Wales coach John Kear has named a strong 24-man squad for their 2015 European Championship campaign, which includes ten players who are on the books of Super League clubs and a further six with Super League experience.
Wales have two home games in this year’s tournament, taking on Scotland in Wrexham on Friday 16th October (kick-off 8pm) before facing France at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday 30th October (kick-off 6.30pm) before finishing with an away game in Bray, Ireland a week later.
As previously announced, Lloyd White of Widnes Vikings will captain the side. He is one of 13 players in the squad to be born in Wales, 12 of whom have come through South Wales Rugby League academy sides over the last decade. Another in Ben Flower, one of two Wigan Warriors players in the squad, is vice-captain.
In addition, Rhys Williams of London Broncos is from Mynydd Isa in North Wales, while Christiaan Roets from North Wales Crusaders is South African born but played his first game of Rugby League in Wales over 10 years ago and has stayed in the country ever since. They are Wales’ top two all-time record try scorers with 16 and 13 respectively.
Ten of last year’s squad are returning while there are four possible debutants – two from St Helens and two from Gloucestershire All Golds – both clubs each having four players in the squad in total.
Bridgend-born Jamie Murphy was unfortunate not to have won a cap a few years ago when playing for Crusaders in Super League, while the Port Talbot born Courtney Davies, is the second potential debutant from the All Golds. Regan Grace, also from Port Talbot, now plays for St Helens after signing from South Wales Scorpions Academy two years ago, while Morgan Knowles was the St Helens under 19 Player of the Year in 2015.
All the players, with the exception Bridgend-born Ollie Olds, who now plays for Queensland Cup side Souths Logan Magpies, play their Rugby League in the UK.
Bradford Bulls, Castleford Tigers, Dewsbury Rams, Huddersfield Giants and Newcastle Thunder are the other sides with representation.
Wales coach John Kear said: “We’ve gone for a blend of youth and experience this year. Some players have been rewarded for their efforts last year which is a big positive, but we are looking to be successful in this competition hence the recall of established Super League players who took a break last year following the World Cup.
“The squad is testament to the quality of player in Wales that are home-grown and have been brought through the academy systems. Lloyd White, who will be a pivotal player for us, started off down at Cardiff Demons and Newport Titans in South Wales, and Ben Flower was a youngster at Cardiff too. They, along with Craig Kopczak should be our first choice front row and are now old Super League heads. I expect them to be leaders within the group to set the right standards and move the team forward.
“Then we have up and coming players at Super League clubs like Regan Grace and Morgan Knowles who have done so well at St Helens in their academy this year. They will have a great opportunity to mix and get a feel for the Welsh camp. Lads like them will be the mainstay Welsh squad for many years to come.
“Regan, and his team mate Calvin Wellington, who is sadly injured and ruled out for the tournament, came to Saints recently after being in the South Wales AASE Rugby League Academy and I know there are more like them in the pipeline in South Wales.
“We’ve had an extended player resource to choose from this year so it’s been a tough choice. Last year was a rebirth, this year we will compete well.”
Wales have rested the squad number 6 for this tournament out of a mark of respect for their former team mate Danny Jones who died earlier this year. Jones will be remembered in a testimonial game played between his final club Keighley Cougars and Wales on Sunday 25th October at Cougar Park.
Match day tickets for the games can be purchased at www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk or if you would like to take advantage of hospitality, please contact Hanna Clarke on 07811 268 986 / [email protected]
WALES SQUAD (in order of club): Daniel Fleming (Bradford Bulls), Michael Channing (Castleford Tigers), Dalton Grant (Dewsbury Rams), Courtney Davies, Jamie Murphy, Steve Parry, Lewis Reece (all Gloucestershire All Golds), Craig Kopzcak (Huddersfield Giants), Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams (both London Broncos), Matty Barron, Ricky Hough (both Newcastle Thunder), Joe Burke, Rob Massam, Christiaan Roets (all North Wales Crusaders), Ollie Olds (South’s Logan Magpies, Australia), Matty Fozard, Regan Grace, Morgan Knowles, Anthony Walker (all St Helens), Phil Joseph, Lloyd White (both Widnes Vikings), Ben Flower, Rhodri Lloyd (both Wigan Warriors).
WALES SQUAD (in order of squad number)
1 Elliot Kear – London Broncos
2 Rhys Williams – London Broncos
3 Michael Channing – Castleford Tigers
4 Christiaan Roets – North Wales Crusaders
5 Dalton Grant – Dewsbury Rams
7 Ollie Olds – South’s Logan Magpies, Australia
8 Ben Flower – Wigan Warriors
9 Lloyd White – Widnes Vikings
10 Craig Kopzcak – Huddersfield Giants
11 Rhodri Lloyd – Wigan Warriors
12 Morgan Knowles – St Helens
13 Phil Joseph – Widnes Vikings
14 Lewis Reece – Gloucestershire All Golds
15 Daniel Fleming – Bradford Bulls
16 Ricky Hough – Newcastle Thunder
17 Anthony Walker – St Helens
18 Steve Parry – Gloucestershire All Golds
19 Matty Fozard – St Helens
20 Joe Burke – North Wales Crusaders
21 Matty Barron – Newcastle Thunder
22 Regan Grace – St Helens
23 Rob Massam – North Wales Crusaders
24 Courtney Davies – Gloucestershire All Golds
25 Jamie Murphy – Gloucestershire All Golds