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Pivac is Gatland’s successor

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THE current Scarlets boss will take over from Warren Gatland, who is scheduled to step down after the 2019 Rugby World Cup when he will have served more than 12 years at the helm.

Replacing the longest serving and most successful head coach in the history of the game in Wales has been a major priority for Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips since Gatland confirmed his decision to move on at the end of his contract in December 2019.

Pivac’s appointment is the result of a two year process undertaken by Phillips and WRU chairman Gareth Davies, which has involved meticulous research and extensive consultation, and this announcement leaves a year-long gap ahead of his start date, by design.

The 55-year-old former Fiji and Auckland boss – and one-time coaching colleague to both Graham Henry and Steve Hansen – will remain at the 2017 Guinness Pro12 winning Scarlets for the entirety of the 2018/19 season and will only officially come under WRU employment in July 2019.

Gatland, of course, continues in exclusive charge of Wales up to and throughout the RWC, but arrangements for a smooth handover can now be planned in earnest, with the distraction of speculation entirely removed.

“In Wayne Pivac, we have secured the best man for the job and we have done so rigorously and decisively to the collective benefit of all involved in Welsh rugby,” said Phillips.

“I am extremely grateful to the Scarlets for their support of this process and their chairman, Nigel Short, in particular who has been first class throughout.

“Both Wayne and Warren and their coaching teams, our international players, supporters and everyone at the Scarlets now have clarity and there is no underestimating the positive benefit to be gained from having the time to plan properly for the future.

“We have avoided the feeding frenzy that can come at the end of a RWC year and we have been meticulous in ensuring we have someone of the talent, experience, charisma and rugby acumen to do the very best possible job for Welsh rugby. The handover process is something we will plan carefully and commence in detail next summer.

“And, for the Scarlets, what coach, whether they are in Wales or anywhere around the rugby playing world, would not relish the opportunity to join a team of such rich history and proven professionalism?

“I would like to think that given the heritage of the Scarlets, their culture, passionate supporters, their track record of success and the quality of their squad that the head coach position will be one of the most sought after in rugby.

“In the meantime, it is vitally important that there are no distractions for Warren, his backroom team and his players and it is equally necessary that Wayne is able to concentrate exclusively on the Scarlets’ progression throughout the season ahead.”

Pivac will be the 23rd man to lead Wales since David Nash was appointed head coach in 1967 – a WRU panel of selectors ran the international teams before that time.

“It’s both a huge honour and a privilege to have been asked to be the next Wales coach,” said Pivac, whose impressive coaching CV includes a hat-trick of NPC titles with Auckland, before being voted New Zealand coach of the year in 2003, an international stint with Fiji – where he won the Pacific Tri-Nations (’04) and the 2005 RWC Sevens – and lifting the Guinness Pro12 trophy with the Scarlets in 2017.

“I know I’m following in the footsteps of someone who is held in extremely high regard, not only by the Welsh public, but also by the players who have played under him and I will be doing my best to protect the legacy which Warren Gatland, with the help of those players, will inevitably leave behind.

“What Martyn Phillips has achieved here is fairly unique in world sport, I have a further 12 months to dedicate my time to the Scarlets and, in the background, the necessary plans and preparations can be put in place to ensure a smooth transition after the World Cup.

“To be able to complete the process this far in advance helps the Scarlets, helps Wales and affords me the luxury of time in which to prepare in earnest for one of the biggest jobs in the world game.

“I’ll do everything in my power to reward the two men alongside me here today (Gareth Davies and Martyn Phillips) who have put their faith in me, but also to live up to the expectations of the hugely passionate and knowledgeable rugby loving Welsh public.

“It will be an almighty challenge, but one that I’m more than ready for and one that I will relish.”

WRU chairman Gareth Davies said: “You only have to look at the way the Scarlets play and their recent achievements to get excited about the prospect of Wayne Pivac coaching Wales.

“We have undertaken a hugely thorough process to make this appointment, it has been more than two years in the making and we were both impressed by Wayne throughout and by the variety of his accomplishments during a lengthy career in coaching.

“Wayne will bring the holistic approach to the job we are looking for and will be immediately ready to pick up where Warren leaves off – he offers the complete package and we are delighted to have secured his services.”

The finer details of Pivac’s transition period to Wales, succession planning at the Scarlets and the make-up of his backroom staff, will begin to be ironed out post-Wayne’s Scarlets responsibilities, with no further announcements on any of these subjects to be expected before next summer.

Pivac’s full and immediate attention will return to the Scarlets and the season ahead, with the confirmation of his appointment as the next coach of Wales being accompanied by the full backing of his current employers.

“We see Wayne’s appointment as a major and significant endorsement of the successful environment we have fostered here at the Scarlets,” said the Scarlets General Manager of Rugby Jon Daniels.

“We have been involved with this process at every stage alongside the WRU and are particularly grateful to have a full season to now work on our own succession planning for Wayne’s departure.   Obviously we are sad to see him go, but we would not, for one second, have considered standing in his way when the country came calling and our focus is on ensuring his final season in charge sees him go out on a high as we continue to plan for the future.”

Gatland is also focussing on the here and now, but the man who has won two Grand Slams, reached a Rugby World Cup semi-final and will have led Wales on more than 120 occasions by the end of his third RWC campaign in 2019, is delighted with his countryman’s appointment.

“I would like to congratulate Wayne on the appointment and the honour of being named head coach,” added Gatland.

“Martyn and Gareth have been meticulous in their search and once they decided who the best man for the job was, they have signed him up, putting any speculation to rest.

“From a Wales squad perspective, that’s all we can ask for, we can now focus on the challenge ahead and continue to build for RWC 2019 without any distractions.

“The World Cup is a key focus and Wayne’s early appointment will help us keep that focus. Additionally I’m determined to ensure that Wayne is given the best possible opportunity to succeed in this job when he starts after the World Cup and I will do everything I can to help him.

“With the announcement now public we can plan properly and ensure smooth transition to benefit the future of Welsh rugby.”

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Ceredigion athletes to take part in the Queen’s Baton Relay

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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/

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Ryan Giggs quits as Wales manager with ‘immediate effect’

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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.”

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Wales to take on the best in Nation League test

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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.”

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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 –

On Poland

“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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