Welsh stars looking at milestones
A number of milestones will be celebrated this Sunday when Wales face Scotland in the rugbyleague.com European Cup Final at the Brewery Field in Bridgend (kick-off 4pm).
If selected, the match will see two player appearance milestones for Welsh internationals Ian Watson and Jordan James, while it’s also the first time that Wales have faced Scotland, Ireland and England in the same season in rugby league.
The latter may seem hard to believe for fans of football and rugby union who are used to their national sides facing each other on a regular basis, especially rugby union.
The football Home International Championships that ran from 1883-1984 saw England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales face each other annually, while rugby union’s Six Nations Championship still sees England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy compete.
However the Irish and Scottish national rugby league sides were only formed in 1995. Wales, Ireland and Scotland played in a Triangular Tournament in 1999 and the three nations have also faced each other in World Cup qualifiers or in previous European Championship tournaments.
Wales faced England this year in the Gillette Fusion International match at the Brewery Field in Bridgend three weeks to kick start their international season, losing 48-12 in the 66th international between the two nations, while last week they beat Ireland 42-12 to qualify for this Sunday’s big game against the Scots.
“The fact that we have faced England, Ireland and Scotland in the same season is significant, it has created great interest and we are trying to ensure that we continue to play all our neighbours on a more regular basis,” said Caro Wild, General Manager of the Welsh Rugby League. “This year has been outstanding. This Sunday’s big rugbyleague.com European Cup Final will be our fourth game in as many weeks and that’s how things should be every year. Right now the organisation of international rugby league is the best it’s ever been. We’ve an international schedule for the next five years and beyond and a proper worldwide international structure for the very first time. The game is on the up and more and more countries are playing rugby league which is good to see.”
Ian Watson, who made his Welsh debut against USA in 1995 will reach 26 senior all-time Welsh appearances, equalling Jim Sullivan’s all-time record while Jordan James should make his 17th consecutive appearance to go level with Sullivan (1921-35) and Rowland Phillips (1991-98). The all time consecutive appearance holder for Wales is Bill Francis who won all of his 19 caps in a row and in the space of five years (1975-80). James hasn’t missed a game for Wales since making his debut against Russia on October 26th 2003.
“I remember my first games well,” Watson said. “Clive Griffiths gave me that opportunity 14 years ago when he selected me to go the USA and it’s been fantastic to be working with him again this year. Clive brings pride into wearing the Welsh jersey and always told us how lucky we were. It’s always an honour to play for Wales.”
“I love playing for Wales,” Jordan James adds. “I hope I’ve got a few more years left in me. I’ve had some great experiences and tough games along the way with the toughest definitely being my second game for Wales, which was against Australia in 2003. I was fresh out of the Marines, had only been a pro for three months and there I was playing against the then world champions and against people I used to watch on Sky.
“Sunday against Scotland will be a really good game. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a tough physical one but if we stick to Iestyn’s game-plan then we’ll come out on top.”
Wales, runners up in the last competition in 2005, are looking to win their fifth European Cup title and their first for 14 years.
Tickets for the rugbyleague.com European Cup Final between Wales and Scotland, priced from £5 for concessions and £10 for adults can be bought by going to www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk or by calling 0844 856 1115. This ticket will allow entry into all three games that day. These are…
10.30am - Relegation Match - Serbia v Italy - The Old Parish, Maesteg RFC
12.15pm – Ranking Match - Lebanon v Ireland - Brewery Field, Bridgend
4.00pm – European Cup Final - Wales v Scotland - Brewery Field, Bridgend (on Sky Sports 3 from 3.30pm).