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Wales Women continue to build with key appointments

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FORMER Wales back row Geraint Lewis and former Bristol Bears’ Athletic Performance Coach Sam Dodge have joined Warren Abrahams’ Wales Women coaching team as assistant coach (forwards) and physical performance lead respectively.

Lewis, who, as a WRU performance coach was part of the Wales Women coaching team throughout last season alongside other performance commitments, will now focus solely on this role as Wales Women prepare for the rescheduled Women’s Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup later this year.

Prior to joining Bristol Bears, where he played a key part in their European Challenge Cup and domestic success in recent years, Sam Dodge worked as a WRU strength and conditioning coach for RGC academy and also supported Wales Women.

WRU General Manager, Women and Girls, Charlotte Wathan said, “As we look to accelerate the development of the women’s performance programme, building a strong, dynamic team is a key objective. We’re recruiting people with expertise and knowledge within their field in order to support our long-term aim of closing the performance gap with the top nations in international women’s rugby.

Wales Women head coach Warren Abrahams said, “These are very exciting appointments. Geraint is experienced in the women’s programme already and his in-depth knowledge as a forwards coach, and his line-out nous in particular will be vital for the programme going forward. He brings an added dimension to the coaching team and the more diverse we are as a unit, the more exceptional we will become as a coaching group.

“Sam too is a brilliant appointment. He is an exceptional strength and conditioning talent with a solid philosophy and has experienced a winning performance environment at Bristol which we will gain from in the women’s game. Having cut his teeth with Wales Women’s as an intern, it’s great to see him back in the programme as we strive to raise standards across the women’s game in Wales.”

Geraint Lewis said, “I always feel honoured to be part of any Welsh national side and I’m delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of Warren’s coaching team at such an exciting time for the women’s game internationally.

“I learned a lot from my time with the women’s programme last season and I hope to use that experience to make a greater impact this time around. I’ve worked with some fantastic individuals in my career but it’s always good to work with new people as I continue to develop as a coach.”

Lewis is looking forward to being part of the new-look Women’s Six Nations in April.

“It will be exciting to play in a stand-alone tournament and in a new format too. Playing France will give us a great benchmark as to where we are as a team and Ireland are improving all the time. With the play-off game at the end too, these games will be vital after a year without international fixtures and ahead of the Rugby World Cup in September.”

Sam Dodge, who will work with WRU Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon with the aim of creating a world-class physical performance programme for female players said, “Having thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bristol, I’m very excited by the new challenge of this role.

“There is enormous potential in the women’s game in Wales, and with the new coaching team in place and the WRU’s investment into the female game, there is huge scope to make a big difference in a relatively short amount of time. We have some talented players and excellent athletes in Wales and my aim is to build a world-leading national programme to ensure there is no stone unturned to help the players reach their full potential.

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Red Bull Hardline Wales confirms rider list for 2024

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RED BULL Hardline, known as the most challenging downhill mountain bike race world wide, confirms the final rider list for this year’s Wales event. 

Following its first event overseas, with a stop Down Under, Red Bull Hardline returns to its home in Wales’ Dyfi valley to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The brainchild of Dan Atherton a decade ago, 34 of the brightest and best talents in downhill mountain biking are set to descend on the north Wales course. With the 2023 event sadly curtailed by the Welsh weather, there’s old scores to settle and it’s all to play for in 2024.

Confirmed Rider List:

NameNationality
Ronan DunneIRL
Bernard KerrUK
Brook MacDonaldNZL
Charlie HattonUK
Adam BraytonUK
Craig EvansUK
Theo ErlangsenSA
Matteo IniguezFRA
Juanfer VelezCOL
Gaetan VigeFRA
Jim MonroUK
Matt JonesUK
Edgar BrioleFRA
George BranniganNZ
Sam GaleNZ
Jono JonesUK
Sam BlenkinsopNZ
Brendan FaircloughUK
Josh BrycelandUK
Dennis LuffmanUK
Sam HockenhullUK
Josh LoweUK
Taylor VernonUK
Thibault LalyFRA
Thomas GenonBEL
Szymon GodziekPOL
Sebastian HolguinCOL
Alex StorrUK
Vincent TupinFRA
Harry MolloyUK
Matteo IniguezFRA

Female riders will begin training on Monday, giving them ample time to familiarise themselves with the new course, with Tahnée Seagrave, Cami Nogueira and Hannah Bergmann all set to continue to push the boundaries of their sport once again. Louise-Anna Ferguson will be returning to Wales fresh from her success at Red Bull Hardline Tasmania, putting on a gutsy performance to finish a full finals race run despite an early crash. New to Red Bull Hardline, Vaea Verbeeck will make her first appearance, bringing fresh fire power to the women’s lineup 

Following his stand-out success at Red Bull Hardline Tasmania, Ronan Dunne will be taking to the start line with aims of achieving the double. Nipping at his heels will be three-time winner Bernard Kerr, who placed second in Tasmania back in February. 2017 champion Craig Evans is back once again and eager to replicate his success of 7 years previous.

The breathtaking race will be broadcasted live globally on Red Bull TV on Sunday 2nd June at 2.30pm GMT. Ahead of the event, fans can enjoy the week’s best action from course walk and practice on the Red Bull Bike YouTube ahead of the main event. 

For further Red Bull Hardline rider updates and for more information visit www.redbull.com/hardline and make sure to save the link to Red Bull Bike YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@RedBullBike/featured to not miss out on the week’s best action.

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Scarlets sign Welsh-qualified full-back Ellis Mee from Nottingham

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THE SCARLETS have added to their squad for the 2024-25 season with the signing of Welsh-qualified Nottingham full-back Ellis Mee.

The 20-year-old, who can play full-back or wing, will link up with the squad in the summer and becomes the third addition to Dwayne Peel’s squad for the new campaign.

Standing at 6ft 4in and 92kg, Mee enjoyed an outstanding first season in the English Championship, culminating in him winning Nottingham’s players’, fans’ and overall player-of-the-season awards.

He has been combining his rugby career with studies at Nottingham Trent University.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Ellis has impressed us with his form for Nottingham this season, he is a powerful runner, strong in the air and knows his way to the try line. We are looking forward to him joining us for pre-season in the summer.

“He will be part of a group of young Welsh backs who we are excited about for the coming years. The likes of Tomi Lewis, Eddie James, Joe Roberts and Tom Rogers have had a lot of rugby for us this season, Jac Davies has been outstanding for Llandovery before his injury and it was great to see Macs Page make his debut in Parma last weekend.

“There is a crop of talented young Welsh backs coming through who have a huge amount of potential and we are looking forward to seeing Ellis challenge for a place in the side next season.”

Ellis Mee said: “Scarlets are an amazing club with great history and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

“Signing for Scarlets is an excellent opportunity for me to better myself in a higher league and against different opposition.

“I am really looking forward to starting this next chapter of my career.”

Ellis is the third new signing to be announced by the Scarlets ahead of next season, joining Toyota Cheetahs hooker Marnus van der Merwe and Exeter Chiefs prop Alec Hepburn with more arrivals set to be announced in the coming weeks.

Sam Lousi, Tom Rogers, Harri O’Connor, Dan Davis and Ben Williams have also signed new deals with the club.

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Swansea Council hopes sports ground will be new Ospreys home

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SWANSEA CITY COUNCIL says it would like the city’s St Helen’s sports ground to become the new home of top-flight rugby region The Ospreys.

The Ospreys are looking for a new home, having stated that they no longer plan to play at the Swansea.com Stadium after the 2024-25 season.  

A proposal for a new operating model at St Helen’s – currently run by the council – would see it redeveloped as a location for regional and community sport.

The council would want any approved plan to accommodate the successful relocation of Swansea Cricket Club in a manner agreed by them and others.

Council leader Rob Stewart said: “St Helen’s needs to be upgraded to offer a modern sports experience, and the Ospreys need a new home and a plan for long-term sustainability.

“We’re prepared to work on the current Ospreys proposal for St Helen’s to become a modern rugby stadium, helping the region to make their home there and remain in Swansea.

“We’re doing all we can to support the Ospreys to stay in Swansea, while also working with all of our sporting stakeholders to provide top-class facilities for them.

“We’ve discussed the option with the Ospreys. We’re already discussing key matters in a positive manner with current St Helen’s residents Swansea CC and Swansea RFC.

“Ongoing discussions to enable these potential changes include implications, timescales and funding to develop improved cricket facilities nearby.”

The St Helen’s proposal would involve agreements with the Ospreys to accommodate other uses. The neighbouring recreation ground does not feature in the current proposal.

St Helen’s would become a rugby stadium for a range of users, including a home for regional rugby, and facilities for community sport. It would be developed in a phased manner over a number of years, increasing capacity, developing facilities and improving the experience of users and visitors.

The proposal would allow rugby use, including – as now – by Swansea RFC and Swansea University. The sports ground would be made available for use by local community groups and schools.

Cricket teams would be offered upgraded facilities nearby, with details and timings to be agreed by key stakeholders. 

A report outlining the proposal was presented to the council’s cabinet by cabinet member for investment, regeneration, events and tourism Robert Francis Davies on May 16.

He said: “We want to work with the Ospreys to improve St Helen’s as a key sporting facility to the benefit of first-class regional rugby and as community sports venue for the city.

“Swansea is a sporting city and we want an active and healthy Swansea with a thriving local economy and infrastructure. This plan would help that.

“The proposal is to develop and enhance St Helen’s as a sports facility over the coming years through a long-term partnership with The Ospreys.

“We’re committed to working in partnership with others to ensure the development and delivery of sport in Swansea at community, student and elite levels.”

St Helen’s has a rich history and has played host to high level sport over the decades.

Current activity there includes home games of Swansea RFC in rugby union’s Welsh Premiership and Swansea Cricket Club home games in the top fight of South Wales cricket.

However, without increased future investment, the council would need to consider other arrangements.

Cllr Francis-Davies said: “The St Helen’s proposal – which would see us work within council budgets at this time of great financial challenge – is to secure investment and revitalise the venue, retaining first class regional rugby close to the city centre.

“We’re talking with Swansea CC about helping them relocate to an alternative facility suitable for their games in the top division of the South Wales Premier Cricket League.

“We’re eager to work to a timeframe agreed by stakeholders and in line with the proposals.” 

Meanwhile Bridgend County Borough Council said it can confirm that talks are ongoing with the Ospreys about the team potentially relocating to the Dunraven Brewery Field from the 2025/26 season onwards.

Earlier this year, the Ospreys announced plans to relocate to a new stadium and their search has now been narrowed down to the Dunraven Brewery Field in Bridgend and St Helens in Swansea.

The move would represent a boost to the local economy by offering many mutual benefits to both the Ospreys and the county borough as a whole.

Bridgend County Borough has been part of the Ospreys region since 2004 and has played host to the team on a number of occasions, including this season’s derby clash against Cardiff Rugby and the memorable European Challenge Cup win over Sale Sharks.

Cllr Neelo Farr, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Economic Development and Housing, said: “We are fully supportive of the Ospreys’ plans to potentially relocate to Bridgend County Borough and we are looking forward to further talks as we continue to discuss the many mutual benefits of any such move, including the massive economic boost that it would bring to the entire area.

“The Dunraven Brewery Field would offer the Ospreys a unique opportunity to base themselves in the heart of a town centre, with Bridgend being perfectly placed on the M4 corridor and having lots of public transport options with nearby train and bus stations.

“The Ospreys already have lots of strong community links throughout the county borough and it’s fantastic that many of their current players are from Bridgend and started their rugby journeys by playing for our local teams.”

Ospreys CEO, Lance Bradley said: “I am happy to share that we have narrowed down our decision to two fantastic grounds, each offering unique opportunities, and we are confident that either choice would be more than suitable as the Ospreys new home.

“It’s been a pleasure working with both the City and County of Swansea Council and Bridgend County Borough Council to get to this point. Both councils have really come to the party and been more than accommodating in our requests, and open to working together to ensure our new stadium is not just a suitable top-flight rugby stadium but offers further opportunities to enrich the local community.

“I look forward to being able to share our preferred option in the coming weeks and working in partnership with the relevant Council to ensure our new home becomes the hub of the community.”

The Ospreys will remain at the Swansea.com Stadium for the 24/25 season, using this time for initial redevelopments to ensure the selected stadium is fit for purpose for the following 25/26 season.

Further updates regarding stadium selection will be shared by the Ospreys in due course.

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