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The Six Nations: Come on Wales!

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WITH new coaches in charge of Wales, Ireland, France, and Italy, there’s an air of change about this year’s Six Nations competition.

Only Eddie Jones and – for now – Gregor Townsend remain at the helm of their countries’ sides from last year.
Wayne Pivac, the former Scarlets coach, takes charge of Wales following Warren Gatland’s retirement. He has very big shoes to fill and his task is not made any easier by the failure of the WRU to retain the services of key backroom staff member Shaun Edwards.

There are five uncapped players in Wales’ 34-member squad for the tournament: Louis Rees-Zammit, Johnny McNicholl, Nick Tompkins, WillGriff John and Will Rowlands.

Rhys Webb also gained a recall having signed a contract with Ospreys following two years with Toulon which ruled him out of the Test arena.

It’s also a welcome return for prop Rob Evans, from Spittal, who was left out of Wales World Cup squad to widespread astonishment. Evans is a strong scrummager and powerful in the loose. He has been in destructive form on the loose-head side for Scarlets this season alongside his Welsh teammate Ken Owens.

Absent are the long-term injured Gareth Anscombe, Jonathan Davies, and Tomos Francis.

The absence of Jonathan Davies is likely to be keenly felt in midfield. While Owen Watkins is making a faster than expected recovery from his injury, Wales will need to reshuffle their settled three-quarter line which shone in the Rugby World Cup.

Among the options Wales are considering to replace their midfield general is moving George North inside from the wing to provide a physical presence and a different threat than the injured Lions centre.

Louis Rees-Zammit, the Gloucester winger, is one to watch out for; if he gets on the pitch, he’ll be the large red blur charging at the Italian defence. The eighteen-year-old flyer has been compared to George North in terms of size, speed, and predatory scoring ability. Despite representing Wales at U18 level, the Cardiff-born winger attended Gloucester’s rugby academy to fit in with his education at Hartpury College. Rumours that Eddie Jones tried to tempt him over to the dark side were quickly squashed when Rees-Zammitt was selected in the Wales senior squad.

At full-back, with Liam Williams ruled out of this weekend’s Italy game, Leigh Halfpenny is almost nailed on to start. The Scarlets number 15 has been in stellar form this season, offering threat in attack, solidity in defence, and reliability with his metronomic boot. His recovery from a serious concussion injury, which left him out of the game for a long period and ruled him out of last year’s Six Nations, has resulted in renewed determination from the Scarlets man.
“It only feels like yesterday I was one of the younger boys,” Halfpenny says.

“I’m one of the older ones now and it’s great for us as a squad to have fantastically talented youngsters coming through. It’s strengthening us as a team and there is a lot of competition.

“It does make me realise I’m probably in the latter stages of my career. When I look back on it, it has all gone so quick. It’s gone in the blink of an eye. It’s incredible. It’s always a privilege to hear your name read out for the Welsh squad and even though I am in the latter stages of my career, I’m still ambitious. I’m still hungry to achieve things, but I also want to enjoy every moment I have as much as possible at the moment.”

Leigh Halfpenny continued: “Last season the boys were absolutely outstanding. To achieve a Grand Slam was incredible and it’s now hugely exciting looking ahead to this Six Nations,” Halfpenny said.

“Our goal is to go and win the title again. That’s the challenge for us as a squad. We’ve got new coaches and management and that’s really exciting as well.

“It is a new era for the squad. What was achieved with the previous management was just incredible and the feeling in the group has been brilliant these last two weeks. The boys have come in full of energy and we can’t wait to get started with this Six Nations. Italy will be an extremely tough challenge. Both teams will want to get off to a positive start to the campaign. Having played Italy you know they do pose threats and they’re a tough team to crack. We’re going to have to be at our best to do that both in attack and defence. We want to get our Six Nations campaign off to the start we want which is with a win.”

Former Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac is the man tasked with filling the boots of fellow New Zealander Warren Gatland, who steered Wales to three grand slams and two World Cup semi-final appearances during his 12-year reign.

“The guys have been made aware of the style of game we want and the positional and role specifics they will have to play,” says Pivac.

“The expectation is we are going to move a bit more ball and what I’m seeing at the moment is a great reaction. We’ve got a good vibe in the group and if the training sessions are anything to go by, we’ve got guys putting their hands up to take to the field.”

Pivac continued: “The boys had a fantastic competition to win the Grand Slam last year. History says this year is going to be tough with England and Ireland away, but that’s the challenge.

“That’s what motivates the best players and coaches. We think we have a draw that lends itself to us building into the competition. With no disrespect to any opponent, I think it’s nice we’ve got a home game to kick it off and you can certainly sense there is a bit of excitement.

“We are going to evolve our attack and that will take a bit of time. It took a bit of time with the Scarlets and I’m sure it will be no different at an international level, except we have got a higher calibre of player to work with across the board.”

Wales haven’t lost to Italy since 2007 and the Azzurri have never won in Cardiff since joining the Six Nations. The 2020 tournament will be their 21st season in the Championship.

Italy are now coached by Franco Smith and captained by hooker Luca Bigi with Sergio Parisse – who has skippered the team for so long – absent for the Cardiff clash.

“I think there will be a lot of continuity. I think Wayne is very smart in the way he goes about things,” said Smith.
“He spent five years in Wales – there’s a reason why they’ve appointed him after Warren. It’s going to be again a big physical challenge, but I do think they will bring a bit of an attacking edge. The style Wayne played at the Scarlets will be noticeable in the new approach.

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Sports awards judges announce the finalists

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Pictured are the finalists in last year’s Junior Disability Sport Award; Lily Rice, Libi Phillips, and Michael Jenkins (winner) with Jess West from Disability Sport Wales

THE FINALISTS for the 2020 Sport Pembrokeshire awards have been announced.

The judging panel considered the 120 nominations and has named the 26 finalists following a selection meeting.

Ben Field, manager of Sport Pembrokeshire, said: “Once again, the quality of the nominees was enormously high and it was a challenge to narrow it down to three finalists in each category.

“We are very pleased that people took the time to nominate so many deserving winners.”

As there will no ceremony at Folly Farm this year, following a social media campaign profiling the finalists, the winners will be announced on the Sport Pembrokeshire Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages on Friday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m.

The announcement will also reveal the winners of three further categories – the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Chairman’s Special Achievement Award and the School Award.

Winners will be contacted in due course, to arrange delivery of trophies and a socially distanced photograph.

The awards are organised by Sport Pembrokeshire, Pembrokeshire County Council’s sport development section. 

They are sponsored by Sport Pembrokeshire, Valero, The Western Telegraph, Folly Farm and Radio Pembrokeshire.

The awards aim to recognise those people who have excelled in sport over the last 12 months, or who have given their time to coaching and organising grassroots sport.  

Sport Pembrokeshire Awards 2020 – Finalists

(In alphabetical order)

Junior (U16) Sporting Achievement of the Year

Kelci Francis (Dance)

Rhys Llewellyn (Cross Country / Athletics)

Lucy Wintle (Athletics)

Club of the Year

Fishguard & Goodwick Jemima Rowing Club

Fishguard Sports AFC

South Pembs Golf Club

Junior Disability Sport Award

Bleddyn Gibbs (Weightlifting)

Saskia Webb (Swimming)

Young Volunteer of the Year

Lucy Harding

Melody Street

Casey Stuchbury

Team of the Year

Haverfordwest High U13’s Football Team

Milford Haven School U13’s football team

Pembrokeshire Short Mat Bowls Team

Adult Sporting Achievement of the Year

Luke Harries (Golf) 

Josh Macleod (Rugby)

Stephen Varney (Rugby)

Disability Sport Award

Fishguard Thunderbolts

Gaynor Martin (Rowing)

Jake Richards

Unsung Hero

Nick Daley (Pembroke Dock Cricket Club)

Brian Millard (Fishguard Thunderbolts)

Steve Williams (Hundleton Cricket Club)

Coach of the Year

Derek Hart (Badminton)

Justin Head (Weightlifting)

Alison Marsh (Milford Tigers Swimming Club)

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Pembrokeshire Schools rugby present county ties

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PEMBROKESHIRE SCHOOLS RUGBY have presented their under 15’s team with their county tie’s after the season came to a sudden halt when the country was put into lockdown back in March.

Taking to their Facebook page, the organisation said: “Congratulations to the Pembrokeshire Schools Boys U15s from the 2019/20 season who were presented their ties over the last week. We apologise for the delay, as we had hoped to have a more formal event but with current restrictions it was not possible.

“We would like to once again congratulate all the boys on their efforts from last season, for which seems a long time ago now, but will hopefully live long in the memory of coaches and players. We were fortunate to have a strong and diverse cohort of boys this year who showed a lot of ability on the field, as well a positive attitude off it. One thing that really stood out this year was the attitude of boys who were not always involved or selected, but continued to travel, support the team and compete at training. This display of commitment and attitude epitomised the work ethic and unity of the team, one for which as coaches we are truly thankful. Despite the abrupt end of the season, we can undoubtedly categories the year as a great success and delighted to have been a part of the boys’ rugby journey. We hope that the recommencement of rugby is now closer than it is further away, and look forward to seeing the boys progress in the future and staying involved in the game.

“As stated previously the desire and commitment of ALL the boys this year has been unquestionable, however would like to recognise and acknowledge some of the achievements from last year.”

Individual awards presented to players.

Despite a halt to the season – The under 15’s were presented with their county ties

The club Awards and Recognition are as follows;

Players Player – A prestigious award as voted by his peers goes to Macs Page this year. Macs came into the squad whilst at U14s and showed great ability, with his desire to take on defenders and score tries. Macs has evolved his game this last year, playing predominately at full back, with an unmatched ability to kick the ball out of hand as well as off the kicking T and counter attack. Macs continued to score many match defining scores this year and was an exciting player to watch.

Forward of the year – As voted by the coaches forward of the year goes to Alfie Evans-Fecci. The forward pack has been tremendously competitive this year with many able players. However, Alfie in particular has shown great versatility and attitude in make the transition form number 8 to loose head prop with support from his school and county. In addition to this Alfie has continued to make an impact around the field most notable for his strong carries and big hits. We hope he continues to excel in this transition.

Back of the year – As voted by the coaches back of the year goes to Iolo Griffiths. Likewise with the forward pack the competition in the backline has been fierce. Iolo has impressed with his illusive and direct running ball hand, as well his competitiveness and line speed in defense. A notable memory of Iolo has his excellent interception away to Carmarthen School which he received the ball in his own 22 showing great athleticism to score in the oppositions corner. A very talented all round sportsman indeed.

Co-Captains this year – We would like to congratulate both James Price and Rhys Richards for their work as co-captains this year. As many will know the role of captain goes beyond the performances on the field, for which they both excelled on and off the pitch. We have been really impressed with the communication and leadership these boys have shown, which can often go unmissed. We firmly believe the attitude and personality of these boys set a high standard for the rest of the boys to follow and was big contribution to our success last year

RAG honors – Finally we would like to congratulate backrow Jac Delaney on his achievements being involved in the Scarlets West set and later full combined Scarlets U16s squad last year, all a year young. Jac was also involved at U14s and has developed both on and off the field over the last few years, bringing great leadership to the squad and physicality. We hope he continues to develop in this vein and gain further honors.

The club added: “A massive thanks goes to the coaching and school staff who have made last years program possible, ensuring that the boys have the best opportunity on and off the field. We would like to acknowledge that this is voluntary role for all coaches, and we are grateful for their commitment and hope that the boys appreciate it. Thanks to co head coaches Chris Shousha and Steve Martin, Aled Waters, Joe Poole, Morgan Lewis, Gethin Vobe and the school staff of schools who help co-ordinate, develop and forward players.

Ysgol Greenhill School players with their tie’s

“Thanks goes to the parents who have supported the program, we appreciate it is a task to ferry the boys to training and support at games as well as helping cater for some games. You feel the delight and dismay at every score just like us, but have always conducted yourselves in a fine manner and shown positive enthusiasm to support the boys and coaches.

“Thanks also goes to our sponsors; Edwards Bros (Tiers Cross), Tees R us (Haverfordwest), SAW Cymru and The Gourmet Pig. The sponsorship these generous businesses have given is truly invaluable.

“A final thanks goes to Tenby United RFC who played host for the majority of our home fixtures, despite rain, sun or hail the pitch was always in excellent condition and you showed the boys great hospitality and courtesy.

“We imagine some form of rugby will develop in the new year, and encourage the boys to begin to the prepare themselves and to continue to train so, if they aren’t already. We are unsure how the pathway will unfold, but regardless of this we hope to see the boys engaged in the future whether it be at school, club, youth, college or university. We also look forward to welcoming players from Year 10 and 9 whenever that may be when rugby resumes. In the meantime, we hope you all remain safe and well with the build up to Christmas.”

Ysgol Bro Gwaun have paid individual support for their students.

A spokesperson from the school said: “Congratulations to the following boys that received their county ties this week.

“Di awn Jac Delaney, Ethan Sapsford, Dan Page, Bryn Thomas, Dylan Scott and Dan Cleary.

“The boys were part of a successful Pembrokeshire Schools squad that reached the semi finals of the National Morgan Griffiths Plate competition before the season was suspended.

“These young men have also been fantastic role models and ambassadors for rugby in the local community. We wish them all the best in the future on and off the field. “

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Commissioner welcomes ‘Premier League Kicks’ to Dock

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ON FRIDAY (Nov 13), Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn visited Pembroke Dock, to attend the launch of the new Premier League Kicks initiative in the area.
Over 90 young people from the Pembroke Dock area took part in the first session on Friday evening and will continue to participate on a weekly basis.  During the sessions, the young people take part in various practical activities, such as football coaching sessions, as well as informal sessions that address crime issues.
The Premier League Kicks is free of charge for all involved, and is funded through the Police and Crime Commissioner and run in partnership with Swansea City Football Club Community Trust.
Whilst attending the first session on Friday evening at Ysgol Harri Tudor, Pembroke Dock, PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said “I am privileged to be here on the opening night, to see for myself the positive influence an initiative such as the Premier League Kicks is having on the youth here, and the wider community.
“As a sports enthusiast, and having played football at many levels in my youth, I am fully aware of the influence that sport and exercise have on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in general.
“This initiative will have a positive impact on the town and especially the children involved and wish them all the best of luck.”
Superintendent Ross Evans who has been leading and co-ordinating the setting up of the initiative locally in Pembroke Dock on behalf of Dyfed-Powys Police said “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Premier League Kicks and to welcome them to Pembrokeshire for the first time.
“The launch of this scheme is a huge boost for young people in Pembroke Dock and also for the local area itself.
“I would like to wish everyone taking part good luck, we all hope that they make the most of this great opportunity of free coaching by a world famous brand”.
The initiative is run through the English Premier League’s ‘Kicks’ national program, and is delivered locally by Swansea City Football Club Community Trust. The program aims to use football and sport in general to inspire youth living in deprived areas.
Craig Richards from the Swansea City FC Community Trust, said “Premier League Kicks provides free weekly football sessions and educational workshops to young people, giving them opportunities, support and pathways to reach their full potential and divert them away from crime or criminals. It was a pleasure to welcome the Police and Crime Commissioner, Dafydd Llywelyn to Seaside Kicks session to see so many young people having great fun in a safe environment”.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn is also funding the same initiative in the Llanelli area in partnership with Swansea City FC Community Trust.  PCC Llywelyn said: “Seaside Kicks was launched in Llanelli in January this year, to engage the youth of the Glanymor and Tyisha area in positive activities. More than 150 young people in the area participate on a weekly basis with the Seaside Kicks, and I’m proud to see the impact the scheme is having on young people in the area, and expect to see the same here in the Pembroke Dock area”.

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