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Principality Stadium officially unveiled

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New name: The Principality Stadium replaces the familiar Millennium Stadium

New name: The Principality Stadium replaces the familiar Millennium Stadium

PRINCIPALITY STADIUM has been officially unveiled by Wales head coach Warren Gatland to signal the start of an historic 10- year investment in Welsh rugby by Principality Building Society.

The partnership between the WRU and Wales’ largest building society sees Wales’ iconic home ground renamed Principality Stadium with the overarching aim to develop and grow rugby in Wales at all levels.

The two-time British and Irish Lions coach was the first to switch on the lights of the new external signage at the venue, lighting the sky with the words ‘Stadiwm Principality Stadium’ followed by a spectacular firework display.

“The national stadium is a very special place for everyone involved in Welsh rugby and it is a great pleasure for me to be here for the official opening of Principality Stadium,” said the head coach whose tenure includes two Grand Slams and three RBS 6 Nations titles.

“I’ve said it before, but the stadium is simply the best rugby stadium in the World and as a squad we can’t wait to play at Principality Stadium in the Six Nations over the coming weeks.

“The partnership with Principality Building Society will benefit the whole game from grassroots right through to the elite and it is great to have their support to help grow the game over the next 10-years.”

WRU Chairman Gareth Davies and Principality Building Society Group Chief Executive Graeme Yorston provided the official welcome for the ‘switch on’ event.

“Today marks a new era for Welsh rugby in the opening of Principality Stadium and the start of a positive 10-year partnership with the team at Principality Building Society, who have provided great support of the community game in Wales,” said the WRU Chairman.

“This new partnership is a boost for all levels of Welsh rugby, with reinvestment in rugby communities and individuals who dedicate so much of their time, energy and passion to the sport.

“The partnership is also a key factor in our vision to encourage more people to engage with rugby, more often, providing more enjoyment and success on the field.

“I am delighted to celebrate a strengthening of our relationship with one of Welsh rugby’s key partners and I want to thank Principality on this landmark day for their continued support.”

Former Wales international and current U20s Manager Mark Taylor, who was the Stadium’s debut try scorer in Wales’ historic win over South Africa on 26 June 1999, and triple Grand Slam winning Welsh international Ryan Jones were also among the guests at the event.

The two-day celebration also includes a festival of grassroots rugby, which will see under 7s teams from across Wales becoming the first people to step out on the hallowed pitch tomorrow (Saturday January 23).

Principality has invited players representing Bridgend Sports, Dulais Valley, RTB Ebbw Vale, Treherbert and Wrexham who have been selected for their commitment to the development of rugby both on and off the field.

The young players will be accompanied by their parents and will take part in a skills session delivered by WRU Coach Core Apprentices and national squad representatives followed by autographs and an exclusive Q&A.

Graeme Yorston, Group Chief Executive of Principality Building Society, said: “This partnership provides substantial support to nurture future rugby talent and grow the grassroots game at all levels in Wales, whilst providing substantial benefits for our loyal members, our savers and borrowers. It will also bring substantial economic benefits to our country – with a range of exciting events and concerts being held at the Stadium over the next 10 years.

“We are proud to put our name to the home of Welsh rugby – a home that truly belongs to the nation and is at the heart of Welsh life.

“Principality has been part of the fabric of Welsh life for more than 155 years, helping people to prosper in their homes, and it is important to us to stay true to these roots and continue to invest in our heartland to support the communities in which we and our customers live and work.

“We hope that Principality Stadium will be a place where unforgettable memories are created, where the passion and pride of Wales will be witnessed in all its glory.”

As well as being the home of Welsh rugby, the multi-purpose venue plays a central role in Welsh life. Supporting local community events and attracting major music concerts and high profile business events to the area, the Stadium actively generates more than £130m for the local economy each year.

The WRU shares a long and proud history with Wales’ largest building society, dating back to 1969 when the first partnership between the two parties offered Principality Members some of the first WRU debenture seats.

From 2001 the building society sponsored the WRU’s main knockout cup competition later progressing to become the ten-year title sponsor of the Premiership division in Wales in 2005.

Wales’ first international match at Principality Stadium is the sell-out clash with Scotland on Saturday 13 February. Earlier this week, Gatland named his 37-man squad for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.

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Wales Women building cohesion at start of big year

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Cohesion was the focus for new Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams during his first training camp of 2021.

Having been in post just over a month, Abrahams has spent time watching the Welsh performances in the Allianz Premier 15s and getting to know players and staff but the two-day camp was a welcome opportunity for quality face to face time with an enlarged training squad.

“We achieved our key aims on the weekend. The main thing was to learn more about the players. The more we understand them as individuals and as a team, that’s where we can make them better as players.

“The ultimate goal at the moment is to develop cohesion. We have to have the right people and make sure we work incredibly hard on those relationships between players and with management. Everything is tailored to making the team better and we also had some meaningful conversations around the legacy this team wants to leave for the next generation of Welsh women’s rugby and this team has to be the role model for that. That is a long-term goal.”

Abrahams is buoyed by what he’s seen so far. The vast majority of this training squad play in the Allianz Premiership and our players aren’t just making up the numbers. They’re putting down some big markers – just look at Kayleigh Powell and Hannah Jones who both earned a Player of the Match recently and Jaz Joyce who was Player of the Month for December. We’re really proud of how well our players are doing, it’s great for the programme and those experiences are just going to make them better.”

Siwan Lillicrap added, “It’s been nice to get together so soon in the New Year – the first step in a huge year ahead. The focus this weekend was on building a foundation and exploring what we’ve got as a squad.

“I think we absolutely achieved that, the relationships are developing along with a confidence in the squad . It’s been a tough, challenging camp but that’s what you want as we build towards the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup.”

Lillicrap welcomed the input of the new-look coaching team, former Wales captain and Colwyn Bay head coach Rachel Taylor coming in as national skills coach and former Ireland international and Penclawdd forwards coach Sophie Spence joining the set-up as Wales’ World Rugby coaching intern.

“Warren has been very inspirational for us already. It feels like he’s been in post much longer as we’ve done a lot of work on zoom already. It’s great to have Rachel on board. She’s a role model for many of us with what’s she’s done on the field as Wales captain and off it as a coach and Sophie too with her international experience and coaching knowledge.”

Training squad:
Forwards: Abbie Fleming, Alisha Butchers, Gwen Crabb, Georgia Evans, Cerys Hale, Cara Hope, Molly Kelly, Natalia John, Manon Johnes, Kelsey Jones, Beth Lewis, Siwan Lillicrap, Robyn Lock, Shona Powell-Hughes, Donna Rose, Caryl Thomas, Meg Webb, Teleri Wyn Davies
Backs: Alecs Donovan, Beth Huntley, Bryonie King, Courtney Keight, Jade Knight, Caitlin Lewis, Lisa Neumann, Hannah Jones, Jasmine Joyce, Kayleigh Powell, Paige Randall, Jess Roberts, Gemma Rowland, Lauren Smyth, Elinor Snowsill, Robyn Wilkins, Flo Williams

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Scarlets slay Dragons

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Pro-14 Conference BScarlets 20 – Dragons 3

SCARLETS started 2021 as they ended 2020 with a Welsh derby victory at Parc y Scarlets.
Tries from man-of-the-match Sione Kalamafoni and replacement Sam Costelow, combined with the boot of Dan Jones ensured Glenn Delaney’s side made it a festive double to move them up to second in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 standings.
The Scarlets weren’t at their free-flowing best and will be frustrated by the amount of handling errors and ill-discipline in their performance, but the winning run continues ahead of next week’s clash with Cardiff Blues in the Welsh capital.
Despite a rare dry night in Llanelli, the opening 40 minutes was littered with errors from both sides and it meant the game had little flow.
The Scarlets enjoyed plenty of possession and territory, but too often passes failed to go to hand.
It was the Dragons who were first on the scoreboard thanks to a penalty from the boot of ex-Scarlet Josh Lewis.
Wales lock Jake Ball limped off moments later with a knee injury to be replaced by Tevita Ratuva, while Wyn Jones, on his 100th appearance, also left the field for a head assessment.
The outstanding Kalamafoni made a powerful surge up the middle of the field to put the Scarlets on the offensive, but again a promising move broke down.
Dan Jones levelled matters on 29 minutes, then added another penalty on the stroke of half-time after a quick tap from Kieran Hardy.
The Scarlets continued to enjoy the better of play in the second period, but had to wait until 57 minutes for the game’s first try.
More pressure led to Gareth Davies being taken out off the ball and Dragons lock Matthew Screech being shown yellow by referee Nigel Owens.
Scarlets went for the corner instead of the shot at goal and a well-worked training move saw Kalamafoni charge across the whitewash for his first try in Scarlets colours, a score converted by Jones.
With former Scarlet Rhodri Williams adding a spark, Dragons looked for an immediate response, but a brilliant turnover from Ratuva snuffed out the threat.
Then in the final play, replacement Sam Costelow picked up a loose ball, sped through the gap and around the final defender for a superb solo score, with the Wales U20s fly-half adding the conversion for good measure.
After the hard-fought win, Scarlets coach Glenn Delaney said: “I suppose it was a compelling contest of a different nature. You saw a lot of kicking battles going on, neither team wanted to give the other counter-attacking opportunities.
“I thought defensively we were very resolute, I never felt we were in danger on our goal-line, it was a bit stop-start with a couple of drop balls, but I am delighted to get the win and we did create a bit more in the second half.
“With these derby games, I am learning every time we play one, they all seem to be pretty much like this and perhaps bring out the best and worst in us because of the individual competition and contest.
“We would have liked to have done a bit more with the ball and the attacking breakdown with us was poor, the Dragons turned over a bit of ball there so we need to be better in that area and make sure when we make the breaks we are able to capitalise.”Attachments area

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Scarlets’ late surge sees off Ospreys

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Pro-14 Conference B – Ospreys 14 – Scarlets 16 

A LATE try from Angus O’Brien secured the derby day spoils in a nail-biting Guinness PRO14 Boxing Day clash against the Ospreys.
The Ospreys, playing as the official ‘home’ team at Parc y Scarlets, had led for the majority of a tense contest.
But with 71 minutes on the clock, a superb off-load from replacement Blade Thomson paved the way for full-back O’Brien to slice through and dive over for the crucial score.
Man of the match Dan Jones added the conversion to put the Scarlets in front for the first time and the West Walians were able to finish the match on the front foot to claim the annual festive bragging rights and a crucial win to keep them in the hunt in the Conference B standings.
O’Brien hadn’t been named in the original match-day 23, but was brought in at the 11th hour as a replacement for Johnny McNicholl.
In blustery conditions, Scarlets enjoyed the early pressure, but despite hammering away at the Ospreys line were unable to come away with any points.
Instead, it was the Ospreys who were first on the board after 14 minutes through the boot of fly-half Stephen Myler.
The opening quarter was proving a cagey affair with both sides unable to get any momentum going.
A moment of individual brilliance from scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, who dummied and sprinted clear from 40 metres, extended the Ospreys’ lead on 22 minutes, but the Scarlets’ response was swift with Jones landing a penalty straight from the kick-off.
Jones hit the upright with another attempt, then a pin-point cross-field kick from Steff Hughes just evaded the grasp of wing Steff Evans with the line at his mercy.
A powerful scrum on the stroke of half-time led to a long-range penalty chance, but O’Brien’s strike drifted wide with the Ospreys going in ahead 8-3 at the break.
Myler extended his side’s lead early in the second half, but Jones kept Scarlets in it with his kicking out of hand and off the floor.
Two more penalties from the Carmarthen fly-half to one from Myler made it 14-9 going into the final 10 minutes.
Then the Scarlets struck.
With Thomson having a big impact off the bench, the back-rower plucked a ball out of the sky as the Scarlets surged forward. He was involved again soon after, producing a sublime pass to O’Brien who cut a great angle to the posts.
With only two points in it, the Scarlets showed their composure to make their way downfield and set up camp in ‘home’ territory for the final minutes, denying the Ospreys any chance to snatch the win.Glenn Delaney reflected on the absence of fans from the stadium.“You go back 12 months and there were 15,000 people here and I don’t think I have experienced anything like it. This place was electric.“I say it every week, we are very fortunate to be in the position we are and we are only here by virtue of the supporters of this great club. We want the fans back here as soon as possible.“Hopefully, they found a chance to shout at the TV screens, get involved and share the experience. The derby season is passionate, the only thing we are missing is the people. We must get the people back into the game, they would have loved the occasion.”On the performance, while Glenn Delaney was ‘delighted’ with the win, he added: “There is plenty for us to work on. We stayed in the game and that’s what you have to do in a derby.“There were a lot of things we weren’t happy about in terms of our skillsets and penalty count, we were very ill-disciplined and we need to correct that. We were putting pressure on ourselves. We were trying to play and we were quite close on a couple of occasions, a couple of pass-kicks almost went to hand.“Probably not having a game for a week or so showed, our timing was a bit off; we have had a couple of disjointed weeks, we looked a bit rusty. I thought the Ospreys were excellent, put us under pressure and took their points well.”

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