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Girls’ rugby booms across Wales

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Arrows players: With their coach, Wales international prop Meg York

Arrows players: With their coach, Wales international prop Meg York

THE EXPERIMENT of introducing summer rugby for girls has been a resounding success, with female playing numbers in Wales more than doubling after just one season.

More than 2,000 girls regularly trained and played at the 27 new cluster centres for girls set up all over Wales for spring and summer 2016 and, in conjunction with additional playing opportunities at the 80 school club hubs around Wales, the number of women and girls playing the national sport has gone from a total of around 2,000, to more than 4,000 regular participants.

The cluster centres were so successful in creating a vibrant, sustainable environment for girls’ rugby that 15 new teams have already been established to allow girls to continue to play rugby in the traditional rugby season. These will fall into the Under 15, Under 18 and senior structures already in place, while the girls-only clusters will be back next spring for minis and juniors.

WRU National’s Women’s and Girls Manager, Caroline Spanton, said: “The clusters were set up to overcome some of the barriers girls felt were preventing them from enjoying rugby. Playing girls-only rugby in the summer months were key factors, combined with volunteers, parents, hub officers and WRU staff all pulling in the same direction to create a fun environment for girls from under nines to under 15s.

“The clusters were particularly popular for under nines to under 11s, and the figures for teenage girls has bucked the trend of girls dropping out of sport at that age. The clusters adopted a philosophy of stage not age, so if girls want to carry on playing touch or non-contact rugby, they can do so. We have catered for the demand from some new clusters to keep playing in the traditional season by setting up new under 15 and under 18 teams and ensuring they have everything in place to be sustainable.

“Girls clearly want to play rugby and we will keep working hard to ensure opportunities continue to increase for women and girls at all levels around Wales.”

The Arrows Under 18s in Pontypool is one of the new teams recently set up due to a strong desire from the players to carry on playing once the summer, cluster season ended.

Wales international prop Meg York coaches the side. “The vast majority of these players didn’t play rugby before the Arrows cluster centre was set up but enjoyed it so much that the girls begged us to set up an Under 15 and Under 18 side so that they could keep playing. The players are so enthusiastic, they just want to play rugby and since school has started back, they’ve brought their friends with them too, so numbers are increasing every week.

“They are so keen to learn and I certainly have my eyes on a number of players who could go on and play at a higher level. Coming from Pontypool myself, my idols were the Pontypool front row and if these girls see that I’ve achieved my dream of playing for Wales, hopefully they will see that it’s possible for them too; there is certainly no shortage of talent.”

Arrows player Nicole Smith said: “When I saw on Facebook that the Arrows cluster was setting up, I just had to get involved as I played rugby in primary school and thoroughly enjoyed it. Having Meg as a coach makes a huge difference as she gives us confidence and passes on her skills to us. I would love to play for the Dragons and Wales one day.”

Developing women’s and girls’ rugby at all levels is a key priority for the Welsh Rugby Union.

High profile appointments in the 15 and seven-a-side women’s game recently have been an indication of that at an elite level – along with WRU support for Jasmine Joyce and Laurie Harries to train with GB, Jaz Joyce going on to represent Team GB at the Olympics and a commitment to invest in Wales – places in the Women Sevens, with qualification for the Commonwealth Games and the World Sevens Series, are up for grabs.

At grassroots level, the 80 school club hub officers around Wales have hugely increased opportunities for girls to play rugby in school and helped to transfer girls to the clusters.

To find out about opportunities for women and girls to play rugby, email playrugby@wru.co.uk.

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Boxer set to compete in Germany

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Return: Ben Rees-Davies returns to Germany this weekend

CARDIGAN light-welterweight boxer Ben Rees-Davies returns to the scene of his greatest performance this week (Oct 19-22) when he competes in the prestigious Eindhoven Box Cup in Germany.

Seventeen months ago, the talented 25-year-old acquitted himself superbly by winning a bronze medal in a tournament which invariably draws some of the finest amateurs in Europe and the world.

Rees-Davies – a lance corporal in the Royal Welsh Regiment – eventually lost in the semi-finals to Russian number one Arman Zakaryan, the 2015 European champion and an Olympic qualifier.

A series of injuries mean that the former Cardigan ABC man has not boxed since losing in the Welsh Championships quarter-finals in March.

But Rees-Davies says he is now fully fit, fuelled by the nagging belief he has never quite fulfilled his potential – and by the fact he may soon have to hang up his gloves.

“I’m entered into an 18-man strong group with boxers from all over the world, it’s a Commonwealth Games qualifying tournament so there will be a fantastic pedigree of boxers,” he told the Herald.

“I’ve had a few frustrating injuries since the Welsh Championships so I haven’t been active, but if anything it’s made me more hungry to get back in the ring and achieve big things this year.

“For me it’s a massive season, and it could be my last so I’m aiming to achieve as much as I can and show my true potential once and for all.”

Rees-Davies said the time was approaching when he would have to focus wholeheartedly on his Army career.

He explained: “I want to progress with promotion. I love boxing with all my heart, but I have to think of my career also.”

He said he was ‘eternally grateful’ to long-time friend Anthony Studley, of Hair Lounge 4 Men in Cardigan – himself a former Cardigan ABC boxer – for helping him with funding.

“I massively appreciate help from him and he’s a credit to the town,” he said.

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Aber knocked out by Reds

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Battle: Aberaeron and Llanelli players go for the ball​

Aberaeron • 1
Llanelli Town • 6
JD Welsh Cup

LLANELLI T​OWN proved too strong for Aberaeron ​last Saturday (Oct 7), as they were knocked out of the JD Welsh Cup by their Welsh League Division 1 opponents.

With the pitch looking immaculate the scene was set for a memorable cup tie but unfortunately that dream only lasted five minutes.

Aberaeron, who have regularly conceded easy goals from lost possession​,​ were left in no doubt that it should be safety first.

A cleared defensive header from an early corner for Llanelli should have been dealt with but possession was lost and a quick cross was easily headed in to the net.

Before Aberaeron could settle, Llanelli’s star player Lee Trundle beat three players to give himself a sight on goal and he thundered an unstoppable shot in off the underside of the bar.

Aberaeron woke up and Matty Davies was twice through on goal but no end product. Llanelli were passing well and Lee Trundle found himself one on one against Sion Clark. He turned cleverly leaving the defender in his wake and was unceremoniously upended for a clear penalty. Trundle drove it hard to the keeper’s left for number three.

Once more Aberaeron came in to the game, but passes were awry and often intercepted. A long clearance from Llanelli was not caught by Edwards, the Aberaeron keeper and the ball was easily tapped in to an empty net​.​

The second half was an attempt at a pride salvaging operation and Aberaeron gave a good account of themselves without finding the opponents net.

Trundle was kept at bay for the majority of the half but his trickery once more led to him being fouled in the box and he, once more, slammed the ball to the keeper’s left for five nil.

Aberaeron did get a consolation goal from the penalty spot from Matty Davies before another calamitous defending error gave Llanelli a sixth.

The score did not truly reflect the game but it reflects the ruthlessness of an ex professional striker who, clearly writes his own headlines- quite deservedly.

For Aberaeron, these are worrying times and the next three fixtures are ‘must wins’.

If Aberaeron cannot eradicate the problem of losing simple possession then it’s going to a long and very difficult season.

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Aber climb off the bottom

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Chance: Ryan Wade comes close with a chance for Aber

Aberystwyth Town • 0
Barry Town • 0

ABERYSTWYTH TOWN earned themselves a point to climb off the bottom of the JD Welsh Premier League table last Saturday afternoon (Oct 7), as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Barry Town United at Park Avenue.

Both sides missed good opportunities to win the game in the second half, but the game ended in stalemate as both managers settled for a point apiece.

Aber manager Nev Powell made one change to the starting line-up from Tuesday’s Nathaniel MG Cup defeat to Airbus UK Broughton, with John Owen replacing Cledan Davies, which meant Mathew Jones started at left back for the first time in his Black and Greens’ career.

Both sides started the game cautiously, with the game lacking any real rhythm through the first 15 minutes. Barry came closest to opening the scoring on 16 minutes, as Chris Mullock somehow pulled off an instinctive point-blank save from Kayne Mclaggon’s close range shot.

Mclaggon was forced off through injury shortly afterwards, and Macauley Southam fired a long-range effort over the bar for the visitors.

Aber continued to struggle to get any threatening attacking play going, with Ryan Wade shooting well wide of the post on separate occasions.

The half time whistle could not come soon enough for the 233 spectators at Park Avenue.

The first 15 minutes of the second half again proved to be rather uninspiring for the neutrals, as both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances.

On 60 minutes, Aber’s midfield maestro Malcolm Melvin, and soon after striker Craig Hobson were introduced in place of Ryan Wollacott and Joe Phillips, with manager Nev Powell looking for some fresh impetus from his side.

Aber began to slowly crank up the pressure on the visitors’ rear guard, as Ryan Wade shot straight at Barry keeper Mike Lewis, before Hobson almost converted an in-swinging Ashley Young free kick.

Barry themselves continues to look dangerous on the counter attack with the pace of wide men Tyrrell Webbe and Drew Fahiya, but on 87 minutes Aber again came close to the breakthrough as Hobson headed Wade’s cross into the side-netting.

Aber looked for one last chance as the game headed into three minutes of added time, and they very nearly found the winner in the dying seconds as right back Declan Walker brought the ball down from the sky and fired a low shot towards goal, only for it to hit the outside of the post.

This was another occasion where Aber have to settle for a point when it could so easily have been three, but manager Nev Powell will take encouragement from the organisation and defensive qualities his side showed today, keeping their first clean sheet in the league this season.

Town now turn their attentions to their next JD Welsh Premier League fixture away to Llandudno, on Saturday (Oct 14).

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