CONCERNS have been raised that vital grassroots rugby clubs in Wales could be forced to close due to increasing energy costs.

Speaking in the Senedd earlier this week, James Evans, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire, said Wales’ passion for the game is most evident at grassroots level.

The Conservative has played for Gwernyfed RFC in Talgarth since a young age and still dons the green-and-black shirt most Saturday afternoons.

Mr Evans, who has been sporting a black eye from playing over the past few weeks, told the Senedd: “We are very lucky here that we have countless clubs, schools and communities that foster a love for the game from a very early age.

“These grassroots initiatives are the lifeblood of Welsh rugby, nurturing talent, instilling values and providing a sense of belonging that extends far beyond the rugby field.”

The former councillor said local clubs have consistently supplied the national team with some of its brightest stars, such as Mark Jones, Dan Lydiate and captain Jack Morgan.

Mr Evans also stressed the mental and physical health benefits of playing rugby.

“I know from my own personal experience that my mental health is boosted by playing for my local club,” he said.

“It creates that sense of belonging, camaraderie and it also has physical health benefits.”

The shadow health minister highlighted campaigns raising awareness of certain health conditions, such as testicular cancer and motor neurone disease, through the sport.

The Conservative also raised the challenges faced by grassroots teams, with limited resources in terms of finances and infrastructure posing obstacles.

Dawn Bowden, the deputy minister, who is responsible for sport, said many rugby clubs were part of the Welsh Government’s warm hubs network, which aimed to mitigate fuel poverty amid record-high energy prices.

She added that Sport Wales – which will receive an extra £1 million over two years – has made £25,000 grants available to help clubs fund energy costs or upgrades such as solar panels.

Ms Bowden warned: “The threat of grassroots clubs folding is a significant concern, so we are monitoring the situation closely.”