THE WALES SQUASH AND RACKETBALL annual presentation evening was held recently at the Angel Hotel in Cardiff.
One Pembrokeshire club received its fair share of awards. Meads Squash Club, who run out of Milford Haven Leisure Centre, for the first time ever a Pembrokeshire club received the WSRB Squash Club of the Year award. The club was against the largest clubs in Wales and were selected eventual winners not only for the work they undertake at the club but also the help and support they show to other clubs within the county and the work they carry out within the local community.
The club has worked hard over the past three years to achieve a player pathway out of the county, not only for club players but for any Pembrokeshire player to enjoy. They now have five teams playing league squash in Pembrokeshire, South Wales and in the Welsh Premier Divisions.
As well as a player pathway, the club have put into place a coaching pathway and, again for the first time ever, Pembrokeshire has regular coaching courses being run in the county at the club from Leaders, Level One and the first Level Two coaching course run this year.
As well as coaching at the club, the coaches go out into the community on school and club visits, giving children within the county the opportunity to have a go at the sport using portable rebound walls. They are also active with disability sport and again using the rebound walls, they have run a series of sessions with the Lets Get Active Milford Haven group whose participants achieved the club’s Green Squash Skills Award this year.
The quality of the coaches coming from the club has not gone unnoticed; for the third year running, a coach from the club has received an award at the WSRB presentation evening and, this year, Alfie Wheeler received Young Coach of the Year – a fantastic achievement at 16. Alfie has also completed his UKCC Level 2, which shows the level of support the club gives to their coaches.
On the junior front this season, the club has 25 attending regular coaching sessions only limited by the number of courts. Out of these juniors, the club have a number who play within the adult leagues through to premier division; six juniors attend the WSRB Academy training programme, four attend the WSRB National Squad training programme, four juniors were selected to play in the English inter counties and two juniors have received the Young Coach of the Year award this year.
Not limited to juniors, two of the club’s adult players received Welsh representational caps this year. James Walters, Manager of Milford Haven Leisure Centre, represented Wales in the home nations over 50s held at Aberdeen, whilst Nick Dyer, Headmaster at Huberston and Hakin junior schools, represented and captained the over 45’s side in Cardiff this year.
The club also received the WSRB Silver charter award this year for running good policies, procedures and practices at the club, including ensuring all coaches are DBS checked and have undergone safeguarding courses. The club is also working towards their insport ribbon award.
Pete Crook, Head coach at the club, commented: “It has been quite a year for the club and receiving the Club of the Year award is a fantastic achievement, knowing the size and quality of the other clubs throughout Wales within the category. This shows testament to all the good work being carried out at the club and beyond and by a lot of people behind the scenes.
“The player pathway has been put together for all Pembrokeshire players to enjoy the highest level of squash on offer in Wales, whilst the juniors have surpassed our expectations. Not forgetting the most important part for myself, the coaching pathway the club have put in place, this really is the backbone and the only way clubs can remain sustainable in the future. I am proud to be a part of such a dedicated group of people who have achieved so much in a short period of time.”
Llanelli Warriors RFC Win World Award
THE LLANELLI WARRIORS were named double Ability Rugby International Champions, the results announced with perfect timing just as the Warriors held their presentation evening.
The Ability Rugby International Championship compares the results of all the mixed ability sides across the globe, with an emphasis on games played but with a win element incorporated.
The results for 2018/29 have been much delayed but saw the Warriors regain the title from Scottish National Clan team. They edged out newcomers the Dragon Allstars who were playing their debut season. The 2019/20 season may have been curtailed, but the Warriors still managed more fixtures than any other mixed ability side, this time edging out another new side, the Port Talbot Panthers.
Mixed Ability rugby sees players with and without disabilities play alongside each other and against ‘normal’ rugby clubs. The concept continues to spread rapidly and the days when it was just the Warriors and their Swansea rivals the Gladiators, have long gone. 10 years ago the 1st sides started forming outside of West Wales and there are now over 100 teams and groups world wide.
Captain Richard Evans was very proud. “It takes a lot to organise fixtures regularly so this is a great reward for all our efforts. The boys are very committed and we just love to play. It’s great to see so many sides playing now and it’s great to be at the forefront of the movement”.
The news boosted the Warriors presentation evening where they looked back over their season.
James Anthony was the main beneficiary, playing his 1st full season his pace on the wing and accurate boot helped him lift the Top Points Scorer award and the Player of the Year titles.
Players’ Player went to 2nd row Tom Ashour. Quick enough to have previously played on the wing, he proved a reliable source of lineout ball and was always combative around the field.
Luke Pearse was named Most Improved Player, narrowly beating Will Browne, Lloyd Cawley and Dan Grinter.
The most closely contested was Sportsman where Luke Pearse, Arwel Thomas and Dan John were pipped by Chris Davies. The nominees were described as the glue of the club by Chairman Gwilym Lewis, and vital to the teams success.
The Warriors are especially anxious for Covid regulations to lift as the new season will be their 25th. Planning is difficult at present but they hope to have a number of special fixtures. At the end of the season they are due to head out to Ireland for the 3rd Mixed Ability world tournament which will feature 24 clubs from 8 different countries.
2020 Six Nations tickets on sale
WALES’ three home 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship matches – against Italy, France and Scotland – went on public sale on Friday (Sept 27), and are already in high demand.
Wayne Pivac kicks off his first Six Nations at the helm against Italy at Principality Stadium on Saturday, February 1, (2.15pm), after taking up the reins from departing head coach Warren Gatland post-Rugby World Cup.
Pivac’s side then heads to Dublin to take on Ireland before returning to Cardiff in round three to host France on Saturday, February 22 (4.45pm).
A trip to Twickenham then follows, before the tournament finale under the new regime, back in Wales against Scotland on Saturday, March 14 (2.15pm).
Pivac has one game to find his feet before the tournament opener, on November 30 against the Barbarians, when he will pick his debut Wales squad to match a BaaBaas side in Cardiff coached by Gatland.
That game – a double-header at the 73,931 capacity venue which also sees Wales Women take on Barbarian opposition – has revealed an insatiable appetite for rugby in the Welsh capital, with over 35,000 having already booked their places in the crowd, more than two months out from the fixture.
Tickets to see the BaaBaas are still available, starting at £10 per head for under 16s and £30 for adults, but now all three 2020 Guinness Six Nations matches can be snapped up too, with prices starting at £30 adult and £20 U16s for the opener against Italy (other prices are £50, £60*, £65 and £75 for this game).
Priority and advance sale, for the likes of member clubs, debenture holders and the official WRU supporters club, has meant that middle tier tickets and the two lowest price categories for both Scotland and France have already sold-out, leaving tickets at £90*, £95 and £105 to watch Les Blues – for Scotland all top price tickets have also gone, leaving only £90* and £95 categories.
*Tickets in this category include those with access to the WRU’s recently installed Alcohol Free Zone (AFZ) – a 4,200 capacity self-contained area at the North end of Principality Stadium – will now be a permanent presence at all Welsh rugby internationals and will be in use at the Six Nations for the first time, with existing debenture holders offered the opportunity to relocate to the new area.
“The best place to get hold of a ticket for the Barbarians game in November or for any of the home Six Nations matches at Principality Stadium in 2020 is from a WRU member club near you,” said a WRU spokesperson.
“Tickets are in high demand, the appetite for Welsh rugby in Cardiff is as strong as it has ever been and with a new coaching team in place and an intense curiosity about what the future will hold for Wales, the 2020 Guinness Six Nations Championship is going to sell fast.
“We would encourage all supporters to act quickly and pick up tickets as soon as they can to any of these matches, to avoid disappointment, but to also always ensure that they buy from official sources – member clubs, official WRU partners or directly from us online, at our ticket office or via our dedicated hotline number – with all proceeds from ticket sales fed directly back into the game at all levels.”
All four games are available now from a Welsh rugby club near you, online at www.wru.wales/tickets, in person at the WRU ticket office or by phone 0844 847 1881 (calls to this number cost 7p per minute plus your company’s access charge) – maximum purchase limits apply.
Elfyn Evans raises the stakes in Monte Carlo
ELFYN EVANS’ bid to add further success to his history-making win on last year’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB blasts off with next week’s Rallye Monte-Carlo (25-28 January).
As tradition dictates, the FIA World Rally Championship commences with the notoriously challenging Alpine classic – a wintry event that always throws up an ultra-testing cocktail of ice, snow and slush making the already demanding mountain roads among the trickiest on the 13-round WRC calendar, which reaches Wales in early October.
Evans has contested Rallye Monte-Carlo four times previously and has never finished outside the top eight. His best result to date is sixth place on his debut in 2014 and again last year.
“It’s never an easy event,” admits the 29-year-old from Dolgellau. “There are so many factors that come into play that you don’t generally get on a more normal round of the championship but it’s an iconic way to start the year. The stages themselves – if you take away all the snow and ice – are absolutely fantastic.”
Since taking his maiden WRC win in Wales – the first for a Welsh driver, and the first for a British driver on home soil since the late Richard Burns in 2000 – Evans has been promoted by his title-winning M-Sport team. For 2018, he and co-driver Daniel Barritt line up alongside five-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier in one of the Cumbrian outfit’s pair of front-line Red Bull-liveried Ford Fiesta WRCs.
“It’s a good place to be alongside Seb again this year,” he enthused. “We worked together well last year – albeit on different tyres – so to continue that on now with identical equipment is a fantastic opportunity.”
While clearly keen to make the most of his coveted seat alongside the French maestro, Evans is by no means overawed by his illustrious team-team. “He’s a fantastic benchmark to have in the team, has a lot of experience and is the best in the world at the moment, so you’d be a fool not to capitalise on that and learn from him. My aim, though, is always to try to beat him if we can.”
And the Welshman is certainly brimming with confidence after his break-through season in 2017 when he not only posted his first WRC victory but also two impressive second place finishes en route to fifth place in the final WRC championship standings.
“We made some good steps forward and found a happy place with the car – hopefully we can continue improving from there,” he disclosed.
Evans, though, will need to be at his brilliant best not just to beat Ogier but also to fend off some world class opposition in what promises to be another thrilling world championship series. Last year’s introduction of new technical rules not only introduced faster, more exciting cars but also created renewed rivalry between the top teams.
M-Sport might have won both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ crowns in 2017 but the opposition from Citroën, Hyundai and Toyota will be even stronger in 2018. Evans, however, believes the M-Sport technicians – now benefiting from increased support from Ford – will keep the Fiesta in front.
“There are small improvements but ultimately, with the regulations as they are, it doesn’t give anyone the scope to make massive changes. More a case of tweaking here and there,” he explained.
“We already had a strong platform, we just need to keep nibbling away to find gains in performance. Hopefully, the guys have been doing that over the winter and we all will continue pushing hard with the support of Ford this year. There’s always been a Ford connection with some engineering support but that’s now stepped up a level – that should help us to improve and stay at the top.”
While next week’s famous Rallye Monte-Carlo will provide a stern opening test, the WRC calendar throws up numerous challenges before the intrepid teams encounter the legendary Welsh forests in early October. As ever, the calendar is an epic adventure ranging from the snow packed tracks of Sweden to the rock-strewn mountain passes of Mexico and Argentina.
“To be honest, there are no rounds that I’m not looking forward to,” continued Evans. “I now have fond memories of just about all of the events. My focus this year will be to enjoy them all and to get the most out of each one, rather just targeting a handful.
“It will, of course, be special to be back in Wales,” he grinned. “The DMACK tyres obviously helped to put us in good position last year, now we’re equal Michelins to everyone else. Let’s wait and see. It’s a few months away but, obviously, we will be looking for another great result.”
In the meantime, all those wanting to follow Evans’ fortunes on television are spoilt for choice with both live and highlights coverage of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship on Channel 5, BT Sport, S4C and Red Bull TV.
Tickets for the 2018 Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (4-7 October) will go on sale when the competitive route is revealed in April.
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