FOLLOWING Wales under 16s beating their English counterparts for the first time ever, Wales Rugby League CEO Chris Thair says the young talent has always been in Wales but recent results are finally making the elite clubs take notice.
Nine of the 17 players in the Wales side were under 15, which makes their historic 18-10 victory over England in Cardiff all the more remarkable, especially as they were up against a side that contained 14 players who are in Super League club’s academies.
Thair said: “The game was a marvellous advert for the sport and the talent on show from both sides was immense, however the result is remarkable given the difference in investment levels, systems and pathways between the two nations.
“Wales is small in size, however large in heart and even bigger when it comes to sporting talent. The sports authorities and elite clubs must now take note that Wales remains an outstanding player pool for the sport of rugby league.
“Investment is now the key to making this succeed. Super League clubs must invest by taking chances on young Welsh players and the sporting authorities must invest in Wales to ensure this young talent continues to come through the system.
“Young players in Wales are now enjoying playing more Rugby League than ever before, however our school and club programmes only begin at under 12s, where as in England it is under 7s.
“The seasons are much longer in England and by the time players reach 16 years of age they are likely to have a lot more training sessions and games under their belt. They would have also enjoyed the luxury of being involved with elite player scholarship systems with Super League clubs for a couple of years.
“The differences in experience levels for the under 16 international this weekend were immense and that alone makes the win an outstanding achievement. England had players of honed talent whereas Wales raw talent in terms of playing rugby league.
“Great talent but raw nonetheless and this makes it so exciting for all the scouts. A player of honed talent will improve at marginal levels however clubs are more likely to see significant jumps in performance levels after taking someone of raw talent.”
Thair is looking forward to the Rugby League World Cup in Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, which starts next month, and he knows that Wales will once again have a squad whereby over half of the players will have been developed through the Wales Rugby League system before first team.
“Welsh talent is shining at the moment,” he said.
“We began the season with Ben Flower and Rhys Evans helping their clubs beat their NRL counterparts in the World Club Challenge games, showing that we have world class players. Young Welshman Regan Grace then made one of the most impressive Super League debuts ever for his club St Helens. These three players along with many other professionals started their Rugby League in Wales and we urge clubs to continue to take the chance on recruiting Welsh talent, for the good of the club and the international game.
“We have over 60 Welshmen playing throughout the three professional leagues of the sport, however quality is still in abundance at the beginning of the pathway. Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf from Cardiff were once again crowned UK Champion Schools winners last month after beating Mirfield School in the Year 9 Final. This Glantaf school team has only been beaten once in three years of playing the sport.
“We have a system in Wales to bring through players from 16 to 21 years old and this is developing all the time however this is poor in comparison to a Super League club. St Helens had to take Regan Grace from our system at 17 and gave him a Super League debut at 20 years of age. Players who remain in Wales will come through and play for North Wales Crusaders or South Wales Ironmen in League 1 and whilst they are competitive the teams are not challenging for Super League.
“Yes we want players to remain in the system in Wales however at the same time we also want elite clubs to take on as many Welsh players as possible. The talent is here in Wales however it has to be nourished. Everyone involved in Wales Rugby League should be extremely proud of what is taking place in Wales and we continue to plan for a brighter future.”
The next chances to watch Wales’ up and coming players in action is this Saturday (Sept 9) when South Wales Ironmen and North Wales Crusaders clash at both under 18 and open age levels. The first game kicks off at midday. For more information, go to https://twitter.com/ironmenrl.
Wales under 18s then host England Lions at Cardiff Metropolitan University on Saturday, September 16 (kick-off 2pm).
Special game marks start of Trimsaran’s centenary year
TRIMSARAN took on Llanelli on Saturday (Sept 11) as they opened their centenary season and there were some special guests in attendance.
World Cup final referee Nigel Owens came out of retirement to take charge of the game while Jonathan Davies OBE also came back to his first club.
Davies presented the Trimsaran players with their new shirts before the game.
There were around 500 supporters in attendance for the match which saw Llanelli eventually running out 78-12 winners.
Trimsaran battled well but it was Llanelli who showed their class as they ran away with the game in the second half.
After the game, Trimsaran took to Twitter to thank everyone who had made their day so special.
On Twitter they wrote: “Great game played in great spirits. Llanelli showing their class and running away with it in the second half. Massive thank you for coming down to help us celebrate our centenary season yesterday.
“Huge thank you to everyone who came to support. Around 500 supporters came down and helped us celebrate and watch a great game of rugby. It was great to see so many there and to see the clubhouse bouncing all night
“Thank you to Jonathan Davies OBE for presenting the boys with their jerseys before the game and to Nigel Owens and his 2 assistant referees for coming down.
“Thank you to all our sponsors yesterday, to all the hard working committee, volunteers and everyone involved with Trimsaran Rugby, without you the game wouldn’t have been possible.
“Thanks to Ricky King and Chris Wilds for all their hard work in getting the field looking superb Trimsaran Rugby
“And a final thanks to the Trimsaran Rugby players who put their bodies on the line and showed how much playing for this team meant to them against a Welsh Prem outfit, the boys certainly done themselves proud and could have scored another 1 or 2 themselves.”
The club had been due to celebrate their centenary season a year ago but that was delayed because of the covid-19 pandemic.
Llangennech bowl Gowerton out to end chase and seal fifth win
LLANGENNECH finished the season off with a win on Saturday (Aug 28) as they prevented Gowerton from reaching their target.
Llangennech won the toss and chose to bat first and they made a good total of 276-7 from their 50 overs with runs throughout the order.
James Taube and Nathan Richards made an excellent start as they shared 91 runs for the first wicket.
Gowerton finally made the breakthrough when Richards was trapped leg before by Matthew Mason on a score of 39.
Taube made his way to a score of 43 but he was then stumped by David Gascoyne off the bowling of Tom Clarke.
That left the score on 94-2 but Aaron Wood and Nathan Jones added 55 runs for the third wicket.
Wood made his way to a score of 20 but he was then caught by Callum Eakins off the bowling of Matthew Mason.
Jones and David Williams then shared 83 runs for the fourth wicket as they took Llangennech over 200 runs.
Jones hit four fours and a six in his score of 61 but he was then run out by Lee Nicholas.
Williams had smashed seven fours and three sixes in a score of 57 from 29 balls but he was then caught by Nicholas off the bowling of James Cable.
Richard Clement made a late score of 13 before he was run out by Daniel Allen and Hedd-Wyn Jones scored 14 before being bowled by Cable.
Those wickets halted Llangennech’s momentum but they were still able to finish their innings on 276-7, with 25 from Mr Extras.
Gowerton were soon in trouble in their reply as they slipped to 8-2. Michael Jones had Lee Nicholas caught by Jack Page and Bevan Daniels caught by Hedd-Wyn Jones.
That soon became 18-3 as Michael Jones bowled Luke Evans.
David Gascoyne and Matthew Mason looked to lead the recovery as they shared 37 runs for the fourth wicket.
Gascoyne made his way to a score of 27 but he was also caught by Hedd-Wyn Jones off the bowling of Michael Jones to leave Gowerton on 55-4.
Daniel Allen hit a four and a six in his quick fire score of 11 but he fell the same way as Gascoyne as Gowerton fell into further trouble on 88-5.
However, Mason and Callum Eakins shared 90 runs for the sixth wicket to keep their side in the game.
Mason hit nine fours and three sixes on his way to a score of 95 but he was unlucky to miss out on a century when he was caught and bowled by James Taube.
Tom Barrett added 10 before falling to the bowling of Jack Page before Eakins and Will Collinson added 40 runs for the eighth wicket.
Eakins hit six fours in his score of 45 but he was then trapped leg before by Page as Gowerton’s hopes of victory began to fade.
Page then had Collinson caught by Nathan Richards on a score of 20.
That left Gowerton nine down and still needing 38 runs for victory.
They were unable to get those runs though as Owain Phillips had James Cable caught by Page to bowl Gowerton out for 243.
It gave Llangennech victory by 33 runs and their fifth win of the season.
Champions Llanelli finish season in style
LLANELLI Cricket Club finished the season in style on Saturday (Aug 28) as they beat Bronwydd 103 runs.
They were presented with the South Wales Cricket Association trophy prior to their match and after winning the toss and electing to bat, they went on to make a score of 287-7 from their 50 overs.
They lost Craig Howells for a score of 19 early on before Iwan Rees and Steven Devonald shared 146 runs for the second wicket.
It was an excellent stand between the pair with Rees hitting eight fours on his way to a score of 75.
He was then caught by Tom Gleeson off the bowling of Rhufon Phillips as Bronwydd finally made the breakthrough.
Devonald and Rhys Harris continued to put runs on the board though as they shared 59 runs for the third wicket.
It also saw Devonald reach his century but Llanelli then lost two quick wickets.
Harris was caught by Gruffudd Owen off the bowling of Gleeson on a score of 24 and then bowled Rhydian Morgan for a duck, leaving the hosts on 247-4.
Devonald and Matthew Roberts added a further 38 runs for the fifth wicket before Devonald’s excellent innings came to an end.
He had hit fifteen fours and a six in his knock of 131 from 126 balls but he was then bowled by James Dickson.
Roberts was then run out by Owen on a score of 16 as Llanelli’s momentum stalled towards the end of their innings.
It saw them finish on a total of 287, giving Bronwydd a tough target to chase.
James Cale and Josh Rencken shared 43 runs for the first wicket but Cale was bowled by Iwan Rees on a score of 12.
Rencken and Jacob Jenkinson shared 67 runs for the second wicket as they looked to put their side in a strong position.
However, after Jenkinson was bowled by Twm Westcott on a score of 26 more wickets began to fall.
Rencken had reached a score of 47 but he was then bowled by David Richards.
Westcott then had Philip Howell caught by Rhydian Morgan before Richards bowled James Dickson to leave Bronwydd on 115-5.
Oliver Furneaux and Gruffudd Owen shared 48 runs for the sixth wicket but they were quickly running out of time.
Owen was bowled by Rees on a score of 20 to leave the visitors on 163-6 and they could only add 21 more runs to the total.
Furneaux finished unbeaten on 37 but Bronwydd ended their innings on 184-6.
It meant Llanelli could celebrate their title win in style.
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