Wales Rugby League are hosting a Wheelchair international tournament for the first time ever on Saturday (28 April) when Ireland and Scotland travel to Deeside Leisure Centre, the centre of excellence for Rugby League in Wales, to compete in the Prabhu Ventures Ltd Celtic Cup writes Ian Golden.
The opening ceremony in scheduled for 11.00am, with the first match, Wales v Scotland, kicking off at 11.15am.
The event was set up to give the three Celtic nations some much needed international competition outside the Four Nations and World Cup tournaments. Wales, the current holders of the trophy, were first invited to play in the Celtic Cup two years ago, after Ireland won the initial two-nation tournament 132-76 on aggregate over two games against Scotland in 2015.
The 2016 competition was hosted by Ireland but took place in Blackpool. Wales came away as winners of the competition. In 2017 Scotland hosted the tournament in Stirling and Wales were again Cup winners.
Wheelchair Rugby League is a fast, exciting sport played by both sexes, a wide range of ages and by those with and without disability.
The rules of running Rugby League are kept to as much as possible but with a few exceptions. Games last 80 minutes and there are five players on each side. Tries are scored in the regular way, touching down over the try line, but goals are scored by punching the ball over the mini-posts from a tee. Tackles are made in the same way as Tag Rugby by pulling off the attached tag, and five tackles are followed by the handing over of possession. Offside, knock-ons and in-touch apply just like in the running version of the game.
Wales Wheelchair Rugby League team manager Mark Andrew Jones is looking forward to the event. He said: “This is the first time that Wales Rugby League have hosted an international wheelchair Rugby League tournament and hopefully it won’t be the last. The 2021 Rugby League World Cup is only three years away and it would be great to host some of the World Cup games in Wales to highlight the game to our sports-mad public.
“We are immensely proud and excited to host the tournament at the Deeside Leisure Centre. We have worked hard to make it a very special occasion for the players and have been supported by some very generous sponsors, particularly Pradhu Ventures Ltd who is the main sponsor for the event, but we have also been supported by crowdfunding donations and a very generous bid for the match ball from Peter and Martyn Beasley. We have also received some heritage shirts from past Wales Rugby League players and would like to thank them for their generosity.
“We will be supported at the Opening Ceremony by Rebecca Roberts and the Wrexham Community Choir who will lead the singing of the three National Anthems.”
He continued: “Wheelchair Rugby League is a game that I believe the people of Wales would love if it got more exposure. Hopefully those who come to the Pradhu Ventures Ltd Celtic Cup will tell their friends and family, encourage others to come and try it and also spread the word about what a great game they have seen.
“The Pradhu Ventures Ltd Celtic Cup will feature some of the best Wheelchair Rugby League players in the UK. They are quick, skilful and fearless. We will see some exciting moves and some great tries, all played with great team spirit and respect for the players from our visiting countries.
“It’s free entry and I hope that people will come along and support the players of all three teams as it’s going to be a great event.”
Ireland: Lewis King (Argonauts), Stewart Walker (Bradford Bulls), Joseph Bachelor, Thomas Martin, Scott Pyrah (both Halifax), Sebastian Groves (Medway Dragons), Stephen Argent, Michael Knight, Joshua McEvoy (all St Helens).
Scotland: Jay Anderson, David Birtles, Michael Mellon, Graeme Stewart (all Dundee Dragons), Kieran Devine, Dylan King, Kieran Lovett, Adam Mould (all Glasgow Panthers), Gavin Dobson (Keighley Cougars), Callum Young (Leyland Warriors), Connor Blackmore (Strathmore Silverbacks).
Wales: Alan Caron, Andrew Higgins, Jason Owens, Geraint Price, Gary Preece (all Hereford Harriers), John Doyle, Stephen Halsey, Harry Jones, Lucie Roberts, Gary Taylor, Stuart Williams (all North Wales Crusaders)
11:00 Opening Ceremony – players presented to the spectators. National Anthems
11:15 Game 1 – Wales v Scotland
12:45 Game 1 ends. Scotland and Ireland have the courts
13:15 Game 2 – Scotland v Ireland
14:45 Game 2 ends. Ireland and Wales have the courts
15:15 Game 3 – Wales v Ireland
16:45 Game 3 ends