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Former Wales international Anthony Walker appointed Wales U19 head coach

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FORMER Wakefield Trinity, St Helens and Wales International Anthony Walker has been appointed as the new head coach of the Wales under 19 rugby league side.

He will lead the under 19s in the forthcoming European Championships and will remain as head coach of the side until at least December 2020.

The 26-year old retired from playing in October last year on medical grounds but is no stranger to coaching having juggled the latter days of his playing career with coaching Blackbrook in the north of England based National Conference League, guiding them to promotion in 2016 and picking up a local coach of the year award in the process.

Since his retirement from playing he has progressed to coaching in the professional game, working as a first team assistant coach at another of his former clubs, Rochdale Hornets, in the RFL Championship.

Walker, who also played for Whitehaven and Dewsbury Rams in his professional rugby league career, is Wales RL heritage #489 after winning eight caps and scoring three tries. He was in the side when Wales won the European Championship in 2015 after beating France, Scotland (where he scored a try) and Ireland.

He is delighted to be bringing through the next crop of potential Wales World Cup players.

He said: “I’m made up to have been appointed. When I saw the post, I contacted Wales CEO Chris Thair immediately. I’ve been coaching a lot since retiring and I want to give something back to WRL after they were so good to me whilst going through the retirement.

“We’ll be going into this summer’s Under 19 European Championship with the aim of winning the trophy.”

Wales won this trophy when it was last contested as under 18 competition in 2008, beating Czech Republic, England and France and a number of those Wales players went on to win full Wales caps.

Walker continues: “My aim is to make Wales under 19s as successful as possible and help create some future full Wales international players. However I want to make coming into camp as much of an honour as it was for me and for the lads to have some fun along the way.

“I won the senior European Championship as a player and I want to make memories for life for these group of lads, just like playing for Wales has done for me.”

Walker will be assisted by Wayne Ponting, who last year served as assistant coach to the Wales under 16s, under 18s and Student sides. He was previously involved with the Welsh regional academies, the South Wales Scorpions and Celtic Crusaders academy and scholarship sides after cutting his coaching teeth with Blackwood Bulldogs juniors.

The final appointment sees Steve Jenkins from Llanelli appointed as team manager.

Jenkins is a newcomer to Rugby League but boasts an impressive CV having been involved in a variety of managerial roles in rugby union with Llanelli RFC, Carmarthen Quins, the Scarlets and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Jenkins said: “From working in Rugby Union I have gained experience both with Scarlets and the WRU which I feel will assist me in the team manager role.

“During my time with the Scarlets I gained experience under coaches Gareth Jenkins and for Phil Davies where I was his team manager when he took the Scarlets to their last Semi Final of the European Cup in 2007. Additionally, working for the WRU was challenging and I understand the high standards that are set to help to run an international side.

“I am really looking forward to joining up with WRL under 19’s coaches Anthony and Wayne, and experiencing the challenges that lay ahead in preparing the squad for the European Under 19 Championship in August this year.”

The 2018 Under 19s European Championship will be contested in Belgrade, Serbia between the 5th and 11th of August with Wales taking on Russia in the first round of the eight-team knockout tournament.

Trial and training dates for the Wales under 19 side will be announced shortly.

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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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Pembrey Country Park to host one of first post-lockdown events

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Pembrey Country Park has been chosen to host one of the first outdoor sports events in Wales since the Covid-19 lockdown.

Welsh Government has given the go ahead for three trial sport and culture events as part of its continued easing of restrictions.

Pembrey Country Park will host a duathlon on Sunday, September 6, with a limited number of competitors, although there will be no spectators.

The event will be monitored and will help inform Welsh Government policy on future sporting events as the country continues its recovery from Covid-19.

The council is working with Welsh Triathlon to ensure athletes can compete safely, with strict risk assessments and protocols being put into place.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We’re delighted to host this trial event here in Carmarthenshire, and hope this signals a return of more sporting events in the future. Our teams are working alongside Welsh Government and Welsh Triathlon to ensure that the event is safe and secure whilst providing an exciting and challenging duathlon course for competitors.”

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Trundle and Robinson are back for another season with Ammanford AFC

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Ammanford AFC are pleased to announce that the Ex Swans legends Lee Trundle and Andy Robinson are back for a second season with the club

The pair helped Ammanford AFC to achieve a respectable seventh place finish in the JD Cymru South league last season.

The Supporters of Ammanford will welcome the news and will be hoping that they can go and watch their team once clearance has been given.

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