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).
Strange double-ton stuns Commoners
IT was a high scoring weekend in the West Wales Cricket Conference as over 1300 runs were scored across the three games.
Six-hundred of those runs came in one game on Saturday (Jun 9), as Aberaeron scored 306-4 to overcome the UWA Commoners’ score of 305-6 in what was a thrilling game.
Aberaeron won the toss and elected to field but the Commoners blasted their way past 300 runs as Umar Aslam top scored with an excellent knock of 154 which included 11 fours and 12 sixes.
Neil Stent and Rakesh Bhatia had earlier scored 23 and 26 respectively in an opening stand of 43 but after both had gone, Aslam and Jacob Hughes-Pickering shared 122 runs for the third wicket.
Hughes-Pickering was out for 24 but Aslam and Will Copeland shared another good stand of 83 as they closed in on a triple-century of runs.
Copeland was bowled by Jacob Jenkinson on a score of 21 before Aslam’s remarkable innings came to an end when he was stumped by J Fice off the bowling of Hywel Rees.
A late score of 17 from Ian Lawton then saw the Commoners to their total of 305-6 off their 40 overs.
Aberaeron knew they would need to bat well if they were to get close to their target but when they lost opener J Fice and Jacob Jenkins early on, things did not look good for the home side.
David Grinszpan scored 31 but he was then run out by Neil Stent and Aberaeron were 80-3.
Chris Strange and Steff Rees then swung the game in Aber’s favour as they shared 179 runs for the fourth wicket.
Steff Rees was the next man out when he was bowled by Ian Lawton for a score of 36 which included three fours and two sixes.
Strange had made his way to an equally remarkable double-century as he hit 24 fours and 14 sixes in his score of 204 not out which saw Aberaeron over the line.
Also on Saturday, Talybont earned victory over Aberystwyth Seconds by 67 runs.
Talybont batted first and after losing openers Ben Harper and Josheff Joshi cheaply, Huw Chambers and Graison John took control.
John hit six fours in a knock of 37 before he was caught by Ioan Morris off the bowling of Nigel Salmon.
Philip Abraham then made an identical score before he was caught and bowled by Amlyn Ifans.
Chambers also hit six fours in his knock of 52 before he was caught by Rob Rudge off the bowling of Morris.
Dave Barrow made 21 before being bowled by Salmon and G Smith finished not out on 34 (two fours, three sixes) as he guided Talybont to their total of 220-7.
Aber Seconds also lost opener Nigel Salmon early when he was trapped leg before by Abraham who also bowled Amlyn Ifans.
Zaid Khan did not last long at the crease either as he caught by Sojan Varghese off the bowling of Josheff Joshi.
Opener Ted Trewella made his way to a score of 43 but he was then caught by Abraham off the bowling of Graison John.
John also dismissed Tom Constantine for a score of 20 and James Breese for a score of 18 as Aber Seconds chances began to fade.
Titus Mathew was bowled by Dave Barrow before John returned to bowl Bryn Morris and Ioan Morris was caught off his bowling.
Rob Rudge had finished not out on 19 but Aber seconds were all out for 153 as Talybont earned victory.
There was a close game on Sunday (Jun 10) as Aberystwyth’s first team secured a narrow 10-run win over Tywyn and District.
Aber batted first after winning the toss and they made 167-6 in their 40 overs.
Ceri John made 17 as he opened the innings before he was caught by Matthew Maslin off the bowling of Richard Rees.
Mel Jones score 19 but was also caught by Dylan Williams off the bowling of Ed Hughes.
James Breese batted well for Aber as he made his way to a score of 53 before he was caught by Dave Jenkins off the bowling of Hughes.
Tom Constantine and Ifan Thomas both scored 18 before they fell to the bowling of Callum Taylor and Ed Hughes respectively.
Robert Rudge and Dafydd Jones finished the innings unbeaten as they steered Aber to their total.
Tywyn then did their best to overhaul Aber’s total and they made a good start as Callum Taylor and Richard Rees shared 89 runs for the first wicket.
However, when Rees fell to the bowling of Titus Mathew for a score of 15, wickets began to fall at regular intervals.
Taylor had made an excellent score of 67 but was caught by Dafydd Jones off the bowling of Breese.
Mathew also had Jack Mynard stumped and Gareth Lewis had Dave Jenkins caught for a score of 12.
Breese had the wickets of Dan Williams (0), Jamie Tomkins (5), and Ted Hughes (0), as he finished with good figures of 4-20 from his nine overs.
Matthew Maslin made a late score of 10 before he was out to the bowling of Anthony Evans and his wicket brought the game to a close with Tywyn ten runs short on 157.
Those results mean that Aberaeron now lead the West Wales by two points from the Commoners. Aberystwyth sit third with Talybont close behind in fourth.
On Saturday (Jun 16), Talybont host the UWA Commoners. On Sunday (Jun 17), Aberystwyth Seconds host Aber’s first team and Tywyn take on Aberaeron.
Thomas-Wheeler debuts at Centre for Wales U20
EIGHTEEN-year-old centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler will make his Wales U20 debut tomorrow against Japan at the Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan (17:30 BST).
Wales U18 international Thomas-Wheeler made his Guinness Pro14 debut for Ospreys at the end of April, and is one of nine new players in the starting team. He will line up alongside experienced centre Ioan Nicholas, whose fellow Scarlet, Corey Baldwin, moves from 13 to 14.
Scrum-half Harri Morgan gets his first start of the World Rugby U20 Championship, as does his Ospreys teammate Dewi Cross (wing), who made his debut on Sunday against New Zealand.
There is a wholesale change in the front row, where loosehead Rhys Davies (Scarlets) and hooker Dewi Lake (Ospreys) make their first start of the tournament. Tighthead Chris Coleman (Dragons) returns from the injury which ruled him out of the first two pool games.
There is also an all-new second row, with Bridgend’s Jack Pope and Scarlets’ Lewis Ellis-Jones getting their first starts in France. Likewise Dragons youngster Lennon Greggains, the new man in the back row packing down at openside.
Another Dragons back rower, Ben Fry, could make his debut from the bench, while Max Llewellyn – called up to the squad for the injured Rio Dyer – is also among the replacements.
“The new boys in the team have been chomping at the bit for a game, and the way they’ve been training has reflected that,” said head coach Geraint Lewis. “They’ve kept their focus and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do. There’s a combination of experience in the team, with a freshness brought by the incoming players – all of whom are hungry to do well in Perpignan.”
Wales U20 v Japan U20 will be shown live on the S4C channel, website and Facebook page.
Wales U20 team to face Japan:
15 Cai Evans (Ospreys)
14 Corey Baldwin (Scarlets)
13 Ioan Nicholas (Scarlets)
12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (Ospreys)
11 Dewi Cross (Ospreys)
10 Ben Jones (Cardiff Blues)
9 Harri Morgan (Ospreys)
1 Rhys Davies (Scarlets)
2 Dewi Lake (Ospreys)
3 Chris Coleman (Dragons)
4 Lewis Ellis-Jones (Scarlets)
5 Jack Pope (Bridgend)
6 Tommy Reffell (c) (Leicester Tigers)
7 Lennon Greggains (Dragons)
8 Taine Basham (Dragons)
16 Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues)
17 Iestyn Harris (Cardiff Blues)
18 Rhys Henry (Ospreys)
19 Max Williams (Dragons)
20 Ben Fry (Dragons)
21 Dane Blacker (Cardiff Blues)
22 Ben Thomas (Cardiff Blues)
23 Max Llewellyn (Cardiff Blues)
Wins for Commoners and Aberaeron
Commoners thump Aber
ABERYSTWYTH University Commoners proved too strong for Aberystwyth on Saturday (Jun 2), as they came away with a 181-run victory.
Aberystwyth won the toss and elected to field but openers Neil Stent and Rakesh Bhatia shared 43 runs for the first wicket. Bhatia hit two fours and two sixes in a knock of 26 but he was then run out by Titus Mathew.
Stent was joined at the crease by Abhishek Somani and the pair shared an excellent partnership of 173 runs to take the Commoners past 200.
The partnership eventually came to an end when Stent was bowled by Mathew for a score of 85 which included seven fours.
Somani stroked fourteen fours and a six as he made a magnificent century before being caught by J Cordy off the bowling of Ceri John for a score of 105.
That left the Commoners 235-3 and Jacob Hughes-Pickering fell soon after for a score of eight when he was caught by Steffan Davies off the bowling of Aled Lewis as Aber looked to hit back.
Umar Aslam made 10 before he was bowled by Aled Lewis and Tim Hughes was stumped by Rob Rudge off the bowling of John for a score of 5.
Bill Somerfield was caught and bowled by Zaid Khan while Ian Lawton finished not out on 15 (two fours) to help his side to a mammoth total of 273-7.
Aberystwyth knew they faced a tough test if they were to reach their target but they made the worst possible start.
Umar Aslam bowled opener Ceri John for a duck and he then trapped Nigel Salmon leg before for another duck.
Ian Lawton joined in and when he had J Cordy caught by Rakesh Bhatia without scoring, Aber had slipped to 0-3.
Aled Lewis was also caught and bowled by Aslam for a score of 6 as Aber did eventually get off the mark and Ted Trewella was caught by Tim Hughes off the bowling of Lawton for a score of 2, leaving Aber on 13-5.
Mel Jones and Zaid Khan did their best to steady the ship as they shared 45 runs for the sixth wicket. Khan was bowled by Guy Baron for a score of 23 which included four fours.
Baron also bowled Steffan Davies for a duck while Owen Keyworth was bowled by Aiden Reveley for another duck.
Rob Rudge was caught by Bhatia off the bowling of Reveley without scoring and Aber knew they were staring at a heavy defeat.
Mel Jones and Titus Mathew finished not out on 39 and 13 respectively, with six boundaries between them, as Aber finished on 99-9.
Aberaeron keep the pressure on
ABERAERON kept the pressure on leaders Aber University Commoners with a 31-run victory over Talybont on Saturday (Jun 2).
Talybont won the toss and elected to field and they did well to restrict Aber to 218 all out.
J Fice fell early on when he was caught by Sojan Varghese off the bowling of Graison John for a score of 4.
David Grinszpan and Chris Strange then shared 65 runs for the second wicket before Strange was bowled by Josheff Joshi for a score of 33 which included five fours and a six.
Grinszpan fell soon after when he was run out having hit four boundaries in a knock of 31.
Steff and Hywel Rees then shared another good partnership of 54 as Aberaeron continued to bat well.
Steff hit three fours in a knock of 27 but was then caught by Varghese off the bowling of Tibby Joseph.
Hywel Rees and Alexander Pitchford then put on 56 runs for the fifth wicket as Aberaeron edged towards 200 runs.
Rees had made an excellent half century with nine fours but was then run out by Phillip Abraham for a score of 52.
Pitchford fell soon after for a score of 26 when he was caught by Joseph off the bowling of John.
Wickets then began to fall at regular intervals as Dave Floyd was caught by Varghese off the bowling of Abraham and he later bowled Paul Hughes.
Graison John had Louis Fice and Mark Gleason bowled as the innings came to a close with Aberaeron all out on 218.
Neil Snowdon had hit two fours and a six in a knock of 20 but he ran out of partners but Aber left the field thinking they should have scored more.
Talybont made a good start in their reply as Ben Harper scored 18 before he was caught by Mark Gleason off the bowling of Hywel Rees.
Rees then trapped Dave Shaun leg before and he also bowled Josheff Joshi. Graison John played well in his knock of 47 but he was caught by Steff Rees off the bowling of Paul Hughes.
Hughes then bowled Philip Abraham for a score of 17 as the game began to slip away from the home side.
Tibby Joseph was run out by Hywel Rees for a score of 2 leaving Talybobnt six down.
Huw Chambers finished not out on 19 and Vinod Mathew not out on 31 but it wasn’t enough to take their side to victory as they finished short on 187-6.
On Saturday (Jun 9), the top two clash as Aberaeron host UWA Commoners. Aberystwyth Seconds are at home as they take on Talybont.
On Sunday (Jun 10), Aberystwyth’s first team are away as they take on Tywyn & District.
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