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Biggar, Williams and Halfpenny in Wales team to face Ireland

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WALES have made three changes to their starting XV to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (KO 14.15) with British & Irish Lions trio Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny all returning to the side.

Biggar has recovered from a shoulder injury to make his 61st appearance for his country and will line up alongside Gareth Davies at half-back.

Halfpenny and Williams join Steff Evans in the back-three with Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams continuing their partnership in the midfield.

Wales have named an unchanged pack for the trip to Dublin.  The all-Scarlets front-row of Rob Evans, Ken Owens and Samson Lee feature for a third consecutive game.  Cory Hill partners captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row with Aaron Shingler, Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty comprising the back-row.

“It is great to be able to bring so much experience back into the starting XV and into the backline,” said head coach Warren Gatland, who will take charge of Wales for the 100th time.

“It is the first week we have had everyone in the ‘green’ in terms of availability which is a nice luxury to have and a positive ahead of what is a very important test match against a very good Ireland side.

“We have been pleased with the depth we have developed in the back-three and pleased with how those players have gone but having the experience of Dan, Liam and Leigh coming back in is hugely important.

“We have been pleased with how the forward pack has been going and how they have worked as a unit but as always there is pressure for them to perform too.”

Elliot Dee, Wyn Jones and Tomas Francis are named as the front-row replacements with Bradley Davies and Justin Tipuric completing the forward contingent.  Aled Davies, Gareth Anscombe and George North provide the back-line cover.

Wales Team to play Ireland:

Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (75 Caps)

Liam Williams (Saracens) (45 Caps)

Scott Williams (Scarlets) (53 Caps)

Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (3 Caps)

Steff Evans (Scarlets) (7 Caps)

Dan Biggar (Ospreys) (60 Caps)

Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (29 Caps)

Rob Evans (Scarlets) (22 Caps)

Ken Owens (Scarlets) (54 Caps)

Samson Lee (Scarlets) (35 Caps)

Cory Hill (Dragons) (12 Caps)

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (115 Caps) CAPT

Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (15 Caps)

Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (9 Caps)

Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) (19 Caps)

Replacements:

Elliot Dee (Dragons) (4 Caps)

Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (7 Caps)

Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (28 Caps)

Bradley Davies (Ospreys) (59 Caps)

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (54 Caps)

Aled Davies (Scarlets) (7 Caps)

Gareth Anscombe (Cardiff Blues) (13 Caps)

George North (Northampton Saints) (70 Caps)

Sport

Aber see off Blues in thriller

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ABERYSTWYTH Town secured their place in the Fourth Round of JD Welsh Cup draw as they battled to a 4-3 victory against a spirited Cwmmaman United side at Grenig Park on Saturday afternoon (Dec 8).

Rio Ahmadi’s (20) first half volley was cancelled out by James Bryan (37) as the sides went in level at the break, but a 13 minute second half hat-trick (47, 55, 61) from Ash Ruane put Aber in a commanding position, before the hosts pulled two goals (64, 90) back late on to give the Seasiders a scare in the final minutes.

Manager Nev Powell named an unchanged side from the one which drew 1-1 with Carmarthen last weekend, as Aber started the game on the front foot against their Welsh League opponents on a difficult playing surface.

The first chance of the game fell to the visitors on 12 minutes as Ash Ruane rounded home ‘keeper Chris Curtis before firing his shot wide from a narrow angle. Soon after, Declan Walker found space in the penalty area but was denied by a fantastic save from Curtis, as the Black and Greens upped the pressure.

Then on 20 minutes, Town found the breakthrough as Mathew Jones whipped in a great cross for Rio Ahmadi who volleyed the ball into the roof of the net with a composed finish to make it 0-1.

As the first half wore on, the visitors continued to stamp their authority on the game as Ryan Edwards went close after a neat one-two with Walker, before Ruane rounded ‘keeper Curtis once more, only for his effort to be cleared off the goal line.

Then, on 37 minutes the hosts equalised against the run of play after Terry McCormick produced a fine save from a corner kick, only for Cwmamman defender James Bryan to head the ball into the bottom corner on the rebound and make it 1-1.

Aber very nearly went into half time with an advantage after Ryan Edwards curled an effort inches over the crossbar, but it was to remain level at the break.

Aber started the second half attacking their loyal supporters who’d positioned themselves on the grass bank above the goal at the far end of the ground, and were back in front just two minutes after the restart when Mathew Jones delivered another inch perfect cross towards Ruane whose flicked header beat Curtis and made it 1-2.

Soon after, the Seasiders extended their lead as they began to really put their foot on the gas; Ruane found himself in behind the home defence and cut inside, before unleashing a powerful strike that Curtis was unable to keep out, as the ball trickled over the line for 1-3.

The Aber target man wasn’t done there though, as just six minutes later he completed a perfect hat-trick (header, right foot, left foot) when he pounced on a loose ball in the penalty area and struck a left footed effort into the top corner of the net to make it 1-4.

To their credit, Cwmamman continued to battle and fight, and pulled a goal back on 64 minutes when Christian Allen found space in the penalty area and directed a powerful header beyond McCormick to make it 2-4. As playing conditions worsened, Aber continued to play in sensible fashion, turning the home defence with balls in behind for strike pair Ruane and Ahmadi to chase down.

On 70 minutes, Jack Rimmer and Joe Phillips replaced Ryan Wollacott and Ahmadi, before Declan Walker almost added to his recent goal tally with a long range effort.

The hosts continued to attack when they could, and Allen forced a fine save from McCormick on 85 minutes with a powerful strike inside the area, before right back Bryan ghosted in behind the Aber defence in the final minute of normal time and struck the ball beyond Aber’s ‘keeper to make it 3-4.

Despite the scoreline, the Seasiders never panicked, and saw the four minutes of added time out without much difficulty, as they secured their sixth win in eight games and ensured their name will be in the hat for Monday’s Fourth Round draw at 7pm on S4C’s Heno programme.

It was a professional performance from Neville Powell’s side to secure victory, but credit must also go to hosts Cwmamman United, who never gave in and provided a tough battle right to the final minutes.

Town’s attentions now return to JD Welsh Premier League action, as they travel to face Caernarfon Town on Friday evening (Dec 14) at The Oval hoping to take one step closer towards securing their place in the league’s top six.

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Top awards for Welsh coaches

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WELSH coaches have claimed three awards at the 2018 UK Coaching Awards.

The showpiece annual event, which is seen as one of the most prestigious by the coaching community, took place at The Honourable Artillery Company, London on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Included in the list of winners are Swansea’s Francesca Lewis and Aberystwyth’s Lee Coulson BEM.

Lee Coulson BEM has been named as Community Coach of the Year, recognising his great coaching achievements in 2018, following a 26-year stint coaching basketball and 15 years coaching disability sport.

The Aberystwyth coach is helping to raise the profile of disability sport in Wales exponentially. As a Disability Sport Wales national performance pathway coach, many of his participants have won international gold medals and this success has enabled Coulson to grow the performance pathway. Even more children and young people can now take part in, and excel at, disability sport.

Multi-sport coach Coulson said: “It’s crucial that everyone gets the chance to participate in sport – no matter if they are disabled or not. This is what I am trying to help people recognise across Wales. Great coaching ensures that sport is accessible for all.

“After coaching for 26 years, it’s a huge honour to have been recognised at the UK Coaching Awards. Here’s to the next 26 years.”

Tennis coach Lewis won the Talent Development Coach of the Year award after an incredible 12 months which saw her also shortlisted for the British Tennis Coach of the Year award.

Lewis has been responsible for bringing through a huge number of players from entry level into the local academy programmes, with her players winning five national singles titles.

She is also recognised for delivering individual coaching packages and inspiring participants to achieve their goals. She works with parents and players, on-and-off the court, supporting her players at tournaments and looking after their physical and mental development.

Her achievements were also instrumental in Swansea Tennis Centre being awarded both Regional and Local Player Development Centres in the LTA’s new High-Performance Strategy, which will provide even greater opportunities for children in the region to receive high-performance coaching.

What’s more, she has set up a foundation through which she raises in excess of £10,000 annually to help support players at regional level or above to train and compete.

Francesca Lewis, after receiving her award said: “To win at the UK Coaching Awards is the greatest honour for any coach – and I can’t believe I have managed to win this award against such incredible competition in this category.

“I am still a young coach with many years of coaching ahead of me, so to be recognised at this stage in my career gives me a huge boost.”

Additionally, after an outstanding year for Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas in which he won the Tour de France, his coaches were named as winners in The Coaching Chaincategory. Maindy Flyers’ Head Coach and Founder Debbie Wharton and Welsh Cycling’s Head Coach Darren Tudor were named alongside Team Sky’s Tim Kerrison, Matt Parker and Rod Ellingworth for the contribution they have made throughout Geraint’s life.

Emma Atkins, Director of Coaching at UK Coaching said: “The UK Coaching Awards is a way for the nation to praise the great coaching that takes place, and a chance for us in the coaching sector to reflect and celebrate the effect great coaching has on society.

“We are privileged to be able to recognise more great coaching again, especially, in a year where we’ve worked hard to help the public understand what great coaching looks like following the launch of the first ever Coaching Week.

“I am also thrilled to see that more women coaches were recognised for their great coaching expertise, which is testament to the hard work and dedication of many partners who work tirelessly to ensure we create a culture in the coaching sector where everyone can thrive.

“I would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners – as well as the finalists – for their incredible achievements and for benefiting the lives of so many. Well done.”

The UK Coaching Awards is a celebration of great coaching. The best way to access every #GreatCoaching film, interview and podcast we make is to sign-up at www.ukcoaching.org/JoinUs

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Six in a row for Aber Ladies

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ABERYSTWYTH Town Ladies earned their sixth league victory in a row on Sunday (Nov 25) as they beat Dafen Welfare 3-1.

Following last weeks’ Welsh Cup exit, Aber’s attentions turned back to the league with the hosts determined to pick up another three points.

Following a quiet start, the match suddenly sparked into life in what was a crazy few minutes which began with the hosts breaking the deadlock.

Ffiona Evans’ cross was spilled by the visiting goalkeeper Caitlin Forrester and Naomi Evans was the quickest to react to give Aber the lead.

That lead didn’t last long at all though as straight from the restart Dafen went onto the attack and Stacey Webber found the back of the net with a fantastic strike from just inside the area.

46 seconds after conceding, the home side very nearly re-took the lead. Helen Evans’ header looked to have found the net only to be denied by a brilliant save from Forrester.

Despite not playing at their best it was the team in green who looked most likely to score the game’s third goal: Helen Evans saw her long-range strike go narrowly over whilst Caroline Cooper hit the post directly from a corner.

Aber Town started the second half well and eighteen minutes in they were ahead once more when a Caroline Cooper corner was headed in by Kelly Thomas.

Two soon became three when Lisa Cowdy found the net just four minutes after coming on as a substitute, firing the ball past the goalkeeper from near the penalty spot after Josie Pugh’s superb long-range ball over the defence.

Town were causing Dafen Welfare all sorts of problems as the hosts looked for a fourth. Tania Wylde, Naomi Evans and Cowdy were all denied by Forrester yet again whilst Dwynwen Davies had an effort cleared off the line.

Aber Town Ladies now have two big away games coming up, including a trip to face Barry Town United Ladies on December 9. Before then they will hope to make it seven league victories in-a-row when they travel to the capital once more to face Splott Albion on Sunday, December 2.

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