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Mark Taylor steps down

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Stepping down: Mark Taylor with the U20 squad after their win over Scotland

Stepping down: Mark Taylor
with the U20 squad after their
win over Scotland

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.”

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Three summer tests announced for Wales

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WALES will play three summer tests in Cardiff this July as revised international fixtures have been announced.

Wayne Pivac’s side will face Canada (July 3) and back-to-back games against Argentina (July 10 & 17) at Principality Stadium.

These tests replace the scheduled summer tour to Argentina which has had to be cancelled due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty around travel restrictions.

The Pumas will now travel to Cardiff for two tests against the Six Nations Champions.

Wales will kick off their summer campaign on July 3 at home to Canada. The Canucks who are coached by former Wales captains Kingsley Jones and Rob Howley will visit Cardiff for the first time since 2008.

“We are looking forward to this summer, the opportunity it presents, and we are delighted to have three tests confirmed,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“It is disappointing not to have the opportunity to tour Argentina, especially on the back of our 2020 tour to New Zealand being cancelled, but in the current climate it is completely understandable.

“What is important is we have games and as we have said all along, this summer is a huge opportunity for us.   We are delighted and proud to have 10 players selected for the British & Irish Lions, it is reward for all their hard work and we wish them all the best this summer.

“With those players away we always earmarked this summer as an important development opportunity for us.

“It is an opportunity to bring players into this environment, look at them closely and expose them to test match rugby.  It is also an opportunity for current internationals to step-up into further leadership roles, so on both counts it is an important camp for us looking ahead to RWC2023.”

WRU CEO Steve Phillips added: “It is a huge credit to World Rugby that a full schedule of summer international rugby has been achieved against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

“Whilst it is obviously disappointing not to tour, we are delighted in Wales to be hosting Canada and to be able to honour the 2017 San Francisco agreement by hosting the Pumas for back-to-back matches, which will be hugely important to our international player development.

“Wayne has been adamant that his squad needs matches this summer and World Rugby have certainly delivered on that front.

“We are, of course, acutely aware of current restrictions and the ongoing and complex global COVID-19 picture. We will continue to monitor the situation in terms of any potential spectator access, but will remain entirely compliant and vigilant of all restrictions.

“In the current circumstances we are simply delighted to be able to play international rugby and any advance on that will be a bonus.”

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Aber fail to break down ten-man Flint

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ABERYSTWYTH Town and Flint Town United played out a goalless draw on Saturday (May 8).

It could have been much different for Aber, though, as they played against a Flint side who had Ben Amiss sent off in the first half, but they failed to make their advantage count.

With Wales experiencing some unseasonal weather, the Deeside coast was battered by mother-nature in the build-up to the game and full credit must go to the volunteers at the Silkmen for producing an excellent playing surface.

Aber started the game brightly and carved out two great openings in the first five minutes.  Firstly, Louis Bradford volleyed over the bar from close range before some brilliant work down the left from Harry Franklin teed up a cross for Jonathan Evans who’s goal bound header looked to have given the Seasiders the initiative.

However, home stopper Jon Rushton had other ideas, pulling off a sumptuous save down low, pawing the ball away to safety.

After the two quick chances for Aber, Flint settled into the contest and began creating chances of their own.

The home side saw strikes from Alex Jones and Callum Brately fall narrowly wide of the post before creating their best opportunity of the half with 23 minutes having elapsed.

Great play down the right flank saw the ball land to Ross Weaver. His strike, via a deflection from Black and Green defender Ian Kearney forced Connor Roberts into a great stop.

Franklin was causing problems for the Silkmen and Aber’s most likely route towards victory looked to be coming down his wing. He had a glorious opportunity to give Aber the lead but couldn’t keep his effort under the crossbar. He did have the ball in the back of the net but an early flag from the linesman denied him his fourth of the season.

The game’s flashpoint came with just seconds to go until the break. A heavy tackle in midfield from Ben Amiss on Jamie Veale, sparking a 19-man melee in midfield and saw referee Bryn Markham Jones reach for his red card for the Flint Town United striker.

With Aber having a numerical advantage, they enjoyed more of the ball in the second stanza but could only create sporadic chances against a well drilled and organised back line. Mathew Jones saw a strike fall narrowly over the bar whilst Kearney’s header from a corner landed on the roof of the home net.

To their credit, Flint did look to gain a winner of their own and had spells of pressure but like their opponents, they couldn’t break down an organised Seasiders’ defence. The lively Jones for the hosts came closest with his header going wide of the far post.

Gavin Allen introduced Owain Jones and Marc Williams as well as Jamie Reed late on in search of the go ahead goal but despite the addition of additional fire power, there was to be no late drama.

Jon Owen saw a shot well stopped by Rushton whilst Jenkins tried to connect with a Jack Rimmer cross in the final minute but could only make connection with the home keeper, earning himself a yellow card in the process.

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Scarlets convincingly beat Ospreys

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Rainbow Cup • Scarlets 22 – Ospreys 6

SCARLETS delivered a dominant derby performance to claim their first victory of the Rainbow Cup campaign, beating the Ospreys 22-6, at a rain-soaked Parc y Scarlets.

Prop Alex Jeffries scored the only try of the match, with full-back Leigh Halfpenny delivering a typically dead-eyed goal-kicking display in atrocious conditions.

The platform was laid by the Scarlets pack, with skipper Ken Owens, Blade Thomson and Aaron Shingler to the fore; the man of the match Kieran Hardy mixed up his game intelligently, while a much-improved defensive display saw the visitors restricted to just two kicks at goal from fly-half Luke Price.

It was the Ospreys who opened the scoring with a penalty from the boot of Price on two minutes, but the Scarlets responded strongly with Halfpenny levelling on 17 after the visitors were caught offside.

The outstanding Jonathan Davies looked like he made it over the whitewash after bursting through a couple of tackles, but the television match official adjudged the Wales centre had lost the ball as he slid over the whitewash and the score was chalked off.

Nevertheless, the Scarlets continued to boss proceedings.

With the Ospreys falling foul of Scottish referee Ben Blain, Halfpenny added a couple more penalties and an impressive half for the home side was capped when Jeffries crossed two minutes before the interval

A well-worked line-out move saw Davies burst onto a pass from Owens, breaking through a couple of tackles before feeding the tight-head prop on his inside.

Jeffries still had plenty to do but showed a superb turn of pace to race clear 20 metres to the whitewash to touch down against his former side.

That made it 16-3 at half-time with the Scarlets seemingly in firm control.

The visitors, looking for their first PRO14 win at Parc y Scarlets since 2015, did enjoy more of the game in the second period.

Price reduced the arrears with a penalty and it needed some superb defence to keep the Ospreys line-out maul at bay.

Another Halfpenny penalty five minutes from time extended the lead to 22-6 to ensure a comfortable victory and a seasonal double over the Scarlets’ arch-rivals.

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