FORMER Wales Captain , Mark Taylor , has stepped down as Wales U20 Team Manager to spend more time with his family . The team’s 42-19 victory over Scotland marked his final match in the role.
The former Centre who won 52 Wales caps, scored the historic first try at the Millennium Stadium and successfully captained Wales on four occasions, has been a Wales international pathway team manager since hanging up his playing boots in 2008, first with Wales U18, and for the last six years with Wales U20.
Taylor, who also toured with the Lions in 2001, has decided to spend more time with his family and other work commitments, but admits he will certainly stay involved in rugby in some capacity.
“It’s been a massive experience for me over the past eight years . It’s been a pleasure for me to be part of the development of young players, especially when you see them go onto play for the senior Wales side.
“There have been a lot of highs and some lows in that time, which from a results point of view come down to a few heavy defeats to New Zealand, in 2011 and earlier this week.
“One of the biggest achievements was reaching the Junior World Championship final in 2013, when we probably should have beaten England in the final. Hallam Amos, Sam Davies, Steff Hughes and Jordan Williams were key to that campaign, especially in beating South Africa in the semi-final. It was the culmination of two year period under Danny Wilson as coach and the players learned a huge amount from the experience.
“One of the highlights of my career, including my playing days, was being involved with the first side to beat New Zealand U20 in 2012. Our team had gone from losing to New Zealand by 92 points the year before, with the likes of Liam Williams and Kirby Myhill in the side, to come back 12 months later and turn them over. The likes of Tom Prydie, Samson Lee and Rob Evans were in that side, the match was played in some of the worst conditions imaginable and that victory was right up there in terms of special moments.
“Despite a few results going against us during this tournament in Manchester, the current crop of Wales U20 players also created something special in winning the Six Nations Grand Slam.
“The way they came back to win in Ireland got them off to a great start, and the desire they showed to stay in the Scotland and France games showed what they are made of. The highlight of the campaign though was the big victory over England, producing excellent rugby for 80 minutes.”
The team manager role started quite small with Wales U18 , but a number of players who have gone on to become household names were in Taylor’s sights from the start.
Tom Prydie, George North, Eli Walker, Aled Davies, Matthew Morgan and Rhodri Jones were in the first Wales U18 squad Taylor was involved with in 2009, with Samson Lee, Rob Evans and Ellis Jenkins joining the party a year later.
“I was asked if I wanted to take on the role and I saw it as a good way to stay in touch with the game. I was involved with talent identification and also some of the backs coaching under Darren Edwards, who was with London Welsh at the time.
“Tom [ Prydie ] was outstanding for us in a Five Nations tournament in Italy and went on to become capped by Wales in the Six Nations the following year , before playing for us again later that season in the next Five Nations tournament. George North was the star of that tournament in Llandovery and was capped by Wales later that year.
“The day -to -day role involves a lot of organisation and coordination between the team, the rest of the Welsh Rugby Union rugby department, the other National Squads, the Regions and clubs, along with other Unions and tournament organisers. Basically everything that enables the coaches and players to get on with their job of preparing for matches. I will miss it but I owe my family some quality time after going straight into team management after ending my playing career. I will no doubt be drawn back to rugby as I still feel I owe the game a lot after everything it’s given me, but it will be more of a home -based role for the time being. I’d like to thank all the coaches and support staff I’ve worked with in my time with the 18s and 20s.”
WRU Head of Rugby Performance , Geraint John , paid tribute to Mark Taylor’s contribution to the Welsh Rugby Union over the last eight years.
He said: “It has been a pleasure working with Mark since my return to Wales and he will be a great loss. He is an excellent Team Manager, well respected by all players and staff and is well loved in the office with his professionalism, passion and humour. We totally understand the reasons why Mark is stepping down as family is very important.
“Even though he is leaving his current role I am hoping that in the future we will see Mark involved with our teams in some capacity. He is an excellent person with great values and we wish him the best but we will certainly be staying in touch.”
Swans grab last gasp play-off spot
WAYNE ROUTLEDGE’s last-gasp header saw Swansea City secure a play-off spot with a handsome away victory over 10-man Reading on a dramatic Wednesday night (July 22).
Steve Cooper’s side knew they had to win at the Madejski Stadium to have any hope of a top-six finish, and Rhian Brewster’s 10th goal of the season gave them an ideal start.
The sending off of Yakou Meite then gave the Swans a man advantage, but the Royals equalised before the half through a George Puscas penalty.
The Swans restored their lead through a classy finish from substitute Routledge, before Liam Cullen showed great composure to steer in his first goal for the club.
And when Routledge popped up at the death to complete his brace it put the Swans into the top six as Forest suffered a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke, meaning Swansea got into the play-offs on goal difference.
The Swans started on the front foot, with centurion Connor Roberts having particular joy down the right-hand flank.
Brewster then nearly threaded Conor Gallagher in on goal after fine work by Andre Ayew, before Roberts hit a strike into the ground and over the bar after Jake Bidwell had made the overlap on the opposite flank.
The hosts responded by having a good spell of possession, probing and asking a few questions of their own.
But the visitors hit the lead in the 16th minute through Brewster. The striker picked the ball up some 30 yards out and got the ball out of his feet before smashing a long-range drive that completely deceived Rafael in the Reading goal.
John Swift curled a free-kick over at the other end, while more good work by Roberts could not quite end with Bidwell getting on the end of a deep cross before Rafael made a hash of dealing with a Gallagher cross.
Swift headed straight at Erwin Mulder from a good counter on the half-hour mark, with Ayew quickly advancing up the field to work Rafael again.
Opportunities were coming at both ends, with Mulder called into action again as Meite took aim from the left side of the area.
Swansea were riding their luck a little and had a let-off when a sliced clearance landed on top of the bar.
Matt Grimes had a free-kick pushed away by Rafael before the home side were reduced to 10 men after Meite had pushed Mike van der Hoorn in the face after a tussle for the ball.
But the hosts made light of the numerical disadvantage by levelling after Bidwell was adjudged to have fouled Andy Rinomhota, with Puscas beating Mulder – who got a hand to the strike – from the spot.
However, the Swans should have led at the break. Ben Cabango’s shot was blocked and fell to Jay Fulton, but the Scot pulled his shot wide of the target.
Rafael pushed away an Ayew drive right on half-time, with Swansea frustrated that referee Stephen Martin did not award them a penalty of their own as Fulton went down under a challenge from Omar Richards.
With Cardiff winning and Nottingham Forest losing, Cooper knew goals were needed and he made two changes at the break.
Yan Dhanda came on for Fulton, while Routledge replaced van der Hoorn, and they were immediately on the front foot.
With Swansea committing so many players forward, Reading looked to sit deep and play on the break and they proved resolute as the visitors battled to find a way through.
Grimes curled a free-kick wide of the target and Gallagher also threatened from distance, but the hour mark came and went without any clear-cut chances to show for their dominance of possession and territory.
However, when they did craft a sight of goal they took the chance clinically. Grimes produced a lovely ball, and Routledge controlled superbly to loft the ball over Rafael and into the net.
Unfortunately for the Swans, that goal went in moments after Forest had equalised against Stoke, which appeared to put a sizeable dent in their playoff aspirations.
Nevertheless, Cooper’s side continued to search for more goals in the hope events in the East Midlands would turn back in their favour.
They so nearly made it 3-1 with 17 minutes to play as lovely link play from Rutledge and Bidwell ended with Ayew steering just wide.
The situation was changing all the time, and Stoke retook the lead at Forest to leave the door ajar for the Swans.
And, when Stoke scored a third at the City Ground and Cullen coolly fired home his first senior goal for the club with six minutes remaining, they suddenly only needed a goal to finish in the play-off places.
Grimes had a deflected shot tipped over but the Swans then got the goal they needed in stoppage time as Routledge popped up to nod in at the far post, with Stoke’s fourth goal putting the matter beyond doubt a few moments later to spark delighted celebrations among Cooper, his players and his staff.
Glamorgan launch new kit
GLAMORGAN Cricket has unveiled its new Vitality Blast playing kit for the 2020 season.
Designed by the Club’s official kit supplier, Masuri, alongside Glamorgan’s management, players and coaches, the brand-new Vitality Blast strip contains a subtle Welsh twist.
Fitting Glamorgan’s traditional colour schemes, the top is dark navy with a tonal dragon across the front – a nod to the old Glamorgan nickname and the Welsh identity – while a sharp yellow trim on the neck and sleeves frames the top.
The famous ‘Daff’ sits on the heart of the shirt, with MiPost’s strong Welsh brand centre-stage. Appearing on the collars are the logos of ‘Official Players Car Partner’, Mon Motors and Welsh company, Philtronics Solutions, with Discover Leeks on the right sleeve and SA Group on the back.
The famous Aston Martin logo features on both side of the Glamorgan T20 cap, as they continue their ongoing support of the club.
Head of Commercial, Huw Warren, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with Masuri throughout the design process and together developed an exciting new kit we’re sure our supporters will love with its strong connections with Wales.
“Our Masuri kits have always been hugely successful with players and fans alike and we look forward to continuing our commercial partnership with them.
“We can’t wait to see our players wearing the new kit when the Blast gets underway later this summer.”
Masuri CEO, Sam Miller, said: ‘’Once again it has been a pleasure working with the team at Glamorgan to bring this year’s kit to life, and we are looking forward to seeing it in use during the much anticipated Vitality Blast this year.’’
Wembley trip for Giggs’ men
CYMRU will travel to Wembley Stadium on Thursday 8 October for a home nations international against England.
Ryan Giggs’ side will return to action this autumn for the first time in 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kicking off with the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League campaign. The match against England will be one of two additional international matches scheduled as triple headers in October and November. In keeping with current Government guidelines, this fixture is scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors.
Since their first encounter in 1879, England are Cymru’s second oldest opponents with 102 matches in total producing 14 wins, 21 draws and 67 defeats. Cymru’s last visit to Wembley Stadium was in 2011 for a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier, with Ashley Cole scoring in a 1-0 defeat.
Ryan Giggs’ side will be using this match to prepare for the rescheduled EURO 2020 finals next summer where they hope to return to Wembley, one of the host stadiums, for the latter stages of the tournament.
Looking ahead to the autumn, Cymru are in Nations League Group B4 alongside Bulgaria, Finland and the Republic of Ireland with fixture dates as follows:
Thursday, 3 September – Finland v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 6 September – Cymru v Bulgaria (2:00pm)
Sunday, 11 October – Republic of Ireland v Cymru (2:00pm)
Wednesday, 14 October – Bulgaria v Cymru (7:45pm)
Sunday, 15 November – Cymru v Republic of Ireland (5:00pm)
Wednesday, 18 November – Cymru v Finland (7:45pm)
All fixtures are scheduled to be played behind-closed-doors for the foreseeable future.
The FAW will continue to adhere to relevant Government guidelines and supporters will be notified should arrangements change and tickets become available.
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