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Gerald Davies wins presidency

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GERALD Davies will be the next President of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), it was announced today, as clubs also elect their first female National Council Member.

Davies will take up his elected position to the Union’s highest ambassadorial office at the close of its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on November 17, and Liza Burgess joins the Council, moving just one step away from potential election to the WRU Board.

Davies won the Presidency by majority vote of the member clubs of the WRU surpassing the other two high calibre candidates, Terry Cobner and Tommy David, and will replace current President Dennis Gethin who will have served 12 years upon his retirement from the position after the AGM.

He will serve a maximum three year term in an ambassadorial role vital to the day-to-day operations of the Union, and will be charged with continuing to unite the game in Wales and upholding the core values and strategy of Welsh rugby, whilst acknowledging the heritage and traditions of its long and proud history.

“It’s a great privilege to be able to welcome Gerald Davies as the next President of the WRU and we look forward to him officially taking up the position in November,” said WRU chairman Gareth Davies.

“Three individuals not just well respected in Wales, but each with their own significant profiles in the world game, have stood for our highest ambassadorial office and I would like to thank all three for their candidacy and for producing such a high calibre contest.

“The WRU Presidency is a post which dates back over a 130 years to the humble beginnings of our national game, it’s a role which very much reflects the character and capabilities of the individual who fulfils it and I’m sure Gerald will put his own stamp on the position and help take Welsh rugby to new heights.

“Of course, during the long and illustrious history of the game in Wales, many great rugby men have honoured us by assuming the position, not least Dennis Gethin who has stood tall as a figure of immense gravitas, warmth and acumen as he has represented us around the globe during his tenure.

“And this is the ideal opportunity for me to thank Dennis on behalf of everyone involved in the game in Wales for his dedication and commitment to the national cause whilst in post, but it is also with great delight that we welcome Gerald as his successor.”

Davies, 74, is the former British & Irish Lions (1968 and 1971), Wales and Cardiff wing who starred in the famous ‘70s triple Grand Slam winning backline which also featured the likes of Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams.

He won 50 caps, including four for the Lions, amassing 23 tries during his international career and also featured for Llanelli, Loughborough College, Cambridge University, the Barbarians and London Welsh.

He later became a distinguished rugby writer with The Times and was appointed Lions Team Manager and figurehead for their 2009 tour of South Africa – an honour which coincided with his nine year tenure as a WRU Director between 2005 and 2014 – and he is currently chairman of Guinness PRO14 Rugby.

“It’s a wonderful honour to have been asked to represent our national game as President and I would like to thank all of the member clubs throughout Wales for giving me the opportunity to serve Welsh rugby,” said (Gerald) Davies.

“Welsh rugby has a great history and tradition and I’m delighted to follow in the footsteps of some truly exceptional rugby men who have held the position through time.

“It has been my greatest honour to have played international rugby for Wales, but it really is the pinnacle of my lifetime in rugby to receive this honour at such a wonderful time for our national sport.

“We are making magnificent progress not just on the pitch but also our progressive union is doing great things off it, and I’m particularly delighted to hear the news about Liza Burgess joining the Council and increasing female representation within our governance.”

Burgess won the contest for the available National Council Member position, to be vacated by Anthony Buchanan (at the conclusion of the AGM in November, when he also vacates his position as a WRU Director), by majority vote over fellow candidates Roy Wilkinson, John Manders and Sian Griffiths.

Next, one of four National Council Members (Colin Charvis, John Morgan and Mark Taylor are the other potential candidates) will be elected as a WRU Director by fellow members of the WRU Council, following the AGM.

This means Burgess could be the first female to be elected to the WRU Board in more than 130 years of history – with current Director Aileen Richards having been appointed, rather than elected, as an Independent Non Executive Director in 2015.

“I’m both hugely humbled and delighted that the clubs around Wales have voted for me in enough numbers to secure my position on the Council and intend to fully reward the faith they have shown in me,” said Burgess.

“The significance of being the first elected female Council member is not lost on me, the Union and its member clubs deserve due credit for looking beyond the established traditions of the governance structure and I am grateful to all those who have encouraged me to stand and supported my nomination.

“I intend to now fully embrace this new opportunity and challenge, as we all work collectively toward safeguarding the future of our national game for all.”

Burgess is the decorated 93-times capped former Welsh Women’s international trailblazer and coach, who created history when she coached the first Women’s Barbarians team and is currently coaching Gloucester-Hartpury in the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s in England.

Elsewhere two new District Council Members have been elected – also due to take their positions at the end of the WRU’s AGM in November – Jeff Davies of Seven Sisters rugby club was elected by majority vote of member clubs in District E, replacing Geraint Edwards, and Colin Wilks of Risca was elected in District A, to replace Ian Jeffery.

“We were delighted to see two female candidates for the position of National Council Member, with Sian Griffiths also a highly credible candidate, as were John Manders and Roy Wilkinson, and Liza is a hugely welcome addition to the WRU Council,” added Davies.

“We have called for our clubs to help us ‘break the established mould’ in terms of candidature for these senior positions in Welsh rugby and they should be particularly commended for doing so in this instance.

“Welcome also to Colin Wilks and Jeff Davies who are two more important additions to the WRU Council which is charged with overseeing the community game throughout Wales.”

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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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