Wales Rugby League are preparing for a big North Wales weekend with five international matches and one representative game over three locations writes Ian Golden.
The event that encompasses the whole weekend is at Plas Madoc Leisure Centre in Wrexham where Wales are hosting a Wheelchair Tri-Nations tournament, taking on England and Scotland.
Wales open the competition when they face the Scots on Saturday (1.15pm). The Welsh have won the last five encounters between the two sides, putting over a century of points on their Celtic rivals in each of their last two clashes.
Straight after that game finishes, Wales must take to the court again to face England (3.00pm) knowing that not only have England won all of their matches against them, but have never lost against a match against a fellow British Isles nation.
Wales come into the tournament in good form having won the Celtic Cup back in April, beating Scotland and Ireland and scoring a century of points in each game.
England had two tough matches in France in June in a two-match series against their hosts, winning the first 31-25 before losing 50-46.
A Welsh cap record could be broken on Saturday. Alan Caron, Wales Wheelchair heritage player no 1, could become the country’s record test cap holder if he plays in both games.
With 29 appearances before this weekend he is set to overtake Ian Watson, Jordan James and Rhys Williams, all of whom have made 30 test appearances for the Wales men’s side.
Wales coach Steve Jones has named a 12-person squad with just one potential new cap in Gravesend Dynamite’s Richard Carver.
Saturday’s Wheelchair action concludes at 4.45pm when England face Scotland. The top two sides from the opening day qualify for Sunday’s final (3.00pm), whilst the bottom side will take on Leyland Warriors Wheelchair in a friendly encounter at 11.00am, with an open taster session of Wheelchair RL taking place in between the two.
Nearly 50 miles north of Plas Madoc, on the North Wales coastal ground of Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay, Wales take on England Lions Under 19s (kick-off 3.00pm).
Wales head into the match in good form with home and away wins over Ireland earlier this year. They have a mixed record against England Lions at this age-grade in the past, winning five, drawing two and losing six of the previous thirteen encounters.
Coleg y Cymoedd’s Will Clapham is in line for his first Under 19s cap after winning one for Wales at Under 16s level in 2017. He is the only new addition to Anthony Walker’s 19-man squad.
The encounter will be good preparation for Wales, who will take on the full England Academy side for the first time in six years when the two sides meet in Llanelli next month.
Admission to Wales Under 19s v England Lions at Parc Eirias on Saturday is just £5 for adults and £3 for concessions (free for children aged under 16).
Finally, on Sunday, East Wales travel to Shotton Steel RUFC in Deeside to take on North Wales Origin (kick-off 3pm), hoping to wrap up the WRL Men’s Origin title following their win over West Wales in Neath last week.
They will however face an experienced and confident North Wales side who have already achieved some good wins this year, the last one being a 60-0 away victory over Devon and Dorset Lions six weeks’ ago.
North Wales head coach Matt Drinkwater has named a 19-man squad with a lot of new faces compared to last year’s Origin series, where they finished second to East, despite a comprehensive 42-16 win over West in Wrexham.
East beat West 38-18 last week and head coach Ian Newbury will hope to again name a strong squad for the trip up north. He is yet to name his squad for the trip to Deeside. Updates will be posted at http://bit.ly/2nyqKx9 when known.
The WRL Men’s Origin series then concludes on Sunday 6 October at Glamorgan Wanderers when West take on North (kick-off 3.00pm). The best players will then be selected for the Wales Dragonhearts squad for their three matches in October and November.
LIVE UPDATES FROM THE MATCHES CAN BE SEEN AT THE FOLLOWING LINKS…
Wales Wheelchair v Scotland Wheelchair – http://bit.ly/2mVm3wN
Wales Wheelchair v England Wheelchair – http://bit.ly/2lgFfop
Wales U19 v England Lions U19 – http://bit.ly/2mQwTUW
North Wales Origin v East Wales – http://bit.ly/2mNczUC
Wheelchair Final, if involving Wales – TBC
WALES WHEELCHAIR: Stephen Halsey, Harry Jones, Lucie Roberts, Gary Taylor, Stuart Williams (captain) (All North Wales Crusaders), Alan Caron, Philip Davies, Andrew Higgins, Scotty Trigg-Turner, Mark Williams (all Hereford Harriers), Richard Carver, Jason Owens (both Gravesend Dynamite).
ENGLAND WHEELCHAIR: James Hazel, Lewis King, Fred Nye (all Argonauts), Rob Hawkins, Nathan Mulhall (both Halifax), Jodie Boyd-Ward, Josh Butler, Nathan Collins, Tom Halliwell, James Simpson (all Leeds Rhinos).
SCOTLAND WHEELCHAIR: Dave Anderson, Midge Hartley (both RAF), Jay Anderson, David Birtles, Michael Mellon (all Dundee Dragons), Gavin Dobson (Rochdale Hornets) Daniel Grant (Gravesend Dynamite), Callum Young (Leyland Warriors).
WALES UNDER 19S: Jacob Lee, Adam Young (both Aber Valley Wolves), Josh Palmer (Cardiff Blue Dragons), Will Clapham (Coleg y Cymoedd), Ryan Griffiths (Ince Rose Bridge), William Lynch (Leigh Miners Rangers), Cai Ellis, James McGurk (both Newcastle Thunder), Iwan Marsh, William Mills, Finlay Swift (all North Wales Crusaders A), Luis Roberts (Salford Red Devils), James Smith (Torfaen Tigers), Matthew Jones, Kieron Lewis, Matthew Morgan, Ieuan Roberts, George Sheppard (all West Wales Raiders), Billy Glover (Widnes Vikings).
ENGLAND LIONS UNDER 19S: Evan Jones, Jack Stevenson, Elliot Stockdale (all Dalton), Charlie Heaton (Dewsbury Celtic), George Hirst (Dewsbury Moor Maroons), Kieron Lawton (Doncaster Toll Bar), Jack Kellett (Hensingham), James Ennis, Will Ennis (both Kells), Connor Grainey (Leigh East), Harry Darby, Adam Livsey, Brandon Tickle (all Leigh Miners Rangers), Astin Mossop (Millom), Sam Eyres (Saddleworth Rangers), Mathew Ellis, Tom O’Loughlin (both Shevington Sharks), Oliver Lewis, Josh Milnes (both Siddal), Ryan Hilton (Skirlaugh Bulls), Tyler Hart (Stanningley), Reece Storey (Wigan St Judes).
NORTH WALES ORIGIN (named team): Ryan Griffiths, Alfie Mathias, Dan Crabtree, Henri Roberts, Finlay Swift, Morgan Johnson, Rob Fleet, Billy Forrester, George Morris, Jacob Hitchcox, Paul Welch, Ben Stelmazek, Morgan Nicholas. Subs (from): Luca Owen-Youens, Geraint Jones, Callum Leonard, Tom Bradfield, Nathan Hood, Corie Shorrocks.