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Fifty four year dream of FA Cup glory remains for Swans

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SWANSEA City continued their Emirates FA Cup run on Tuesday (Feb 27) when they defeated Sheffield Wednesday 2-0, progressing to the Quarter Final stage for the first time since 1964 thanks to goals from substitute striker Jordan Ayew and winger Nathan Dyer.

The Owls were also defeated in that nostalgic cup run at Hillsborough, as were footballing giants Liverpool at Anfield and Stoke City, before the Swans succumbed to Preston North End in the Semi Final at Villa Park.

This game at the Liberty Stadium saw the home fans in the crowd of 8198 warmed not only by the result but also the gesture of the club offering free hot drinks to warm the cockles of their heart on a Baltic night.

Manager Carlos Carvalhal was at his unequivocal best post-match against a side to whom his endearment is visible, despite their parting of ways in December, as he looked with positivity towards the remaining three months of the season.

It took 20 minutes to create an opportunity as players were content to play the ball across the pitch as opposed to taking the game to the opposition, Ki and Carroll combing from a free kick, which kick-started a purple patch for the Swans in terms of possession, to no avail as Nordfelt in goal made a double save with fifteen minutes of the half remaining.

Clucas made an acrobatic attempt to open the scoring when perhaps a simple header back across goal may have put Abraham in, as the on loan Chelsea striker nearly manufactured an opening for Dyer, making his three hundred and second appearance for the whites.

Ki had the penultimate offering for a breakthrough in an uninspiring half, departing at half time as Carvalhal boldly changed personnel with Martin Olsson and Jordan Ayew appearing, their impact immediate in upping the tempo of play in the twenty ninth meeting between the two sides.

Ten minutes into the half the stalemate was broken, Carroll driving forward hit a rasping drive from edge of the box, hitting both posts for the ball to skew into Ayew’s path for a tap in from ten yards, the Wednesday defence looking at sixes and sevens since the Ghanaian’s arrival.

Ayew’s ninth goal of the season had also ignited Abraham, his a sixty first minute shot saved by Pope before six foot six inch Kosovan Atdhe Nuhiu made an appearance.

Wednesday may have reached the final on five occasions, the last in 1997 and lifted the prestigious trophy three times lacked any fruitful response, where cup football is all about putting the ball in the net, which Swansea did and kept a pleasing clean sheet, as Van De Hoorn was dominant at the back alongside youngster Cameron Roberts.

The second and decisive goal came from Dyer after Abraham set him up with a slick through ball and the winger nutmegged Pope from ten yards out, his final action of the night as fans favourite Leon Britton returned to action for the first time in 2018.

Ayew had an opportunity to add to the Swans tally of thirteen goals in the cup campaign with two minutes of referees Stuart Attwell’s watch remaining, Carvalhal immediately turning his focus to a crucial Premier League encounter on Saturday (Mar 3) when West Ham United visit the Liberty Stadium with just three points separating the sides in the battle for survival in the Premier League.

Unlike Greenfield FC player coach Keith Ainsworth, who was goaded into brandishing a pitchfork in the dugout of their game at Barmouth last weekend, Carvalhal can wallow safe in the knowledge he has the support of the Jack Army as he fulfils both his and their dreams of being happy, one win from Wembley and Tottenham Hotspur the visitors on Saturday (Mar 17) for the Quarter Final tie.

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Six Nations finale with Scotland sold out

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Wales’ final Guinness Six Nations clash of the 2020 Championship – against Scotland – has sold-out.

The tournament climax for incoming head coach Wayne Pivac on Saturday 14th March, will be played out at a full capacity Principality Stadium in front of a 73,931-strong crowd baying for Welsh success.

Pivac opens his first Six Nations campaign, after taking over the head coach reins from incumbent Wales boss Warren Gatland, in Cardiff against Italy on Saturday 1st February with limited tickets (including U16s tickets at £20) still available for this game.

In all over 200,000 tickets have been sold for Wales’ three home matches in the competition and the round three meeting with France, on Saturday 22nd February, is set to follow Scotland in posting up the sold-out signs in the next few days.

The last time Wales faced the Scots, the Azzurri and Les Blues at home following a Rugby World Cup was the 2016 Six Nations, when all three matches sold-out before a ball was kicked, a factor directly influenced by a successful run in the tournament.

In Pivac’s first game in charge he leads Wales against a Barbarians side which will be led by his predecessor at the helm for Wales, Gatland, at Principality Stadium in November.

The Barbarians match has sold over 40,000 tickets to date, but also still has availability for U16s, at £10, with remaining adult tickets starting at £30.

Remaining tickets for Italy and France in the Six Nations and for the Barbarians game are available now from a Welsh rugby club near you, online at www.wru.wales/tickets, in person at the WRU ticket office or by phone 0844 847 1881 (calls to this number cost 7p per minute plus your company’s access charge) – maximum purchase limits apply.

Principality Stadium Official Hospitality Packages are available for all matches from 02920 822309 or visit www.wru.wales/hospitality, with Premium hospitality available for the Barbarians game and limited availability in The Players’ Lounge for Italy.

The WRU’s offsite hospitality partner Events International also has availability www.eventsinternational.co.uk and official travel packages can be purchased from the WRU’s official travel supplier, Gullivers Sports Travel by visiting www.gulliverstravel.co.uk and some member clubs may also still have tickets.

The WRU strongly advises all supporters to make sure they always ‘buy official’, only tickets bought from official sources (member clubs, official partners or the WRU direct) are guaranteed by the WRU – with tickets sold via unlicensed operators often cancelled and entrance regularly and regretfully refused on void tickets.

FIXTURES ON SALE NOW (includes ticket availability by category):

Wales v Barbarians, Saturday 30th November 2019, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.45pm (Double header with Wales Women v Barbarians Women, Kick-off 11.45am) Prices: £10, £20 (both sold-out to adults but £10 concession remains for U16 – with over 40,000, more than half capacity, available) , £30 *AFZ, £40, £50

Wales v Italy, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 1st February 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.15pm. Prices: £30, £50 (both sold-out), £60 *AFZ, £60 (£20 U16), £65 (£20 U16), £75

Wales v France, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 22nd February 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 4.45pm. Prices: £40, £65 (both sold-out), £90, £90 *AFZ, £95, £105 (sold-out)

Wales v Scotland, Guinness Six Nations Championship, Saturday 14th March 2020, Principality Stadium, Kick-off 2.15pm ALL SOLD-OUT

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Wales make two changes for Fiji clash

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Wales have made two changes for their third RWC Pool D encounter against Fiji on Wednesday (October 9 KO 18.45 local / 10.45 UK).

Both changes to the starting XV come in the back row with Ross Moriarty and James Davies coming into the side at number eight and openside flanker respectively with Josh Navidi switching to blindside flanker.

The front-five remains the same from Wales’ opening two victories with Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tomas Francis packing down in the front-row with Jake Ball and captain Alun Wyn Jones continuing their partnership in the second-row.

The backline for Wales remains unchanged with Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar named as the half-backs with Hadleigh Parkes and Jonathan Davies partnering in the midfield.

Josh Adams, George North and Liam Williams line-up as the back-three.

Elliot Dee, Rhys Carre and Dillon Lewis provide the front-row cover on the bench with Aaron Shingler and Aaron Wainwright completing the forward contingent.  Tomos Williams, Rhys Patchell and Owen Watkin are named as the backline replacements.

WALES TEAM TO PLAY FIJI ON WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 9

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (17 Caps)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets) (69 Caps)
3. Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (45 Caps)
4. Jake Ball (Scarlets) (38 Caps)
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (130 Caps) (CAPT)
6. Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (21 Caps)
7. James Davies (Scarlets) (5 Caps)
8. Ross Moriarty (Dragons) (36 Caps)
9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (46 Caps)
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints) (75 Caps)
11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues) (16 Caps)
12. Hadleigh Parkes (Scarlets) (20 Caps)
13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (78 Caps)
14. George North (Ospreys) (88 Caps)
15. Liam Williams (Saracens) (60 Caps)

Replacements:
16. Elliot Dee (Dragons) (24 Caps)
17. Rhys Carre (Saracens) (1 Cap)
18. Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) (17 Caps)
19. Aaron Shingler (Scarlets) (22 Caps)
20. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) (14 Caps)
21. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues) (11 Caps)
22. Rhys Patchell (Scarlets) (15 Caps)
23. Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (17 Caps)

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35-strong squad named for bumper autumn series

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WALES Women head coach Rowland Phillips has named a 35-strong squad for his side’s five matches in November – their biggest autumn series to date. Hooker Carys Phillips will continue to captain the squad which includes 14 uncapped players.

Wales begin the series with three away matches – against Spain, Ireland and Scotland before returning to Wales for the first match against a women’s Crawshay’s team coached by new WRU Council Member Liza Burgess and the first professional female coach in Wales – Rachel Taylor.

That game will take place at Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale on Saturday, November 23, and Taylor will also be part of the opposition coaching team a week later for Wales Women’s first match against the Barbarians in the Principality Stadium double header.

Phillips said: “Our focus hasn’t changed. We are already qualified for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup and our key aim is to build a squad of young players with significant experience under their belts.

“This autumn series is a huge opportunity to do that. All players will gain from the experience of travelling away for three testing encounters against Spain, Ireland and Scotland – all of whom still need to qualify for the World Cup. And to be part of two historic encounters in Wales at the end of November against the Crawhshay’s and Barbarians is something we will all look forward to and enjoy.

“We finished the Six Nations on a high with a dramatic win over Scotland and then a pleasing win and performance against Ireland and we want to build on that momentum this season.

“There is excellent quality coming through – that was evident in the regional programme again this summer and some of those players are rewarded with squad places today. We have a responsibility to continue to develop those players, maximise their potential and also manage them well. We will expose them to an international environment and give them game time when ready. The likes of Lauren Smyth, Manon Johnes, Alex Callender and Gwen Crabb all earned their first caps last autumn and have gone on to become key players in the squad. The opportunity is there for others to do the same if they apply themselves.

“We are clear on where we need to develop to become consistently competitive. There’s a better understanding now from players of what is required of an international player in terms of fitness, skill levels, attitude and everything else that goes with being an international rugby player.

“We aren’t looking beyond the first game. Spain are making significant progress and will provide a tough challenge especially on their home turf. We are looking forward to locking horns with our Six Nations adversaries Ireland and Scotland who both have a point to prove and we want to engage as many home fans as possible in our journey and be part of our home matches at Ebbw Vale at Principality Stadium.”

WRU international skills coaches Geraint Lewis and Chris Horsman have joined Rowland Phillips and Gareth Wyatt in the Wales Women coaching set-up and will provide specialised input throughout the autumn campaign.

Phillips welcomed the addition of the former Wales international forwards. “Geraint and Chris are excellent coaches. With their wealth of experience working with young international players, they understand the need to adapt styles and management skills accordingly. It’s hugely encouraging for the women’s programme to become a more integrated part of the WRU performance structure. I know I’ve learned a lot from coaching female athletes and Chris and Geraint have already shown they will add value to the programme.”

Wales Women autumn series squad:

Forwards: (5 uncapped*)

Alex Callender (Scarlets), Gwen Crabb (Ospreys), Amy Evans (Ospreys), Georgia Evans* (Cardiff Blues), Abbie Fleming* (Cardiff Blues), Cerys Hale (Cardiff Blues),

Sioned Harries (Scarlets), Cara Hope (Ospreys), Jordan Hopkins* (Cardiff Blues), Gwenllian Jenkins* (Scarlets), Natalia John (Ospreys), Manon Johnes (Cardiff Blues), Kelsey Jones (Ospreys), Bethan Lewis (Scarlets), Siwan Lillicrap (Ospreys), Robyn Lock* (Ospreys), Carys Phillips (Ospreys), Gwenllian Pyrs (RGC)

Backs: (9 uncapped*)

Keira Bevan, (Ospreys), Angharad Desmet* (Scarlets), Alecs Donovan (Ospreys), Lleucu George (Scarlets), Courtney Keight* (Ospreys), Kerin Lake (Ospreys), Caitlin Lewis* (Scarlets), Ffion Lewis (Scarlets), Rebekah O’Loughlin* (Cardiff Blues), Kayleigh Powell* (Ospreys), Paige Randall* (Cardiff Blues), Catherine Richards* (Cardiff Blues), Lauren Smyth (Ospreys), Elinor Snowsill Ospreys), Niamh Terry* (Ospreys), Megan Webb* (Cardiff Blues), Robyn Wilkins (Cardiff Blues)

Wales Women fixtures November 2019:

Spain v Wales Women, Estadio Nacional Computense, Madrid, Sunday, November 3, 12.45pm local time

Ireland v Wales Women, The Bowl, UCD, Dublin, Sunday, November 10, 1pm

Scotland v Wales Women, Glasgow, Sunday, November 17, 3pm

Crawshay’s v Wales Women, Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale Saturday, November 23, 2.30pm

Wales Women v Barbarians Saturday, November 30, Principality Stadium 11.45am

Tickets for the Barbarians double-header on sale via wru.wales/tickets

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