“11:30am Cardiff Arms Park”
To mark the achievement of becoming the 1st mixed Ability side to play 300 fixtures the WRU have asked the Llanelli Warriors to represent them in the Tartan Cup against the Scottish National Clan.
The game will take place at 11:30am on Saturday (3/11/18) at Cardiff Arms Park - entrance is free.
The game is part of the Wales v Scotland Community Activation weekend. Players from both sides will then attend the international as guests of the WRU.
The Warriors played their 300th match on October 7th, winning a tough encounter at Gloucester Griffins (http://www.pitchero.com/clubs/llanelliwarriorsrfc/teams/3612/match-centre/0-4048268)
The match will be the 5th time that the sides have met and the Warriors have played an integral part in the Clan’s history. The first mixed ability team in Scotland, the Clan played their 1st match on the 22nd of June 2013 against the Warriors. 12 months earlier TRI Rugby’s Jamie Armstrong had attended the Warriors annual 7s competition. He had just been commissioned by the NHS to provide a project for people with learning difficulties and he was inspired by the model he saw in Wales. Within 12 months he had formed the club and Kilmarnock RFC saw the inaugural TRI Nations Tournament featuring the Clan, the Llanelli Warriors and English side the Bumble Bee Barbarians.
Despite it being their 1st ever experience of rugby, the Scottish side performed admirably and it took a late penalty for the Warriors to edge the game 12-13 who were playing their 201st fixture.
The Warriors though have not triumphed since. The Clan won in the following March in Llanelli (15-19) and at the end of that season in the 2nd tournament (17-5). The most recent encounter was in 2015 when the sides clashed in the latter stages of the 1st Mixed Ability World Tournament. Both sides were unbeaten but the Clan edged this one 24-21. Scant consolation to the Warriors that many of the Clan felt it was the most physical match they had played in.
The clubs’ mutual respect has extended to coaches taking sessions for the other club and several players have featured in both jerseys.
The Clan players are drawn from the various hubs they have around the country and so are a true national team whilst the Warriors have been asked to represent the WRU in recognition of their 300 matches.
The occasion will be extra special for the Warriors Captain Richard Evans as long as he gets on the field. 6 weeks ago he was due to make his 200th appearance only to break his thumb in the warm up. He has returned to training and will hopefully become the Warriors 4th double centurion. Elsewhere the Warriors are missing several key players: most capped player John Horwood and fellow lineout specialist Andrew Davies mean that there will be a heavy burden on Darren Pollitt to provide lineout ball. Darren will also be sharing the kicking duties with Yanis Whiteley as Rhydian Williams, Tony Whittaker, Simon Jenkins and Andrew are all missing. The lineout creaked against Aberavon Green Stars last time out and the Warriors are unlucky to be missing their top FOUR place kickers but have otherwise named a strong squad.
Both sides are also looking forward to watching the main international afterwards before enjoying a night in the Capital.
Press release regarding the Warriors 300th fixture:
Llanelli Warriors 300th fixture a first.
The Llanelli Warriors Rugby Club who include players with disabilities reached a new landmark on Sunday (7th October) when they played their 300th fixture.
Although the concept on including players with and without disability has become increasingly popular in recent years it’s believed that the Warriors club are the first mixed ability club to reach this total.
The Warriors were formed in 1995 when there were only three such sides. The Bridgend team based at Waterton Cross folded soon after and it’s thought that the Warriors have overtaken their great rivals, the Swansea Gladiators, the world’s oldest mixed ability side, in terms of fixtures played.
The club has gained a reputation for playing as often as possible. “It’s testament to the attitude of the players really” said player and Chairman Gwilym Lewis, “Already this season we answered an SOS to put a team together in 3 hours and in August we played in Bath on the Friday, attended a festival on the Saturday and then faced our Cardiff rivals the Chiefs on the Sunday. The boys want to play as much as possible and so being the first mixed ability club to reach this total is down to them.”
Having disabled players included in mainstream sport is still relativity rare and so the Warriors feel they are setting both a benchmark for sport but also an example to society. Some players have conditions such as Downs Syndrome, Cerebal Palsy, Autism and learning disabilities but all participate fully.
“It’s full contact rugby union, the only rule change is passive scrums and so these players can feel fully part of the rugby family and deserve the respect that they earn. Although it’s wonderful to play at events like the WRU Mixed Ability Festival at the Principality Stadium, our bread and butter matches at places like Betws, Burry Port and Cefneithin. Here we are part of the local rugby community. We have shown that there is no limit to the rugby environment, having played in West Wales, the West of England, New Zealand and even Samoa. We have shown that distance and culture in no obstacle and now we have shown that there is real longevity to it with our 300th match. Hopefully this will show that clubs can include people with disabilities, however tough the sport and that they can thrive.”
The match on Sunday was something of a throwback to the days of the merit table when Welsh clubs had strong rivalry with their counterparts in the West of England. The Warriors travelled to Longlevens RFC to play the Gloucester Griffins. The Griffins are part of a growing number of teams that have sprung up in the last few seasons. For many years it was just the two Welsh sides but there are now clubs in Italy, France, Spain, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand, Ireland and across the UK.
The Warriors have played their part in this growth having played a significant role in forming the 1st sides in England and Scotland, both the WRU and RFU have used named them in guidance documents and they have played a leading role with Ability Rugby International – the federation of such clubs. "When we realised how positive rugby could be in changing attitudes and opening up a new world to people with disabilities, we wanted to share it. We are very proud of the part we have played in spreading mixed ability rugby and now we the WRU backing the concept we have grown to 4 sides in Wales which is fantastic."
The Warriors have found that the benefits of playing rugby are multiple. As well as the obvious things like strength, speed and coordination, players have gained in social skills and confidence.
“It’s been a transformation for some of our players. It’s also been important in terms of the image of people with a learning difficulty. Instead of just seeing people on the back of a special bus or at a special sports event people have met, played against, perhaps been beaten by players with a disability. It’s been an eye opener for our non disabled players. Last season we had 50 players so we must be doing something right.”
The Warriors marked the occasion with a 22-43 triumph. Captain Richard Evans said "The boys did the occasion proud. It was a very tough match and we were 10 nil down early on. We had to dig deep to come back from that,"
Jordan Cannon made his debut to become the 450th player to represent the team.
Updated 07:57 - 2 Nov 2018 by Gwilym Lewis
The Warriors have played over 100 different teams from 8 counties including matches in New Zealand and Samoa.