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Promising players snapped up

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SEVENTEEN under 15s and 16s Rugby League players from Wales have now been snapped up by Super League sides for their academy systems.

This includes 11 of the Wales under 16 side who beat England last week for the first time ever, winning 18-10 in Cardiff.

Twins Ewan and Ieuan Badham from West Wales Raiders and Milford Haven Comprehensive School, who had already been scouted by City of Hull Academy before the Wales games, are now joined by Raiders team mate Iestyn Hopkins who has been attending Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera.

A further five under 15s from the Raiders, who didn’t play against England, have also signed at Hull. These are Morgan Chell (Ysgol Dyffryn Taf), Trystan Rawlings, Keiron Lewis and Alex Jones (all Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera) and Joe Hawkins (Cwmtawe Community School).

The signings have resulted from the partnership that West Wales Raiders have created with Hull coupled with the players’ performances for Wales under 16 or the West Wales regional side in the recent Origin games.

In addition, earlier this week, Aber Valley Wolves trio Ewan Challenger (who was in the Wales squad this year but wasn’t in the side against England), Kyle Huish and Jacob Lee signed scholarship forms for Wigan Warriors. The trio were scouted by the Warriors throughout the Wales under 16s programme, which also included two wins over Ireland and a joint training session against the Wigan scholarship side.

Wales under 16 coach Jason Seddon said: “Having so many players in these set ups is a great statement from our point of view. We always knew we had the talent here, we just needed it to be recognised.

“Super League clubs focussing on talent in Wales has been a contentious issue in the past as we’ve had kids more than capable to be in Super League academies but have not been picked up. The exposure wasn’t there. Now it has been, especially following results in recent weeks, people have picked up on it.

“The lads will go up and train with their clubs on a regular basis, get more experience and get coaching with players of a good standard and will bring it back to their community clubs. Travel has been an issue in the past but now I hear that plans are in place for them to travel, train and adapt. I don’t see travel being an issue, they’re good enough and I think they’ll progress.

“When they get to the end of under 16, a decision will be made of whether to go into the 19s and then they could move to the north of England.”

Seddon says that the Wales set up are now planning for more players to hopefully be scouted by Super League clubs, with the successful Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf side, all of whom are currently aged 14, being high on the list.

“I know people thought we may not even be competitive this year but the standard we have I thought we’d do very well,” Seddon adds. “We’ve the Glantaf lads qualifying for the under 16 side for next year plus there are more on our radar from all around Wales, north and south.

“It’s only going to keep rolling and get bigger and better. We at Wales Rugby League have to not only keep this momentum going but make it grow so we can build successful sides right throughout the international set-up.”

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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