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.”
Ceredigion athletes to take part in the Queen’s Baton Relay
SIXTEEN Ceredigion athletes, who have gained international honours in their chosen sports are gearing up to be Baton Bearers on 30 June when the Birmingham 2022 Baton Relay will visit our county during its journey through Wales.
Here’s a closer look at the athletes taking part and their achievements:
Cameron Allen, Penglais Secondary school pupil, was selected for the Welsh School Football Association U18 squad. Cameron has recently returned from Rome with the squad where he played in the Roma Caput Mundi Tournament. Cameron’s goal is to be a professional footballer.
Ruadhán O’Regan, Penglais Secondary school pupil, has represented North Wales Hockey since Year 7 (now in Year 11) and was selected to play for Wales in the National Age Groups U16s in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. Ruadhan has had International Caps for playing in 3-day test series held in Belfast, Glasgow and England. He is a Hockey Wales Ambassador and assists with coaching and umpiring juniors at his local hockey club and secondary school. He now plays for the Swansea Men’s team, is part of the Hockey Wales development pathway, and aims to progress to the U18 squad.
Órla O’Regan, Penglais Secondary school pupil, is in the Welsh U18s Hockey squad and has recently returned from an international 3-day test series against Scotland in Glasgow. Orla has represented North Wales since year 8 and now plays for their U18s squad. She is a Hockey Wales Ambassador and assists with coaching and umpiring juniors at her local club and school. She has also played for Aberystwyth University Ladies and currently playing in the South Wales Ladies League for Swansea Hockey Club
Both Órla and her brother Ruadhán started playing hockey at St. Padarn’s Primary School, progressing on to club hockey with Bow Street and then Dysynni hockey clubs.
Fin Tarling, Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron pupil, is a member of the Welsh U16 team for cycling and has represented Wales at the UK School Games and the Tour of Scotland. He is the British and multiple Welsh champion on the track and road and is a Gold medallist at the UK Schools Game riding for Wales. He’s part of the Belgian Flanders Color Team, and has won multiple races in Europe.
Josh Hathaway, a former pupil at Penglais School plays rugby and received a rugby scholarship to study the Level 3 National Diploma Sport (Rugby) at Hartpury College. He helped the Hartpury Ace U18’s team go undefeated all season and the winning the ACE League Championship Final in December 2021. Josh, having only just turned 18 was selected for this year’s Wales U20’s 6th Nations Squad, where he gained his first cap against Italy in April. He now looks forward to being part of the squad for next year’s 6th Nations and the Junior World Cup in France 2023.
Daniel Henchie Jones, from Swyddffynnon joined Aberystwyth Basketball Club just before lockdown and has now earned a place on the Wales U16 boys Basketball team and has already represented Wales at the Four Nations Tournament in Dundee in May 2022. Daniel enjoys volunteering to support younger players to learn and play and hopes to have a future career in sport.
Jade Whitlock moved to Aberystwyth for university in 2015 and played for the university Dodgeball team. She represented Aberystwyth University in major tournaments around the country and was fortunate enough to be selected for the Wales Dodgeball Squad in 2020. Jade maintains her place in the squad for 2022 and looks forward to representing Wales in future tournaments and events internationally.
Alex Hammel currently plays football for Penrhyncoch and basketball for Aberystwyth Basketball Club. He was a member of the U12 and U14 Wales Basketball Squads and got selected to represent Wales with the U15 Boys Basketball National Team. Alex got his first cap against Scotland in May 2022. He is an Ambassador at his club, helps to teach primary school children basketball and started coaching at Penglais School reaching the Junior NBA finals in Wales with his team.
Casi Gregson, Ysgol Gyfun Bro Pedr Lampeter pupil, competes in many sports, including athletics having competed in West Wales athletics competitions, Ceredigion Schools and the Welsh Championships in the past. However, her most recent success has been with football after securing a place in the Wales’ Girls Football Under 16’s squad and was fortunate enough to play for Wales in November 2021. Casi’s highlight on the football field was the victory of Tim Under 16 Wales in the 2-1 championship against England, scoring a decisive goal.
Daniel Berry moved to Aberaeron over four years ago to live with his grandmother and started to play Wheelchair Basketball in Aberystwyth. He now represents Wales in the under 14’s junior squad, the Welsh boys’ team for the school Games. He has also trained with the men’s commonwealth qualifier team. Daniel was born with a rare neurological condition called Dystonia which sends all his muscles into spasms.
Kai Frisby from Aberystwyth first tried wheelchair basketball at the age of seven after having hip surgery due to being born with Cerebral Palsy, affecting all of his right side and his left leg. Since then, he has represented Wales at the Lord Taveners Games in 2018 and again in 2019 (under 15’s) in wheelchair basketball. He represented Wales at the school games in 2021 and was part of the Welsh senior wheelchair basketball team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games trails.
Jac Sheehan, Penglais Secondary school pupil, is a member of the Disability Sports Wales and has won several medals for Wales whilst competing in Discus, Shot put and Javelin. Jac was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at a young age and later developed Epilepsy; both conditions affect his coordination and mobility. He is currently in training to prepare for trails for the Wales Wheelchair Basketball Team.
Melanie Thomas from Lampeter, has competed in many sports over the years having gained her first Welsh cap playing football for the Welsh Women’s Under 16’s team and went on to represent the Under 19’s age category. Following this, Melanie took up bowling and has represented Wales in many national competitions, winning the Welsh Women’s singles title, winning an Atlantic Championships Gold with teammates in the rinks competition and gaining a Silver medal playing pairs at the World Youth Championships in Australia. She is a member of the Women’s Elite Squad and a non-travelling reserve for Birmingham 22. Melanie is a Welsh Government Civil Servant currently working in the Health and Social Services division.
Alis Butten is an Under 25 and senior Welsh lawn bowls player from Lampeter Bowling Club. During her bowling career so far she became the youngest woman to play for the senior international team, has won numerous county and Welsh titles and has recently been selected to represent Wales at the European Championships in Ayr in July. Her proudest bowling achievement was winning the Welsh pairs competition with her mum, Anwen Butten.
Hari Butten is an Under 25 Welsh lawn bowls player from Lampeter Bowling Club. He has earnt caps for Wales during the U’25 lawn bowls international series over the last few years and has also won numerous Open competitions across Wales as well as being reigning County Triples Champion. Outside of bowls, he is a Victim Care Officer for Dyfed Powys Police and also volunteers as a Special Constable at Cardiff Bay with South Wales Police.
Anwen Butten plays lawn bowls for Lampeter Bowling Club and has represented Wales since 1988 at Junior, Senior and Elite level. She has been to four World championships, five Atlantic Championships and five commonwealth games. She has been fortunate to travel the world representing Wales. Anwen has won over 16 medals during the last 20 years and won Welsh and British Isles titles. Anwen will represent Wales in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year, which will be her sixth consecutive time competing. Anwen works as a Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse with Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Joining them will be Jamie James of Aberystwyth Bowling Club and Hawys Medi Richards of The Vale of Rheidol Railway in recognition of the contribution volunteers make in the county making a total of 18 Baton Bearers
Jamie James from Aberystwyth has been playing bowls since the age of 14 and has represented Ceredigion for the last 15 years. In the last two years, he’s played the position of skip for Ceredigion. During the 2021 season, Jamie won the County pairs championship and was a singles finalist. Jamie is a Support and Attainment Co-ordinator, managing the provision for the most vulnerable pupils in primary schools throughout Ceredigion.
Hawys Medi Richards from Ciliau Aeron is the 13years old daughter of Aled Richards one of the engineers on the Vale of Rheidol Railway. Hawys is a member of West Wales Cycling Club and in the last 15 months together with her family has raised nearly £7,000 to 3 charities close to their hearts due to her sudden kidney failure in December 2020 ( Noahs Ark, Kidney Wales and Ronal McDonald). She has had a kidney transplant only 6 months and her donor was her mother.
The schedule of activity for the Baton’s time in Ceredigion includes:
Baton Relay, from Plascrug Leisure Centre to Aberystwyth Bowling Club (Plascrug) (14:15 to 14:30)
The Baton Relay continues from Aberystwyth Bowling Club (Plascrug) to the Vale of Rheidol Railway (14:45 to 15:30)
The Baton will go on a train ride to Capel Bangor (15:45)
The best locations for spectators to view the Baton Relay are Plascrug Avenue and The Vale of Rheidol Railway although the Baton will also travel along the pavements of Alexander Road and Park Avenue.
Following its time in Aberystwyth, the Baton will then travel to the Gwersyll Llangrannog Urdd Centre at Llangrannog where it will stay overnight before moving onto Pembrokeshire on Friday 01 July.
Catrin M.S. Davies, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Customer Services, said: “It’s great to see so many residents of the county being part of welcoming the baton to Ceredigion. Each is a great ambassador, whether it is a champion in sport, athletics or cycling; or has shown courage in receiving medical treatment. They are an inspiration to us all.”
The Team Wales website will be updated with information over the coming weeks, with further detail on the events and where to line the route: https://teamwales.cymru/en/events/queens-baton-relay/
Ryan Giggs quits as Wales manager with ‘immediate effect’
EX Man-Utd winger has left his position as the manager of the national football team with ‘immediate effect’.
Giggs stepped back from his role in November 2020 following after being arrested.
49-year-old Giggs has been charged with assault and using controlling behaviour towards an ex-partner. A claim that Giggs has denied.
In a heartfelt statement on his decision, Giggs said: “After much consideration, I am standing down from my position as manager of the Wales men’s national team with immediate effect.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the Wales FA, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach.
“I do not want the country’s preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case.
“I am sad that we cannot continue this journey together because I believe that this extraordinary group will make the country proud at our first World Cup since 1958.
“It is my intention to resume my managerial career at a later date.”
Following Giggs arrest in 2020, former Wales captain Robert Page took over as interim manager.
Under Page Wales beat Ukraine to earn themselves a place at Qatar World Cup for the first time in 64 years.
Giggs faces one charge of using controlling and coercive behaviour August 2017 and November 2020, one charge of assault causing actual bodily harm of his ex-girlfriend Kate Greville on November 1, 2020.
He also faces a charge of common assault on the victim’s sister.
Giggs denies all charges against him and will stand trial on August 8.
The trial is expected to last five days.
Following the announcement, a FAW spokesperson said: “The FAW places on record its gratitude to Ryan Giggs for his tenure as manager of the Cymru men’s national team and appreciates the decision he has taken, which is in the best interests of Welsh football,
“The full focus of the FAW and the Cymru men’s national team is on the Fifa World Cup in Qatar later this year.”
Wales to take on the best in Nation League test
POLAND manager Czesław Michniewicz has confirmed that all-time record appearance holder and leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski will start against Cymru in the UEFA Nations League A4 opener later today (5pm).
“We will field our best line-up,” said Michniewicz. “We will try and give everyone who is in good shape a game. We will play four at the back, but we will change the line-up. I can confirm that Robert Lewandowski will start. Kamil Jóźwiak needs to be thoroughly tested and Matty Cash should be ready for the Belgium game.”
The Bayern Munich striker has scored 75 goals in his 129 international appearances, and the 33-year-old team captain will be keen to use this Nations League campaign to prepare for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals later this year after his country qualified through the play-offs.
Cymru will be hoping to join Poland in Qatar following Sunday’s play-off final against either Ukraine or Scotland. Meanwhile, Chris Gunter is expected to be tasked with preventing Lewandowski from adding to his goal tally in Wrocław, and the Cymru centurion looked ahead to the challenge when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.
“As a player you turn up and do your job,” said Gunter. “If and when you’re selected to play for your country you feel a real honour to do so. I know we’re not going to have the same team for the next five games but when the whistle blows the preparation and focus will be the same.”
Cymru manager Rob Page spoke to the media yesterday ahead of the opening UEFA Nations League match against Poland in Wrocław this evening (5pm).
Here’s a summary of what Page had to say on a number of different topics –
“It’s risk and reward. The biggest game we’ve got is on Sunday, and that’s no disrespect to Poland. We will show them complete respect, but we would be mad to risk our top, top players. I’ve done a lot of analysis on Poland, they work hard for each other and they do the not so pretty side of the game really well. They’ve got talented individuals that can win a game of football, and we’ve got the same. We respect Poland for what they are, and we will have to be at our best to get a result.”
On Gareth Bale
“He’s in good spirits, as he always is. He was adamant that he was meeting the players in Portugal to fly into Poland with them, so that again speaks volumes about him to be with the group as soon as possible. Credit to him, he’s as humble as ever. He’s met up with the group and he’s first class straight away. As we always do with all the senior players, we have individual plans for them. We will sit down, have a conversation with him, and it’s about getting him in the best physical and mental condition for Wednesday and for Sunday.”
On Aaron Ramsey
“Aaron probably hasn’t played as many games or minutes as he would have liked but he’s trained everyday so he’s in a good place physically. He hasn’t had the match time that he wanted to, but we’ve had a practice game. He’s proved in the past that he can turn up for the big games having not played as many club games and give a performance, so we’re not worried about that.”
On his team selection
“I don’t think there will be many surprises. I think most of the supporters will anticipate what we’re going to do. It will be a common sense approach to a big game on Sunday. There’s no hiding behind that and I’m not going to make any apologies for that whatsoever. We’ve not been in this position since 1958. We know we’re up against strong opposition tomorrow evening, but we will use it as an exercise to give players who need them minutes. But we will play a team that can more than compete.”
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