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.
Rali Ceredigion calls as British Rally Championship battle hots up
- The British Rally Championship visits the Aberystwyth based Rali Ceredigion for the first time
- The west Wales event offers and exciting mix of uncharted, undulating and unforgiving moorland roads, spread over two days
- Stages in darkness set to test even the most experienced BRC crews
- Round five of the 2022 series see BRC1, Junior and National championship battles begin to take shape
- Osian Pryce leads the field away after 2019 win on the event
THE MOTORSPORT UK British Rally Championship will embark on a new journey next weekend as the series heads for the blisteringly fast closed-roads of west Wales and two-days of flat-out action at the Get Connected Rali Ceredigion (Sept 3-4).
The Aberystwyth based event enters the BRC calendar for the first time and hosts the fifth round of the series, after an impressive inaugural running in 2019. The event returns complete with a star-studded entry list and an top-line roster of championships, all eager to sample some of the finest sealed surface roads in the UK.
In a tightly packed schedule, crews will kick off with a ground-breaking double run around Aberystwyth town centre before heading out onto the undulating moorland roads for 14 competitive miles on Saturday evening under fading light.
Sunday hosts the bulk of the mileage with the mammoth 17-mile Llanfihangel stage to start the day, with a further three tests before service. A repeat of the morning’s loop gives a total of 71 miles in the leg, a tough test for the BRC1, Junior BRC and National Rally Title protagonists.
After back-to-back rounds on gravel, the championship returns to asphalt for its third and final sealed surface encounter of the season and there is a fascinating battle for BRC1 honours developing, with former champions and eager hopefuls ready to fight for the prestigious title.
Leading the charge is four-time BRC champion, Keith Cronin. On paper his points advantage is significant but when dropped scores come into play it’s level pegging with 2021 runner-up Osian Pryce. The duelling Volkswagen Polo GTi pilots have offered up a fabulous contest on both surfaces with each driver taking two wins apiece.
In the pound seat for Rali Ceredigion is Pryce and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan. Whilst being on home soil is not a huge advantage on the uncharted roads, Pryce was rally winner in 2019 so his previous experience will undoubtedly put him in good stead for a top result in the Michelin-shod Polo.
Cronin’s and Mikie Galvin’s Grampian win came at just the right time though and a swap to Pirelli rubber in the early part of the season has ensured the fight for maximum points is as exciting as ever. However, you don’t have to dig much deeper to see who could usurp the Volkswagen domination in 2022.
Ruairi Bell and Max Freeman have shown an incredible pace in their Skoda Fabia, pushing Cronin, and beating Pryce in Scotland but have also had their fair share of bad luck with two zero scores. An asphalt win on a non-championship round early in the year underlines their speed and are well placed for a maiden BRC win.
As is James Williams, also searching for that elusive British Championship victory. His Hyundai i20 has suffered a few teething issues which have held him and co-driver Dai Roberts back through the season, but the ever-resilient Welsh pairing have the bit between their teeth after some strong stage times against the odds.
In 2019, Jason Pritchard took third overall in a Ford Escort MK2 at Rali Ceredigion and entertained the crowds with the tail-happy machine. This time around he is equipped with a Volkswagen Polo GTi, and he and Phil Clarke would be happy with a repeat result.
Fresh from a sensational Ulster Rally victory and taking a runner-up spot in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson make a welcome return to the BRC in a Melvyn Evans Motorsport run Polo GTi. Just a short drive from the team’s base, Evans will be looking to build on his fourth-place last time out at the Jim Clark Rally.
If ever there was a story to tell about the weekend ahead, Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh could beat them all. Contesting a gravel event in Shropshire on the Saturday of the rally, they will finish the non-championship Woodpecker Rally, then dash to Aberystwyth to make the start of the BRC encounter, borrowing his Dad Charles’ Fiesta Rally2 for the asphalt event.
Time is tight to finish one rally and start the next, but Payne has embraced the challenge. Whilst he professes to ‘prefer gravel,’ the MangoGo-backed driver enjoyed both Clacton and the Jim Clark and with the benefit of quality seat time the day before, is likely to hit the ground running.
After a brutal penultimate stage retirement in Scotland, Garry Pearson/Dale Furniss will be aiming to take their Hankook-shod Fiesta Rally2 to solid points score on the Welsh tar. A podium at Pearson’s home event, the Jim Clark, shows the intent, but the pressure will be on to secure a positive result for his campaign.
Andy Davies makes his first trip onto the asphalt since a sizeable crash in Clacton and will be looking to build confidence on the tricky Welsh lanes. However, his road rally background will come into play as he and Michael Gilby hurl the Ford Fiesta through the narrow and unforgiving moorland roads.
National Rally Champion
It’s 2019 series runner-up Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans who are unstoppable in the National fight, winning every round contested so far this season in their Hyundai i20. But after Craig Jones/Ian Taylor skipped the long-haul trip to Aberdeen, a return to a more familiar sealed surface will suit them much better and will undoubtedly push the Hyundai crew in their Ford Fiesta. William Mains /Emily Easton Page revert to a Vauxhall Nova after engine failure in the Corsa blighted a positive Scottish result.
Junior British Rally Championship
Dominated by Irish crews so far in 2022, the Junior British Rally Championship spoils have witnessed a sensational battle which sees last year’s runners-up Eamonn Kelly/Conor Mohan in full control.
The Fiesta Rally4 pairing have two wins and two second places to their name but can’t rest easy with both Kyle White/Sean Topping and Johnnie Mulholland/Eoin Treacy chasing hard in their Fiesta and Peugeot 208 Rally4, respectively.
White scooped a Nicky Grist Stages win but a retirement on the Grampian means a good result in Wales is essential, whilst Mulholland’s second place last time out boosted his chances. You certainly can’t discount Ioan Lloyd/Sion Williams in their 208 Rally4 either, and after a run of bad luck, could easily enter the fray on home soil.
But there is a curveball at Rali Ceredigion, thanks to the arrival of Joe Kelly/Ronan Comerford in another Peugeot 208 Rally4. The Irish pairing contested last year’s Junior BRC in a Fiesta but switched to the French marque at the end of the season and have honed their skills back at home so far this year.
Also making a return is BRC Academy Trophy runner Kyle Mcbride in his Fiesta R2T. McBride skipped the gravel rounds but returns to tackle the Welsh tar.
Keep tabs on all the latest BRC developments by visiting www.britishrallychampionship.co.uk or by following us on social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #BRC.
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.”
Popular This Week
News3 days ago
Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales
News2 weeks ago
The world watches HM Queen Elizabeth II laid to rest in state funeral
News7 days ago
Kwarteng gambles on rush for growth
News2 weeks ago
Arrangements for the Funeral of Her Majesty The Queen
Education3 days ago
Extreme droughts sparked cultural leaps in human evolution
Farming2 weeks ago
Welsh Government must balance farming priorities
Politics2 weeks ago
Freeport will not be a silver bullet
News2 weeks ago
Thousands line streets to welcome King Charles III and Queen Consort to Wales