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Fantastic Four get Wales off to flying start

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WALES got their Nations League campaign off to a flying start on Thursday night (Sept 6) as they beat the Republic of Ireland 4-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

The four goals came from four different scorers and ensured Ryan Giggs’ first competitive game in charge ended in the best possible manner.

Wales had been beaten by the Irish at the same venue almost a year ago as a James McClean goal secured the Irish a World Cup qualifying play off spot but there was to be no such repeat this time around.

Just six minutes were on the clock when Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu spread the ball to the right for Joe Allen who in turn sent the ball through for Tom Lawrence who smashed the ball home and settle any early nerves.

If that goal was good then the second twelve minutes later was even better as Ben Davies sent a brilliant cross-field ball over to Gareth Bale who cut inside on his left foot before firing into the top corner from the edge of the box.

Ireland threatened briefly with a free kick but Jeff Hendrick’s ball into the box was cleared for a corner which then also came to nothing.

Tom Lawrence couldn’t quite get on the end of a cross into the box but it fell for Bournemouth’s David Brooks whose shot flew wide.

On the half hour mark Joe Allen cleared from just outside his own box for Brookes who ran into the Irish half before laying the ball off for Lawrence but his strong effort was pushed away by Irish keeper Darren Randolph.

Three minutes later Brooks again passed for Davies who crossed into the box but Connor Roberts’ header, on just his third cap, went just wide.

Eight minutes before half time the impressive Ampadu passed to Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the box and he slid the ball into the bottom corner to make it 3-0.

Wales had impressed in the first half and Ireland faced an uphill task if they were to get back into the game.

Ireland did threaten at the start of the second half but Ampadu looked in complete control as he shielded a cross into the box before clearing the danger.

Just two minutes after that, the ball was played to Roberts who unleashed a long range rocket which left the keeper with no chance making it 4-0.

It could have very nearly been five moments later as Ramsey flicked the ball on before the ball was passed on to Bale whose shot went just over.

The Welsh continued to play well and could have easily added more goals to the scoreline.

With twenty minutes to go Ireland did pull a goal back as Ramsey slipped allowing Shaun Williams in to lob Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey.

Young Tyler Roberts was also brought on and he linked up well with Ramsey before seeing a shot saved.

Brooks then won the ball back for Roberts to take over and he sent Brooks in on goal but Enda Stephens got in to take the ball away just as Brooks was about to take his shot.

It finished 4-1 and represented an excellent start for Wales and will give them confidence going into their game with Denmark on Sunday.

Giggs will be looking for his side to repeat Thursday’s performance and a win would surely set them on their way to winning their Nations League Group.

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Wales quartet bolster Scarlets side for Cardiff Blues rematch

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Scarlets take on Cardiff Blues on Friday night

SCARLETS welcome back Wales internationals Johnny McNicholl, Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias and Jake Ball to their starting XV for Friday’s rearranged Guinness PRO14 rematch against Cardiff Blues at Parc y Scarlets (20:00; S4C, Premier Sports).

There are six changes in all to the run-on side, while club skipper Ken Owens is poised to make his first appearance since October. The Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker is named among the replacements after being cleared for action following a shoulder injury.

Behind the scrum, McNicholl comes in for the suspended Liam Williams in the only change to the back division that took the field against the Blues at the Cardiff City Stadium two weeks ago.

The front row changes en bloc with Jones packing down alongside Elias and tight-head prop Javan Sebastian, who replaces the injured Pieter Scholtz.

Ball has made a swift recovery from the knee injury he suffered against the Dragons on New Year’s Day and resumes his second-row partnership with Sam Lousi.

Josh Macleod, this week named as the only uncapped player in Wales’s Six Nations squad, misses out with an ankle niggle so Ed Kennedy slots into the openside spot and links up with Blade Thomson and Sione Kalamafoni the back row.

On the bench, Owens has recovered from the shoulder damage he sustained in round two up in Glasgow. Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Tevita Ratuva and Uzair Cassiem provide the rest of the forwards cover. Kieran Hardy, Angus O’Brien and Steff Hughes make up the remainder of the replacements.

Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Friday, January 22 (20:00, S4C, Premier Sports)

15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies (capt), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ryan Elias, 3 Javan Sebastian, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Blade Thomson, 7 Ed Kennedy, 8 Sione Kalamafoni.

Reps: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Steff Hughes.

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Sport

Clubs react as Pembrokeshire football league season cancelled

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THERE will be no football in Pembrokeshire until at least August after the 2020/21 season was cancelled on Wednesday night (Jan 20).

The Pembrokeshire Football League said it had taken into account the current Covid-19 situation and replies from clubs in making their decision.

Clubs had played a small number of friendlies towards the end of 2020 with the hope of getting back into the league action.

However, as the coronavirus situation worsened, the majority of clubs took it upon themselves to suspend football activity.

A spokesperson for the Pembrokeshire Football League said: “It was resolved that there will be no competitive football this season in Pembrokeshire at Senior or Junior level. There will also be no organised mini football fixtures for this season.

“Should clubs wish, when the restrictions are lifted and subject to Covid regulations want to play friendlies then they are free to do so subject to the authorisation of the League (as previously).”

Neyland’s Sean Hannon said: “The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise. The most important thing is everyone’s safety and wellbeing. We haven’t had a chance to discuss any possible return to friendlies if restrictions allow but I’m sure we will leave it until at least August by which time we will have a further update from the FAW.

“It goes without saying the FAW will need to update all area associations and clubs on what will happen to player comet registration fees which they asked all clubs to pay for at the start of September 2020.”

A spokesperson for Saundersfoot AFC said: “We all knew it was coming inevitably and you’d be hard pressed to argue against it. As a club the safety of our players/ coaches and their families is paramount it’s just not worth the risk.

“You saw before Christmas the clubs took it between themselves to stop playing before any order from above came through so that shows how serious the clubs are taking it.”

Owen Duggan, Chairman of Fishguard Sport AFC said: “The decision was inevitable and we would commend the Pembrokeshire league for an early conclusion to this, every football club will be working hard behind the scenes to try and retain enough finance to continue.

“We all hope that in the coming months things will improve and we will hopefully commence season in August. We hope all our members and other clubs stay safe and fit and well which is the priority.”

Hakin United, who were crowned champions of the curtailed 2019/20 season, said they fully supported the decision to cancel the league season and recommended that football shouldn’t start back until it’s safe to do so.

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Wales unveil Six Nations squad for forthcoming 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign

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WALES have named a 36-man squad for the forthcoming 2021 Guinness Six Nations campaign.

The squad features one uncapped player, Scarlets back-row Josh Macleod, who was named in the autumn squad last year but didn’t feature after picking up an injury before the campaign began.

Josh was a former pupil at Ysgol Bro Gwaun and played rugby for Crymych before his move to the Scarlets.

Four players who made their international debuts in that campaign, Kieran Hardy, Callum Sheedy, Johnny Williams and Louis Rees-Zammit are all included.

Rhys Carre, Wyn Jones and Rhodri Jones (last appearance for Wales v South Africa in 2018) are named as the looseheads in the squad with Elliot Dee, Ryan Elias and Ken Owens (who missed the autumn campaign through injury) the hookers. Leon Brown, Tomas Francis and Dillon Lewis are the three named tight-heads.

Jake Ball, Adam Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Will Rowlands and Cory Hill are included as the second-rows.

Dan Lydiate returns to the international set-up (last appearance v Australia in 2018) and is named alongside Josh Navidi, Aaron Wainwright, Taulupe Faletau, Macleod and Justin Tipuric.

Hardy who made his debut back in November is named as one of three scrum-halves along with Gareth Davies and Tomos Williams, who has returned from injury. Dan Biggar, Jarrod Evans and Sheedy are the three fly-halves.

Johnny Williams, Jonathan Davies, Nick Tompkins and Owen Watkin are named as the centres with George North, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Rees-Zammit, Leigh Halfpenny and Liam Williams named as Wales’ back-three options.

“We are hugely looking forward to meeting up as a squad on Monday and to the forthcoming campaign,” said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

“The Guinness Six Nations is an important tournament and we have selected a squad accordingly.

“As we consistently spoke about, the autumn for us was about opportunity and development, looking ahead to RWC 2023 and it served that purpose for us.

“This campaign is different, it is tournament rugby and we are excited to get going and to play our part.

“We have picked a squad for this tournament based on form and we are excited to meet up on Monday and to get our preparation underway.”

WALES 2021 GUINNESS SIX NATIONS SQUAD

Forwards:

Rhys Carre (Cardiff Blues) (12 Caps)

Wyn Jones (Scarlets) (30 Caps)

Rhodri Jones (Ospreys) (17 Caps)

Elliot Dee (Dragons) (33 Caps)

Ryan Elias (Scarlets) (17 Caps)

Ken Owens (Scarlets) (77 Caps)

Leon Brown (Dragons) (12 Caps)

Tomas Francis (Exeter Chiefs) (52 Caps)

Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Blues) (28 Caps)

Jake Ball (Scarlets) (49 Caps)

Adam Beard (Ospreys) (21 Caps)

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) (143 Caps)

Will Rowlands (Wasps) (5 Caps)

Cory Hill (Cardiff Blues) (29 Caps)

Dan Lydiate (Ospreys) (62 Caps)

Josh Navidi (Cardiff Blues) (24 Caps)

Aaron Wainwright (Dragons) (27 Caps)

Taulupe Faletau (Bath) (81 Caps)

Josh MacLeod (Scarlets) (*Uncapped)

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) (80 Caps)

Backs:

Gareth Davies (Scarlets) (57 Caps)

Tomos Williams (Cardiff Blues) (20 Caps)

Kieran Hardy (Scarlets) (2 Caps)

Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints) (87 Caps)

Callum Sheedy (Bristol Bears) (4 Caps)

Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues) (6 Caps)

Johnny Williams (Scarlets) (2 Caps)

Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) (85 Caps)

Nick Tompkins (Dragons) (8 Caps)

Owen Watkin (Ospreys) (25 Caps)

George North (Ospreys) (98 Caps)

Josh Adams (Cardiff Blues) (29 Caps)

Hallam Amos (Cardiff Blues) (22 Caps)

Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester) (4 Caps)

Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets) (93 Caps)

Liam Williams (Scarlets) (67 Caps)

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