Welsh/Scottish League champions Llanelli have enticed two of the hottest young talents in Wales to Stradey Park next season.
Wales prop Iestyn Thomas and Wales A centre Matthew Watkins have both signed three year contracts and will add considerable strength to a squad that not only took Llanelli to the league title last season, but also saw them reach the final of the Principality Cup and the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup.
"We are delighted to have attracted two of the most exciting young players in Wales to Llanelli. They will greatly enhance our squad and give us the kind of strength in depth we need to push for more honours next season," said Llanelli chief executive Stuart Gallacher.
"Iestyn has already won 12 caps for Wales. As for Matthew, he has the ability to play at centre or wing and has the ability to push for inclusion in the 2003 World Cup squad.
"These are exciting times at Stradey Park and everyone from our chairman, Huw Evans, down to the back room staff are working flat out to achieve our goal of bringing the Heineken Cup to Wales for the first time.
"Having lost out so narrowly in two semi-finals in the past three seasons we know we have got the capability to make the grade. Bringing players of the calibre of Iestyn and Matthew into our already talented squad can only help our cause."
In addition to the new signings, Llanelli have also resigned six international players - John Davies, Luke Gross, Guy Easterby, Dwayne Peel, Garan Evans and Salesi Finau.
"All the players were keen to stay. They feel there is some unfinished business to take care of over the next few seasons and the whole squad are determined to improve on last season," added Gallacher.
"We are still looking at the possibility of signing another threequarter and expect to make an announcement, one way or the other, early in June."
The Scarlets have also offered extensions to their Young Professional Contracts to Barry Davies, Tal Selley, Gareth Williams and Phil John and expect them to sign this week. Scrum half Michael Phillips has also been offered a Young Professional Contract.
"Every club needs a production line and the quality of the youngsters being developed in our Under 21 system is very high. Barry Davies had a superb season for us, playing for Wales A, and all the other players showed good development," said Gallacher.
"Michael Phillips picked up Wales Under 21 honours along with Gareth Williams, and Phil John and will take over the third scrum half role that was filled by Rupert Moon last season.
"Rupert has finally decided to hang-up his boots and retire and the club would like to thank him for his great service over the past decade. I would also like to thank Phil Booth for his efforts as he moves on to Bridgend."
Completing the end of season good news for all Scarlets' fans is the announcement that director of rugby Gareth Jenkins and coach Nigel Davies have both agreed long term extensions to their contracts.
"We have worked hard to put all the necessary parts into place as soon as possible for next season so that we can give ourselves the best preparation time," added Gallacher.
"I am delighted that Gareth and Nigel have committed themselves to the club on a long term basis and our fans can buy season tickets for the 2002/2003 season confident in our desire and ability to deliver more titles in the future."
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
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