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Warriors take on tough schedule

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Warriors: About to embark on a journey

WHILST many have commented on the intensity of the Lions schedule an integrated rugby team from Llanelli have put together an arguably tougher itinerary for their tour of New Zealand and Samoa.

The Llanelli Warriors are an integrated side who actively look to include players with learning disabilities and are touring to the Pacific as part of their 21st Anniversary celebrations. In just 15 days the team will play 3 matches in New Zealand and 1 in Samoa.

They will also watch both the Wales tests, the Chiefs match with the Lions and the All Blacks vs Samoa. If that wasn’t enough there is a full social schedule around the rugby as well.

The Warriors were formed in 1995 to give men with a learning disability an opportunity to play rugby. The club has come a long way in 20 years and we wanted to put something special. Through this trip these players will join a very exclusive club of players who have played in Samoa where even the likes of England, South Africa and Australia have never played.

Chairman/player Gwilym Lewis explained the importance of the trip: “Research shows that people with learning difficulties often find it harder to make friends, they tend to have smaller social circles and opportunities for further education and employment can be very limited. Rugby gives the players a chance to participate and contribute to the community.

“They play alongside and against non-disabled players, gaining confidence, respect and new friends. There are three main elements to rugby that make it a great vehicle for social inclusion; the physicality fosters respect, the team work element encourages friendship and the social aspect gives everyone a chance to mingle afterwards as equals. That awkwardness that people can feel disappears over a beer.

“The bottom line though is that rugby is a great sport, hard as it is, and as in New Zealand and Samoa its part of the culture. This tour though is about going beyond joining in with friends and family in the sport, this is going to make our players who without the club might be stuck on the sidelines, into the envy of those family and friends.

“We also want to show that a disability doesn’t have to be the barrier that some think. We are taking this to the hardest rugby environments in the world, we couldn’t travel any further and we will be playing mainstream sides. We think it’s the most ambitious sporting project ever undertaken in learning disability sport.”

Richard Evans, a veteran prop of over 150 matches who will lead the trip, said: “I’m very proud to be chosen and I’m really looking forward. I’m sure we can do really well and win our matches, but win or lose we’ll have a great time.”

Jamie Evans has organised the trip, saying: “To be out there while the Lions are touring is going to be something special in itself, that Wales are playing there and us having our own series, I don’t think there are many sides that would look to take this on.”

A tour party of 32 will be embarking on the tour with about half the players registered as disabled.

The trip has caught the imagination and fund raising has been well supported. Brecon RFC and Llansawel RFC have made significant contributions, Peter Rees, Wales oldest international took part in a Q&A session at Burry Port while Former Lion Tom David spoke at their dinner.

“The fund raising has shown us just how much the community value the Warriors and what we do” said Jamie.

“The Just Giving page raised £1,500 and we’ve had support from all our regular opponents like Cefneithin and Gwlad in Cardiff as well. We can’t thank people enough but we promise that we will make the very most of this opportunity.”

The history of the Lions has former players to a man talking about important a tour like this was to them, for some of the Warriors players this is the sort of trip that could be life changing.

Warriors Tour to New Zealand and Samoa itinerary:

Wed 14/6/17: Travel to London, Flight from London 21:25

Thu 15/6/17: Travel (via Bangkok)

Fri 16/6/17: Arrive Auckland 10:45, attend Tonga v Wales, NZ v Samoa

Sat 17/6/17: Travel to Hamilton, FairField United Yellowbellies v Llanelli Warriors (Maori v Lions 19:35 (Rotarua) on tv)

Sun 18/6/17: South Auckland Kiwis v Llanelli Warriors (Hamilton Marist RFC)

Mon 19/6/17: Travel to Te Kuiti for unveiling of Sir Colin Meads statue

Tue 20/6/17: Cycle ride and Hot Baths, Attend Chiefs v Lions (19:35)

Wed 21/6/17: Travel to Auckland, depart 16:25, Arrive Apia 21:15

Thu 22/6/17: Vaiala Ulalei Sports Club v Llanelli Warriors

Fri 23/6/17: Attend Samoa v Wales

Sat 24/6/17: Pualele Paddle Club – paddling in bay at Apia (NZ v Lions 21:35)

Sun 25/6/17: Depart Apia 21:55, Arrive Auckland 1:10

Mon 26/6/17: Tour of brewery

Tue 27/6/17: College Rifles RFC v Llanelli Warriors (Hurricanes v Lions on tv)

Wed 28/6/17: Depart Auckland 13:10

Thu 28/6/17: Arrive London

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Scarlets slide to PR014 loss

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SCARLETS went down to a second defeat of the Guinness PRO14 campaign after ill-discipline cost them dear in a 20-7 loss at Scotstoun.


Trailing 10-0 at half-time, they had second row Sam Lousi red carded for a dangerous tackle two minutes into the second period and despite a spirited late resurgence left Glasgow empty handed.


On his 150th appearance, prop Samson Lee crossed for his side’s lone try to spark a comeback in the final quarter, but Scarlets were unable to take the chances they created to claw their way back into the game.


It was Lee who was handed the honour of leading out the Scarlets as the visitors looked to continue their excellent record at Scotstoun.


Both sides have built a reputation for running rugby, but the opening half proved a real arm wrestle, particularly at the breakdown.


There were threatening bursts from scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre Johnny Williams, but every time the Scarlets entered Warriors territory, they conceded a penalty.


It took 28 minutes for the scoreboard operator to be called upon with Glasgow fly-half Adam Hastings landing a long-range penalty, sandwiched between two misses from similar range.


Prop Oli Kebble then barged over from close-range with Hastings’s conversion making it 10-0 to the home side.


To compound matters Scarlets lost back-rower Josh Macleod to a leg injury, replaced by international openside James Davies.


Halfpenny was wide with his first penalty attempt as Scarlets attempted to claw back the deficit, but in the final move of the half a Williams break came to nothing as Glasgow pilfered another turnover penalty.


Needing a strong response after the restart, the second half started in disastrous fashion when Lousi was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow wing Ratu Tagive.


It wasn’t long before the Warriors took advantage of the extra man with experienced No. 8 Ryan Wilson diving over for his side’s second try.
Scotland international Adam Hastings converted and added another penalty to push the score out to 20-0, but that sparked the Scarlets into a spirited response.


With the bench making a big impact, Scarlets brought a real energy to their performance and were rewarded when Lee found a way to the line after a lovely ‘show and go’ from a couple of metres out. Halfpenny converted and suddenly the Scarlets sensed a way back.


It needed an outstanding cover tackle from Steff Evans to deny Scotland international Tommy Seymour shortly afterwards, but back came the Scarlets forcing the home side to concede a string of penalties.


It led to lock Richie Gray being shown yellow, but the visitors couldn’t make the most of it as Ken Owens had the ball dislodged as he charged towards the whitewash.


In the dying moments, the dangerous Evans almost produced a stunning solo score but wasn’t able to ground the ball in the corner, then Tom Rogers went close on the other flank.


Reduced to 13 men following the sin-binning of Nick Grigg for an illegal high shot, Glasgow were able to hold out late on, leaving the Scarlets to reflect on a second defeat of the campaign.


Speaking after the match, Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It was a game of two halves, we weren’t accurate early in the first half. We were quite rueful we did not take the opportunities when they presented themselves. We had some territory and possession without really getting momentum with the collisions. At the breakdown area we were struggling a little bit to keep the ball and continuity going and that told.


“It was a nip and tuck first-half and they capitalised, took a chance and fair play to them for that.


“In the second period we had a red card and then we really put some momentum into the game and we looked pretty good and I felt we probably had another score in us at that point and it was all on.


“We finished with plenty of energy. That is the footie we are trying to play, we just didn’t get to do that in the first half.


“I was really proud of the effort, that is never in question with our lads. We just need to be more accurate so we can put more of a mark on our game.”
As for the injuries to Josh Macleod, Ken Owens and Blade Thomson, Delaney added: “Josh has a hamstring injury so we will have a look at that and see how he gets on. The medics are looking after him and it’s pretty early to make an assessment, we will know more in the next 24-48 hours.
“He has worked so hard to get in that Wales squad and I thought he was outstanding again today, making big plays and doing what he has been doing for us for the last 12 months.


“The form that he has shown to get us into that position he was showing that tonight so it was a shame for him. When James (Davies) came on he looked great so we have two good guys in that seven shirt.


“Ken has a shoulder injury, he has some bruising, and Blade has an elbow problem. It’s about managing it. It’s pretty early when you get those joint related things, they tend to take a day or so to really know what the severity is.”

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New Welsh rugby kit launched

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THE NEW Macron Wales kit, to be worn for the first time against France in Paris on October 24, has been unveiled simultaneously in the private changing rooms of the national team headquarters in Hensol and the Wales Women squad’s current base in Swansea University.


Jonathan Davies and Ross Moriarty were joined ‘virtually’ by Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap and Gwen Crabb to reveal the kit against a backdrop of jerseys from the community game in Wales which have also been produced by the WRU’s new official technical partner.


The launch of the new kit has taken on a post-Covid feel with both squads currently training in respective ‘bubbles’ and so the community aspect of the partnership – £1m of free kit to be supplied yearly to Welsh rugby clubs over six years – has been reflected by a display of existing Macron community rugby shirts.


A set of unique features sees the red dragon of the Welsh flag embossed across lower back of the shirt, an embossed pattern covering the sleeves – cleverly transforming the hexagonal shape of the WRU three-feathers logo into ‘dragon scales’ – and the Welsh word ANRHYDEDD (honour), also embossed, on the back of the collar.


The ‘away‘ version is a black jersey with a white v-neck collar, this time tipped with red trim that is also found on the sleeves and cuffs.


Both sleeves again feature an all over embossed pattern, but this time a geometric graphic brings a new age look to the garment.


The Welsh dragon is once again embossed on the lower back and another Welsh word, ANGERDD (passion) is embossed on the back of the collar.


“The new kit is striking representation of Welsh rugby tradition and we are delighted to be able to launch our new seven-year partnership with Macron in such a spectacular way,” said WRU CEO Steve Phillips.


“We are delighted with the bespoke kit, training and leisurewear Macron has provided so far, where Italian design meets Welsh passion with impressive results.


“And we are sure that the Welsh rugby watching public will be equally impressed when they get their hands on their favourite pieces in the expansive product range available.”


Wales Women will wear the kit in action for the first time against Scotland in their own postponed Six Nations clash on November 1 and, from next season, Macron’s affinity with Welsh rugby will increase even further when the first instalment of £6m worth of kit over six years, is supplied to the clubs in the community game throughout Wales.


“The Welsh Rugby Union represents one of the pillar stones of world rugby and for Macron to stand side by side with this sporting giant, means that we as a brand, have reached yet another great milestone,” said Macron‘s CEO Gianluca Pavanello.


“Our goal is for the new kits to be instantly recognisable and something that clearly express the Welsh identity and spirit. We hope that our hard work has paid off and that the new collection will be loved by players and fans alike and that the kits evoke the emotion that such a great nation deserves.”

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Scarlets make five changes for European quarter-final

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Johnny Williams and Sione Kalamafoni have been handed their Scarlets’ European debuts for Saturday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final against Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol (8.15pm UK time).

Both summer signings are included in a side showing five changes to the line-up that took the field against the Dragons in the Scarlets last match of the Guinness PRO14 season.

Wales and British & Irish Lions full-back Leigh Halfpenny returns to face his former side, linking up with Johnny McNicholl and Steff Evans in an all-international back three.

Williams and Steff Hughes continue their midfield combination, while Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies has recovered from injury to partner Dan Jones at half-back.

Skipper Ken Owens, Wyn Jones and Samson Lee pack down in the front row and behind them Tongan international Sam Lousi starts at lock alongside Jake Ball.

In a reshuffled back-row, the PRO14’s turnover king Josh Macleod gets the nod at openside;  Kalamafoni, who featured for Leicester Tigers in the pool stages of the tournament, wears the No. 8 jersey and Scotland international Blade Thomson has recovered from an Achilles issue to start at blindside.

On the bench, Ryan Elias, Phil Price and Javan Sebastian provide front-row cover with Lewis Rawlins and James Davies the other forward replacements. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Tyler Morgan cover the backs. Morgan is set to make his first Scarlets appearance since joining from the Dragons.

The Scarlets and Toulon faced each other twice during the pool stages. A last-gasp converted try grabbed a 17-16 victory for the French side in November. The three-times European champions then claimed a crucial 27-15 win at Parc y Scarlets in January to ensure they topped the group. 

Head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It is a final for us. If you win three finals in a row you win a trophy. We are that far away from achieving the objective we all set out upon 12 to 13 months ago. It would be lovely to finish it off the right way. Whenever you get the opportunity to play for a trophy you have got to be very respectful and take it deadly serious, which is exactly what our boys have been doing.”

Scarlets team v RC Toulon (Saturday, September 19, 2020; kick-off 8.15pm UK)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Steff Hughes, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens (capt), 3 Samson Lee, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Josh Macleod, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.

Reps: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Phil Price, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Lewis Rawlins, 20 James Davies, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Tyler Morgan.

Unavailable because of injury

Rob Evans (neck), Rhys Patchell (calf), Liam Williams (foot), Daf Hughes (knee), Steff Thomas (knee), Alex Jeffries (elbow), Tomi Lewis (knee), Aaron Shingler.

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