By Jonathan Twigg
THE 2018 Six Nations Rugby Championship kicks off on Saturday (Feb 3) when Wales, captained by Alun Wyn Jones, welcome Scotland to the Principality Stadium in a match to be refereed by Frenchman, Romain Poite.
Coach Warren Gatland’s squad has been hampered with many high profile injuries, the latest being former Scarlets full back Liam Williams alongside scrum half Rhys Webb and his half back partner Dan Biggar.
The Welsh nation’s attention will be focused over the next seven weeks on the rugby and local interest has been heightened due to the Scarlets progressing to the European Cup quarter finals where they play La Rochelle on Friday (Mar 31).
The opening game against a Scottish side who have revelled in attacking flair under coach Gregor Townsend in the Autumn Series will offer a test which Gatland’s charges will have to meet front on to secure a victory. Winning will set down a marker by which the side will be judged.
They travel to Twickenham a week later to take on England before crossing the Irish Sea to take on the Emerald Isle in Dublin at the end of the month.
Both England and Ireland are at the top of their game at present, where any positive result will see euphoria amongst rugby followers. Gatland has changed his blueprint of direct rugby through hard running centre partnerships now opting for a more creative player at 12 which follows the way the Scarlets have developed this season.
Rhys Patchell could well have the nod to partner Gareth Davies at half back and the back division would feature fellow Scarlets, winger Steff Evans and Leigh Halfpenny, although neither have played a lot of ruby in recent weeks.
The centre partnership may be pivotal, with Osprey bound Scott Williams linking with adopted Kiwi Hadleigh Parkes after both impressed in the Autumn Series.
Prop Rob Evans should pack down on the coal face alongside Scarlets captain Ken Owens and fellow prop Samson le has returned to full fitness and may become the third player in the front row.
Back row dynamos Aaron Shingler and newbie James ‘Cubby’ Davies, brother of injured centre Jonathan, are also probable starters for Gatland meaning the Pivac influence of ‘expect the unexpected’, albeit abstractly, could well influence how well Wales perform.
Following the two testing trips on the road, Wales return to the Principality Stadium to take on Italy on Sunday (Mar 11) when the fixture follows the Women’s international between the two countries, before the finale of the season when France take on the ‘Men of Harlech’ a week later.
Predicating any result in sport is precarious at the best of times and the Six Nations championship often depends on which country has the key fixtures at home. Wales would be looking to secure three home victories, where the toughest encounter will be the opener against our Gaelic cousins.
Travelling to Twickenham and Dublin are daunting for any side where realistically a positive result will be an outside chance at best.
England, with colourful Aussie hooker Eddie Jones in charge are hardworking and Wales may have to live off limited possession, although the Scarlets faced such a scenario when they travelled to the ‘Rec’ and comprehensively dismissed Bath in front of Jones watching eyes.
Where there is a will there is a way as veteran second row Alun Wyn Jones leads the side knowing it could present a title showdown against Ireland, possibly the toughest of opponents in their own back yard.
With some optimism the prediction is for four victories, the three home fixtures and an exhilarating performance to light up the return journey down the M4 for those die hard supporters making the trip to HQ.
England will also return with four victories, beating Scotland in the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield and France in Paris as recompense for their humbling at Wales hands.
Ireland, with a win over Wales may find the final game at Twickenham one step too far as the ‘Rose’ will find it unbearable to lose two home games meaning they also end on four victories.
Italy will pick up the wooden spoon without securing a win, ahead of France with Scotland in fourth position.
Representing Wales on the referee’s circuit will by Nigel Owens, who has a long association with Pontyberem RFC in the Gwendraeth Valley, taking centre stage when Ireland take on France.
Success for Ceredigion school rugby teams at Principality Stadium
RECENTLY some Ceredigion school rugby teams have been competing at a national level at the Road to Principality event held at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff.
There was a great celebration at Ysgol Bro Teifi on Monday, 25 April following the success of their under-14 girls’ rugby team at a. Following victories in a series of games at regional and national level in recent months, the team had the opportunity to play in the national final at the Principality Stadium against Ysgol Brynhyfryd, Denbighshire.
In front of a crowd of some 150 fans who had travelled to Cardiff to see the game, Bro Teifi managed to win 34 points to 19 in a competitive and fast game.
Acting Headteacher, Mr Gareth Evans, “At the start of a new term, it was great to be able to celebrate the success of the girls on the rugby field following a run of games where the team was seen subduing Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, Plas Mawr, Bishopston and the Rhymney Valley among others. I would like to congratulate the girls on their huge success and thank the training team of Llyr James, Gemma Potter and Stephanie Gough for their work.”
Omicron: Sporting events to be played behind closed doors from Boxing Day
SPORTING events in Wales will be played behind closed doors from Boxing Day in a bid to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Welsh government said the new measures apply to both indoor and outdoor sporting events, with economy minister Vaughan Gething confirming a £3m “Spectator Sports Fund” will support clubs and venues affected.
The decision comes after a number of postponements affecting Welsh sides in the Football League.
Cardiff City have called off their Boxing Day match against Coventry City due to several Covid cases among their players and staff, while Newport County will no longer face League Two leaders Forest Green.
In the United Rugby Championship, Cardiff Blues are scheduled to play Scarlets at Cardiff Arms Park on Boxing Day, although Ospreys vs Dragons at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea has been called off due to Covid.
“Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year,” Gething said.
“Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.
“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.
“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.
“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”
Latest figures show Omicron cases are rising in all parts of Wales, while the overall rate of coronavirus infections is at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people.
Cardiff City have called off their Boxing Day match against Coventry City due to several Covid cases among their players and staff; Ospreys vs Dragons also off in United Rugby Championship; Welsh economy minister says clubs and venues would be supported through a £3m fund.
An EFL spokesperson said: “The EFL notes the disappointing news that fans of Welsh clubs competing in the EFL will be unable to watch their team play live at home over the festive period, but we appreciate there are many factors influencing each administration’s decision.
“Looking forward, the League will continue to work with our broadcast partners and other relevant stakeholders throughout this difficult period as we consider how we can appropriately support our Welsh clubs and their supporters so they can watch their team while matches are played behind closed doors.
“In addition, we will engage with the authorities in Wales to determine what type and or level of financial support they can provide our clubs in Wales whilst they are unable to welcome supporters through the turnstiles.”
Have your say on how Ceredigion becomes a more physically active county
A CONSULTATION is currently underway on how Ceredigion is becoming a more physically active County.
There is a plan to follow the “Sport & Recreational Activity Strategy 2014-2020” which is being developed, with an opportunity for Ceredigion residents to have their say.
Your feedback will be essential in supporting Ceredigion County Council’s production of a new development plan and in helping determine its priorities from 2022 to 2027. This will ensure that Ceredigion residents have access to quality opportunities to become more active, benefiting their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The new plan will identify how becoming a more active county can contribute to the Council’s Corporate Strategies and the Local Wellbeing Plan.
To ensure that the plan meets the needs of all its residents, the Council would like as many people and organisations as possible to complete the survey. Residents have until 17 October to complete the survey: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/your-council/consultations/physical-activity-development-plan/
Councillor Catherine Hughes, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Porth Gofal, Early Intervention, Wellbeing Hubs and Culture said: “The physical and mental health and well-being of Ceredigion’s residents is very important. This is a chance for residents to have their say on how they want to receive sport and physical activities for the years to come. We recognise the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on sport and physical activity in the county and this is an opportunity to let us know how we can build back stronger.”
For further information or if you would like the survey in an alternative format, contact our Customer Services Contact Centre on 01545 570881 or email@example.com.
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