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Bonus point win sets up France showdown

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WALES gave themselves the best chance of finishing second in the Six Nations Championship as they beat Italy 38-14 at the Principality Stadium on Sunday afternoon (Mar 11).

Italy kicked off following a rousing rendition of Bread of Heaven and it wasn’t long before the Welsh Dragon roared into life.

Wales turned the ball over before winning a penalty which Gareth Anscombe kicked to touch. From the resulting line-out Wales worked the ball to the middle of the field and Hadleigh Parkes burst through the tacklers to touch down under the posts. Cardiff Blues kicker Anscombe added the extras.

From the kick off Italy won the ball back but Owen Watkin intercepted a pass and ran into the 22 before offloading to George North who went over for the try and Anscombe once again added the extras.

Any thoughts the home side had of an easy afternoon soon evaporated as Italy worked the ball over to the left hand side for Zebre’s Matteo Minozzi who reached over in the corner after breaking the tackle of Liam Williams. Tommaso Allan then added the conversion.

Wales continued to put the pressure on with kicks into the Italy 22 and on 16 minutes they nearly had a third try but a knock on prevented debutant James Davies from going any further.

From the resultant Italy scrum Wales were able to win the ball back and they thought they had their third try as Williams passed to Steff Evans on the left wing who kicked inside towards the posts and Gareth Davies ran on to touch the ball down.

However, French referee Jerome Garces went to the TMO to check if Davies was in front of the kicker which video replays proved to be correct and the try was ruled out.

With twenty minutes gone it was Italy’s turn to for a spell of pressure but a loose pass saw Williams kick the ball forward and pounce on it just past the halfway line only for Italy to win the ball back.

Captain Taulupe Faletau was doing his best to show why he had been given the armband for the game and he produced one of the biggest hits of the game as he floored Italy kicker Allan. Thankfully after a few minutes of treatment he was back on his feet.

Italy again had a good spell of pressure and won the ball twice in quick succession from turnovers before being given a penalty. Allan, perhaps still feeling the effects of that monstrous hit, sent his kick wide of the posts and the score stayed at 14-7.

Shortly before the break Wales won a penalty and Anscombe showed his fellow kicker how it was done as he increased the lead to 17-7.

On the stroke of half time the ball was kicked to the left hand side but Steff Evans couldn’t quite collect the ball and he knocked the ball on. Italy’s Minozzi ran in to collect the ball with Liam Williams also running in close behind who made another crunching tackle on the Italian.

Referee Garces again went to the TMO as replays showed Williams’ shoulder catching Minozzi on the cheek. After some delay, Garces showed Williams a yellow card, much to the anger of the Welsh fans.

The second half started with Wales a man light but that didn’t seem to affect them as they went in search of a third try.

Davies charged down a clearance kick giving Wales a scrum which saw Davies pass to Cory Hill who stretched his way over for that third try and Anscombe added the extra two points.

Moments later, Italy attacked but Davies was deemed to have knocked the ball on deliberately and he was given a yellow card, meaning Wales were two men light, albeit for another two minutes.

Williams’ penalty ended but Coach Warren Gatland decided he would bring Halfpenny on in his place, and he got one of the biggest cheers of the afternoon as he entered the field.

Dean Budd and Tommaso Benvenuti tried their best to get Italy back into the game but some good defending from Wales meant they were unable to go any further.

James Davies then passed to Faletau who in turn found Justin Tipuric but he knocked the ball on and the chance had gone.

With 65 minutes gone, Patchell offloaded quickly for George North who dropped down for his second try of the game and Wales’ fourth giving them a bonus point. Halfpenny then added the extra two points.

With ten minutes to go Patchell found Parkes who threw a lobbed pass out to the wing where Tipuric was on hand to collect and touch down in the corner for Wales’ fifth try and Halfpenny converted again.

With five minutes to go, Italy looked to restore some pride and it was sub Federico Ruzza who found Mattia Bellini who touched down before Allan added the extras.

The bonus point win puts Wales second in the table, a point ahead of England and France and with one final round of games to come, Wales will be hoping they can finish in style.

On Saturday (Mar 17), Wales take on France, also aiming to finish second, at the Principality Stadium (Kick off 5pm) while Six Nations Champions Ireland take on England at Twickenham (2:45pm).

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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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Walking rugby is a game for all ages and abilities

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WALKING RUGBY has taken off throughout Wales in the last 12 months and is benefitting participants in more ways than one.

The participants – male and female of all ages and abilities including one man who lost his sight 13 years ago – talk of clear benefits to their physical health and crucially, their mental health through being involved in the groups.

The number of Walking Rugby groups in Wales grew organically from two in December 2018 to 16 just twelve months later and new groups are starting up all the time.

A range of organisations from rugby clubs to charities, Health Boards and third sector bodies are seeing the benefit of the inclusive rugby format and engaging more than 300 participants on a weekly basis.
The Aneurin Bevan Mental Health unit has worked with the Dragons Community team to set up a team of their own, training weekly at Rodney Parade.

Kevin Hale, Community Support Worker for the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Forensic Psychiatry Service, who set up the Dragons NHS Walking Rugby team said, “From a mental health point of view it’s been priceless, the social benefits, in particular, are tremendous. Many of the players were very shy at the start and quite withdrawn but confidence levels and communication skills have grown massively and they have told us Walking Rugby has helped them in other areas of their lives.

“It started off as a means to get some of our service users active and also to have some social time afterwards to discuss any issues they’re having. It’s gone from strength to strength and we’ve opened up the opportunity so that anyone can join us at Rodney Parade on a Tuesday afternoon.

Christian Hyde now plays for the Dragons NHS team despite having lost his sight through diabetes.
“I played rugby from the age of 8 to 26. After losing my sight, I had to stop playing – and refereeing. You really miss being part of a rugby environment so being back involved in the game is huge for me and something I never thought I’d do.

“I’m already involved with the visually impaired rugby at Cardiff Blues but being a Dragons supporter, I’m thrilled to be able to train at Rodney Parade and to be involved in matches again like the recent festival. To have ten teams turn up shows the enjoyment we’re all having.”

Anne Jackson plays for Pontyclun Walking Rugby. She said “I’m the only woman at the club at the moment and we could do with more. It really is for everyone. It’s wonderful. It keeps you active – I’ve got fitter since playing Walking Rugby. We train twice a week on a Monday evening and Wednesday morning. We laugh most of the time, we all get on very well.”

Former Wales full-back and Cross Keys coach Morgan Stoddart coaches the Cambrian Walking Rugby group in the Rhondda. He said, “We regularly get 15 or 16 players at our twice-weekly training sessions, we had 12 teams at recent Walking Rugby festivals in Treorchy and Cambrian so it’s gaining popularity all the time.

“Quite a few of the players played rugby in their youth and others haven’t played much sport at all throughout their lives. One lady, Frances Jones, is a regular player and still going strong at 84!

“They enjoy the exercise and also the friendship and camaraderie they gain from it. I enjoy it too, it’s a real change from competitive league rugby as it’s so open to male and female players of all ages and abilities.”
While the format is fully inclusive to all ages, genders and abilities, its main appeal is to Wales’ older and socially isolated population. With more than 877 000 people over 60 in Wales (just under 30% of the population), and that figure set to rise to over one million by 2030*, social isolation and mental health issues are a real issue.

The Welsh Government Strategy for Older People in Wales (2013-2023): Living Longer, Ageing Well, states that loneliness is a real health risk – ‘the same as smoking and twice that of obesity.. that staying physically active protects mental and physical health and that older people say that if they are able to participate in social and leisure activities, they are more likely to say they feel well.’

Based on this evidence, it is no surprise that some GPs are now referring patients to Walking Rugby for the physical and social benefits it brings.

Greg Woods, WRU Enterprise Manager said: “Anyone can play Walking Rugby, whether you’re a lapsed rugby player or new to the game. It’s a social, enjoyable activity with obvious physical and mental health benefits. There is clearly a growing demand for more Walking Rugby opportunities around Wales and we are working with the current groups and a wide range of other partners to not only cater for that demand but provide support to the volunteers running the clubs and work with others to set up new outlets.”

WRU Community Director Geraint John added: “It’s exciting to see the growth of Walking Rugby and to think of its future benefits to the health and well-being of the people of Wales – both the current or recent rugby-playing population and those who could join the rugby family through the Walking Rugby format”.

If you want to start a walking rugby club, get in touch for advice and support participation@wru.wales

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