In a sign of how far rugby league has come in Wales the South Wales Scorpions prepare to take on the North Wales Crusaders at the Gnoll in neath this weekend. Both teams play in the Championship 1 competition which is the third tier of rugby league in the UK.

The game is all the more significant as some of the players might just end up in the Welsh World Cup squad come 2013. Rugby League Planet brings you the latest from both camps: 

By Ian Golden , Date: 2/8/12

Kevin James looking forward to his first WRL derby

Kevin James is looking forward to his first Welsh Rugby League derby when South Wales Scorpions take on North Wales Crusaders at The Gnoll in Neath this Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

The 31-year old Scorpions centre is famous for being a try scoring winger with Neath RFC, was the top try scorer in the WRU Principality Premiership in three different seasons and is also one of a select band of players to notch up 100 tries in that competition’s history.

Now he has enjoyed try scoring exploits in the 13-man code in his very first season playing the sport and can’t wait to see if he can cross the line again on Sunday against the North Wales side.

“We’re all excited and personally I’m looking forward to it, to test myself, which is always what I’m looking to do,” he said. “We need to get a win more importantly. We haven’t had much luck recently and our performances if I’m honest need to be improved. However we also haven’t had the rub of the green at times. So hopefully we can start well, like we did against London last week, but this time build on it, and with a big crowd down there, enjoy the game and get the win.

“The boys are a bit down at the moment as performance levels haven’t been as they should. It’s not for the lack of trying, we’ve been disrupted through injuries and an unsettled team for the last few weeks. After we had those back to back wins against Rochdale it’s a been a bit disjointed, boys coming in and out.

“On the other hand I’ve been really impressed with the local youngsters who have come in. Luke Kell and Osian Phillips for example have come up from the under 18 side to play in the last couple of games and I think Osian played 70 minutes last week.

“The club is looking good for the future and it’s been a bedding in season for us. Hopefully we can benefit from that next season and hopefully we can push for the title next year – I think we’ll be in with a chance.”

James, the brother of Ospreys prop Paul, spent 11 years with Neath RFC in two different spells, and played in the Heineken Cup with the Welsh All Blacks. When the regions were formed, he signed for Newport Gwent Dragons, then spent two years at Cornish Pirates in England before returning to Neath in the Welsh Premiership. At international level, he has played for Wales Rugby Union at Sevens, Students and under 16, 18, 19 and 21 age grades.

With all this experience behind him, he has played in many derbies, but none that encompasses a whole country.

“I’ve played in some big derby games, from internationals to regional to club level,” he says. “When I was at Cornish Pirates, the big games were against Penzance or Exeter, then there’s Neath v Aberavon so I’m used to rivalries and derby games. I think it brings the best out of players as everyone wants to improve and lift their game and get one over their rivals.

“This one is a bit different as it’s South v North and that’s something a bit special. Everyone will want to play well, not just to win the game as there will be players in both teams with aspirations of making the Wales side. A match in the spotlight like this will be a good game for players to show their talent. We’ve got the link with Wigan so if boys perform you’re in the window there too.

“But primarily it’s about winning the game and that’s what we want to do, and if I can get over the whitewash too, then it’ll be a bonus for me.”

Tickets for the big Welsh derby – South Wales Scorpions v North Wales Crusaders on Sunday 5th August – are now on sale. They can be bought by going to www.scorpionsrl.com or in person from the Neath RFC club shop in Old Market Street, Neath on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.

Crusaders Press release, Date: 2/8/12

Roets looking forward to playing against old team mates

North Wales Crusaders’ centre Christiaan Roets is looking forward to playing against his old team-mates in the Welsh Rugby League derby against South Wales Scorpions at The Gnoll in Neath this Sunday (kick-off 3pm).

Roets, who played for the Scorpions in their first two years, made the surprise defection north after being offered a back-room role with the new North Wales side, helping to establish the club in the community and amongst businesses, in addition to playing.

With 11 caps for Wales, Roets is the most experienced player in the North Wales side, but he learned his 13-man skills in the south.

Starting in the Welsh Conference with Swansea Valley Miners then Bridgend Blue Bulls, the 31-year old also played for Celtic Crusaders in Super League reserves when in Bridgend, resulting in him being called up for the full Wales squad in 2009 scoring a hat-trick of tries on his debut against Serbia. He signed for the newly formed Scorpions straight after that.

But now he is lining up for the opposition at The Gnoll for the first time and admits that it will be a strange feeling.

“I don’t think I’ve actually ever been in the away dressing room in Neath so it will be a first time for me,” he said. “It certainly will seem strange turning right and not left when I walk down the steps.

“I’m excited and looking forward to it. I missed the first derby game in Wrexham at Easter as I was injured so I’m glad that I’m fit and up for selection in this game.

“There have been a lot of uphill struggles for me and my injuries this year but I’ve got through them. Although I’m still not 100% fitness wise as I’ve been out for a while, I’m looking forward to competing, especially with more Wales internationals coming up later this year.”

Roets will be just one of a handful of Welsh internationals on either side, giving Sunday’s encounter some added spice and a certain “mate against mate” philosophy often associated with State of Origin in Australia.

“There are Wales internationals on both sides playing against each other so that will just add some fuel to the fire,” Roets said. “We all want a place in the Wales side in the autumn and we’re all determined to play well so I think this should encourage a lot of people to come and watch.

“If it’s ‘Origin’ I should really be playing for Scorpions but I’m finding myself on the North Wales Crusaders side. But it’ll be an origin game for the supporters who will want to get behind their region, North or South Wales. It is a Welsh derby and that’s a big game. Both teams haven’t had the season that they want but this is in its own elite final. It’s going to be a good game, very intense and quite an atmosphere.”

Tickets for the big Welsh derby – South Wales Scorpions v North Wales Crusaders on Sunday 5th August – are now on sale. They can be bought by going to www.scorpionsrl.com or in person from the Neath RFC club shop in Old Market Street, Neath on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week.

 

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