Wales caps Ryan Bevington and Justin Tipuric with Aberavon chairman Andrew John
Welsh internationals Ryan Bevington and Justin Tipuric returned to Aberavon RFC this week to see their names unveiled on the Wizards' International Honours Board after making their senior Wales debuts during 2011.
The Ospreys pair have been added to the list of Aberavon players to have been capped for Wales after Bevington made his international debut against the Barbarians back in June, ending the year on seven caps after going to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, and Tipuric was capped against Argentina in August, adding a second cap in the December test match against Australia.
Products of the Ospreys Player Development Pathway, both Bevington and Tipuric represented the Wizards in the Welsh Premiership as youngsters, Bevington during 2009/10 and Tipuric for a number of seasons between 2007 and 2010. Bevington became Aberavon's 50th full international, Tipuric the 51st.
They are the first Aberavon players to have received full Wales caps in 23 years, since number eight Tim Fauvel made his only international appearance off the bench in a loss to New Zealand in May 1988. Prior to that, scrum-half Ray Giles gained three caps between 1983 and 1987, and hooker Billy James was capped 21 times during the same period, becoming the only Aberavon player to captain Wales at senior level.
Bevington and Tipuric have had their names added to the Honours Board in the Club House at the Talbot Athletic Ground, with Aberavon/Ospreys listed alongside, highlighting the role that the Wizards played in their rugby education while on development contracts with the Ospreys.
Andrew John, Managing Director of Aberavon RFC, said everyone at the club was proud of the progress the pair has made since turning out in the red and black of the Wizards:
"We are delighted to be able to welcome Ryan and Justin back to the Talbot Athletic Ground for them to see their names up on the honours board. We are proud to have played a small part in their development, and of the great strides they've made in the game since they were part of our squad here.
"The relationship we have with the Ospreys means that Aberavon continues to play a part in helping to develop players for regional and international rugby."
Speaking after the unveiling of their names, Bevington said: "It's a real honour to see my name up on the board alongside some real Aberavon legends. I had a great time playing for the club and felt really at home here, I'm proud to join the list of Aberavon internationals."
Tipuric added: "I really enjoyed my time playing for Aberavon, I was part of the team for three years and my time playing for the club was invaluable in terms of learning what rugby was all about. The experience I got playing for the Wizards certainly helped me towards achieving things like playing for Wales and captaining my home region."
Ospreys Chief Operations Officer, Andrew Hore, said that Aberavon, like all clubs in the region, have a huge role on the player development pathway:
"Every young boy in the region who picks up a rugby ball should aspire to represent the Ospreys, and beyond that, Wales. They learn the game at the community clubs who are the cornerstone of our sport, before moving along the pathway, playing for their District and then our age-grade system or their college team, with the next step being Premiership rugby, each club on the way having a big part to play.
"We have a great relationship with Aberavon which has seen a number of our young players representing them, including the likes of Ashley Beck, Ben John and James King. Ryan and Justin have used their experiences with Aberavon as the basis to kick-on and establish themselves at the Ospreys and take their opportunities, and their hard work has been rewarded with a national call-up.
"Everyone at Aberavon can take real pride in Ryan and Justin's achievements, they are true Ospreylians who wore the red and black jersey with distinction, just as they do the Ospreys jersey."
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.