So this month, Ieuan Evans MBE was elected as a National Council Member of the Welsh Rugby Union by member clubs, winning a three-way vote against incumbent Gareth Davies and Nigel Davies.

His tenure will begin after the close of the next Annual General Meeting in October, a gathering which will now also be the last act as WRU chairman for Davies. He leaves after serving two terms on the Council and Board concurrently, amounting to six years at the helm of Welsh rugby.

And now Evans is favourite to succeed Davies as Chairman too.

From recent comments, you sense the latter is bewildered with how things have turned out, but has publicly accepted that the ‘clubs have spoken’. His tenure may not have been perfect, nothing is in the political minefield of Welsh rugby, but few can deny Davies brought commercial expertise, vast experience, and leadership to the WRU and his contribution should be acknowledged.

Balancing the books:

The discontent in grassroots rugby in Wales has grown louder in recent years. There have been calls for more support and funding, while social and economic factors have led to a heightened struggle for playing numbers.

It’s short sighted to assume the WRU could, or even should, financially bail out the amateur game. Funds are of a premium, and it’s worth noting that £11.7 million has recently been guaranteed and ring fenced for those beneath the professional model.

There is reason to question whether the pro and amateur game should even be run by the same board, given the inevitable conflict of interests which regularly occur.

But what can’t be ignored, is the sense of neglect many lower league clubs now feel. Complaints of alienation and a cavalier attitude to how amateur league and cup competitions are policed have been frequent, and Evans has a job on his hands to quieten the discontent.

Here, we look at how every Pembrokeshire club voted in the recent election, what they want from Evans, and how they are currently coping in light of Covid-19 disruption.

To clarify, the former Wales and Lions winger himself was contacted with an interview request two weeks ago but as of yet, a reply has not been forthcoming.

The offer remains open……..

Narberth – Nigel Davies:

Ironically, the first club we start with backed Nigel Davies.

In fact, Narberth seconded him after a request from Llanelli RFC, but as Chairman Rob ‘Basher’ Lewis explained, the club had no issues with Evans being elected.

“We were happy with either of the west Wales candidates,” he said.

“Now we just hope the community clubs are looked after as so much money is pumped into the regions.

“The ring-fenced funding coming in is crucial although it will be interesting to see if it’s given out now after everything with Covid-19, or whether we ourselves will get the annual money for being in the Championship. We have to appreciate the WRU is strapped for cash but clubs should get money promised to them.

“The work of volunteers in the community clubs need to be renumerated as so much time and effort goes in. We’ve been fortunate these last few months as our pitch is next to the clubhouse so we’ve been able to put a marquee on the pitch and serve people, which has helped us tick over.

“But that will change during winter and it will be a testing time for everyone.”

Crymych – Ieuan Evans:

Crymych Chairman Brian ‘Beaky’ Davies said the club were in little doubt who to vote for.

“We saw Evans as the main candidate,” he said.

“Gareth and Nigel didn’t seem to put themselves forward enough and we were very impressed with everything Ieuan had to say. He really sold himself well so we’ll wait and see now what he can do.

“As a club everything is going fine, touch wood. The boys have been getting together every week to train but it is a tough time – as it doesn’t seem we are going to get any rugby until after Christmas at least.”

Pembroke – Ieuan Evans:

The Scarlets were unanimous with their decision, as new Chairman John Richards explained.

“Ieuan Evans was the only one who contacted the club verbally and he spoke to Daryl Willington (former Chairman) at length.

“We had letters from the others but Ieuan seemed to have more ideas in place.

“The boys have been training and coaches Geraint (Lewis) and Kyle (Davies) have been thinking of various ways to do things while keeping to Covid regulations. The ladies and juniors are training too but with wet and cold nights coming, and no games to aim for, I do worry about a drop off.”

Whitland – vote not disclosed:

The Borderers opted to keep their choice private, but head coach Gareth Bennett admitted it was a ‘strange time’ at the club.

“We’ve been training for a month and had good numbers – and signed a couple of boys too. We’ve been trying to adapt sessions and have a bit of fun, but what frustrates me most is the September weather was perfect for running rugby.

“There are some players yet to get back into it but I don’t blame them either, it’s been a rare chance for people to have more time with loved ones.

“I just don’t know when we’ll get started though. There’s talk of January but it all depends on the national guidance.”

Fishguard – Ieuan Evans:

Like other clubs, Fishguard were impressed by Evans personally ringing Chairman Jonathan Jones.

“He knew that I spoke Welsh so had done a little bit of homework,” said Jones.

“And he obviously knew that Martyn Phillips was a Fishguard old boy.

“He asked about the club and I gave him an overview regarding mini, junior, youth, and senior rugby – and some of our past and present club initiatives.

“He spoke about his time as a Carmarthen Quins player and would like the WRU to increase their focus on supporting grassroots rugby - I said this was what I would like to see to ensure it’s not a top heavy support mechanism where the regions continue to be the main focus of everything.

“I was very impressed with his attitude and our informal chat.”

Jones added that training had resumed at the club at youth and senior level, with mini and junior sessions also returning imminently. Nathan Jenkins is again in charge of the first team and Alan Phillips and Stephen Rowe are taking the youth.

“We really want to get going as a club as we are concerned football friendlies are already on the horizon - and we fear of losing youngsters who are not dual sportsmen to football.”

Tenby United – Ieuan Evans:

When Evans spoke with Tenby Chairman Harry Bolton, he spoke of the need to grow all areas of the game.

“I met with Ieuan and he spoke very well. Being ex-Carmarthen Quins, he seemed to understand the struggles we’ve had down here in the west.

“There is definitely a big split between the pro and amateur game in Wales. We have to think about tag rugby, ladies’ rugby, everything, as rugby is an inclusive sport and he seemed to grasp all that.

“Personally I’m interested to see how things go. At the moment there is a danger players are going to drift off but then again, where the hell are they going to drift to right now?”

Milford Haven – Ieuan Evans:

Milford Chairman Mike Edds has seemingly recovered from his charity press up ordeal in the summer, and said despite everything morale was high within the club.

And again, the committee were in little doubt as to which way their vote was going.

“Ieuan Evans rang us and had plenty to say about the community game. Things need changing and we felt he was the best candidate to take the game forward and he had new ideas to generate things.

“So we wish him well. As a club we are doing ok, the regular bar is open and we’ve had some decent weekends – although nothing like a game day.

“But the players are tight here and are back in training. We’ve made new signings and are just looking forward to some rugby now.”

Cardigan – vote not disclosed:

The Teifisiders were another club who opted not to make their decision public, but committee member Hefin Harries said he hoped Evans could now put words into action.

“He wants to look after community clubs but whether he’s able to is another matter.

“What he said prior to the election sounded very good, but that was only words so now we wait and see.

“The boys are training once a week, non contact, and that will probably be the case until the New Year if not longer. The clubhouse itself has been open with limited hours so we are ticking over.”

Haverfordwest – Ieuan Evans:

There’s a theme developing here, and like many others Haverfordwest RFC secretary Graham Dalton cited the communicative efforts of Evans as a reason for backing him.

“He rang me a couple of times and spoke very well as we discussed the community game at length. We felt Gareth Davies was very much about the pro side of the game which we did understand too.

“But in recent times there have been things like the audit being changed without the smaller clubs being consulted. Ieuan Evans seems like he want to push a case forward for grassroots rugby and I hope he gets the opportunity to have an influence.

“At the club our juniors and seniors are currently training but we are not open for business as the clubhouse is run by volunteers – and there would be too much onus on the person opening up and so on.”

Llangwm – Nigel Davies:

Down at Pill Parks they opted for change, but their choice was Nigel Davies.

“We felt he was the best choice but at the end of the day, Ieuan seemed to have unanimous backing and we accept that,” said Richard Scriven.

“At the moment the boys are training and following the Covid-19 guidelines and so far it has been going well, we’ve had about 30 attending the sessions overall.

“But with all that’s happened it’s hard to see any kind of league season taking place. We wait and see but I think we are looking at friendlies after Christmas at best.”

Neyland – Ieuan Evans:

Chairman Rodney Chamberlain spoke of the struggles facing the club, and of his hopes that Evans could improve things.

“He was the only one who made contact with the club directly,” he said.

“His ideas were good and we only hope he can impose them now at grassroots level.

“Because we, like many other clubs, are facing a constant struggle to keep players and there is no easy answer. I certainly don’t know the answer myself.

“The boys have been training but we just don’t know how things will pan out this season. All the guidelines and paperwork is a hindrance but we are lucky in that we have no overheads. Clubs who run their own bar areas have been hit hard.”

Pembroke Dock – Gareth Davies:

Mike Scourfield admitted there were mixed feelings about who to vote for at Pembroke Dock, with the committee eventually deciding to back Gareth Davies.

“It was a club decision and there was a sense of why fix what isn’t broken?” said the Chairman.

“But to be fair to Ieuan he rang me personally and by all accounts, had the decency to contact all the grassroots clubs. He spoke very well and if he’s a man of his word they he could be really good for the game.

“It’s difficult for everyone at the moment as we don’t have a definite starting date to work towards. We’ve been getting 10-15 boys training and the youth are having sessions too but we know the winter weather is coming and it’s going to be hard.”

St Davids – Ieuan Evans:

Colin Reynolds was another to have lengthy discussions with Evans before the club decided to back him.

“He engaged with us in a very positive way and seems to be keen to work from the bottom upwards and look after the community game.

“I think at the moment too many decisions are made at the top level and fed down to us, when we should be driving changes.”

The Chairman said the club had made use of the lockdown period by undergoing some much needed club renovation work.

“We’ve used the time to get some things done.

“The boys are training every week but at the moment we are all still unsure if we’ll be playing by January. The RFU have made the call to wait until at least then but the WRU have gone quiet on that front at the moment.

“I guess Government decisions in the next few weeks and months will dictate things.”

Talk the talk, walk the walk:

So the backing for Ieuan Evans was pretty unanimous within Pembrokeshire – and his efforts to communicate directly with clubs clearly paid dividends.

Of course, talking is the easy part and he himself will be all to aware of that. Resurrecting the community game whilst also dealing with multiple issues at regional and international level will be no easy task.

There will no quick fix or pot of gold under the rainbow, and how grassroots rugby in Wales emerges when Covid-19 eventually subsides remains to be seen. You hope the enforced break will rejuvenate some players, but the risk of a drop off is real.

Evans has talked the talk, like any good candidate should. Now the community clubs will wait to see if he can walk the walk.

Regardless, the anxious wait until amateur rugby can resume in Wales continues. And in all likelihood, barring a dramatic change in Government regulations, we won’t be talking about action on the field until 2021…..