a return after he left his role as defence coach for the senior national team in November last year.

Hayward cut his coaching teeth with Ebbw Vale before enjoying roles with the Dragons academy and Wales Under-20s.

He headed to the Scarlets in 2014 and was a key figure in helping the west Walians win the Guinness PRO12 in 2017.

South Wales Argus:

“I'm really looking forward to taking on this new role," said Hayward, who will also lead the under-18s programme.

"Having coached Wales U20 a few years back I can’t wait to get going as when I look back on my coaching career, many of my most enjoyable times were coaching the U20s because there's nothing more satisfying than helping players achieve their dreams of playing for their country.

“There is something unbelievably satisfying about playing a part in a player’s journey, it’s all about helping them realise their dreams because at 19, the sky’s the limit.

“It’s going to be massively beneficial to the pathway to have a seamless transition between the U18s and U20s. I feel this is going to be a crucial benefit to Welsh rugby as we move forward.”

South Wales Argus: Liza Burgess being inducted into World Rugby's hall of fameLiza Burgess being inducted into World Rugby's hall of fame

Burgess is in World Rugby’s hall of fame and will start work immediately on a part-time basis before going full-time in June when she leaves Worcester Warriors.

The former Wales captain said: “It’s a tremendous opportunity for young girls in Wales that aspire to play international rugby to have a clear pathway right through to the senior game.

“We have a blank canvas to grow the elite pathway for girls aged 16 to 20 and I'm looking forward to getting stuck in.

“My first job is to speak to the regions, the WRU community team and coaches who have been delivering the skills development centres over the last couple of months and put plans in place to set up an U18 regional and national programme.”

WRU performance director Nigel Walker said: “These appointments are critical to our strategy to develop the best young players for Welsh Rugby and I’m thrilled with the calibre of individual we have recruited to these roles, with both Liza and Byron experts in developing our best young athletes as players and as ambassadors of our game.

“From a female perspective, Liza will lead an U18 regional and national playing and training programme, which will start in February following on from the Skills Development Centres that have been held around Wales this autumn.

“Discussions are currently taking place around male and female Six Nations U18 festivals that could take place in the spring, while an Under 20 programme will be established from 2023.

“From a male perspective, Byron has already set out identifying and developing players for our Under 20 Six Nations squad and will confirm his coaching and management team in the coming weeks.”