Dream MiIlennium final in the minds of Welsh rugby
28 July 2009 15:30
The dream of playing at the Millennium Stadium will become a more realistic goal for community clubs next season thanks to the WRU's restructuring of the SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl.
Last season saw the introduction of the SWALEC Plate and Bowl for clubs knocked out in the early rounds of the prestigious SWALEC Cup competition.
The finals of all three tournaments took place at the Millennium Stadium on 9 May, with Morriston beating Lampeter in the Bowl final and Ammanford overcoming Risca in the Plate final before Neath lifted the SWALEC Cup by beating old rivals Llanelli.
Following a review of the competition format, the knock-out competitions will now run separately with clubs in SWALEC League Divisions 4, 5, 6, Division 2 North and University clubs competing for the Bowl title, clubs in Divisions 2, 3 and Division 1 North fighting it out for glory in the Plate competition while the SWALEC Cup, the pinnacle of the Welsh club game, will be the exclusive domain of Principality Premiership and Division One clubs.
This change of format will ensure that all clubs are offered a run of League fixtures in the first half of the season, alleviating difficulties faced by clubs in the final weeks of the season when pressure is created for clubs by a build-up of fixtures. It will also provide a more even playing contest with clubs playing against sides from a similar level of the National League, rather than incurring great cost to complete a fixture where a positive result is sometimes almost certainly out of reach.
Thirdly, only teams who have won all their matches will contest a Millennium Stadium final, a chance which takes away the possibility of teams progressing in one competition on the basis of a loss in another.
WRU Head of Rugby, Performance and Development Joe Lydon said: "We've got a fabulous sponsor in SWALEC who are great supporters of the game and ensure we can provide this opportunity for clubs to have their day in the sun at the Millennium Stadium, the jewel in the crown of Welsh rugby.
"While last year's inaugural three-tier competition was a great success for those involved, we are always looking to improve standards and some clubs found it difficult to compete because of excessive travel costs and a build-up of matches.
"Holding the three finals at the Millennium Stadium was a great showpiece event for the game and for the national cup competition. We feel that by creating a system whereby clubs will be categorised according to their League Division it will create an even more meaningful competition where every club in Wales will have a real crack of the whip at their respective title by playing against their peers in the League."
Alan Williams, Director of Energy Sales, SWALEC, commented: "We're looking forward to the new season, the second in our three-year sponsorship of the Cup, Plate and Bowl competitions. Working in partnership with the WRU, we're continually looking at ways to improve and develop the events we sponsor and we hope the revisions announced today will help to enhance the Cup competition further. Last season, we introduced the Plate and Bowl competitions with the finals being played at the Millennium Stadium and we look forward to another great day of top-class club rugby at the Stadium in 2010.
"As a leading energy supply in Wales, we feel it's fitting our sponsorship association with the WRU should encompass community rugby at all levels including the recently-announced expanded SWALEC League competition, the SWALEC Cup, Plate and Bowl, the women's international team and the international age-grade teams at U18 and U20 level."
There will be a new name on the SWALEC Bowl at the end of the season, with last year's winners Morriston in the Plate this time around. The SWALEC Bowl kicks off on October 10 with 169 clubs. Last year's Plate winners Ammanford have drawn Llanelli Wanderers in Round One of the competition, which kicks off on October 31, while Morriston have a bye.
All 14 Premier Division clubs, including Cup holders Neath, receive byes in Round One of the SWALEC Cup, which initially only involves clubs from Division One East and West. The competition kicks off on December 12 with a round of matches that includes newly relegated Bridgend taking on fellow Ospreys region Division One West club Tonmawr while Division One East champions Blackwood have drawn a bye.
SWALEC Cup Round One (to be played weekend of 12 December):
Bridgend v Tonmawr
Narberth v Bridgend Athletic
Builth Wells v Newbridge
Llangennech v Llanharan
Whitland v Ystrad Rhondda
Bedlinog v Tredegar
SWALEC Plate Round One (to be played weekend of 31 October):
Llandeilo v Aberystwyth
Cardigan v Kidwelly
Llangefni v Mold
Ammanford v Llanelli Wanderers
Gorseinon v Mumbles
Seven Sisters v BP Llandarcy
Glynneath v Briton Ferry
Kenfig Hill v Brecon
Pencoed v Tondu
Llandaff v Tylorstown
Abercynon v Heol y Cyw
Nelson v Rhydyfelin
Penallta v Blaina
Gardiffaith v Pill Harriers
Abergavenny v Pontypool United
SWALEC Bowl Round One (to be played weekend of 10 October):
Aberaeron v Bethesda
Welshpool v Newtown
Monmouth v Forgeside
Llandybie v Mynydd y Garreg
Penybanc v Amman United
Lampeter Coll v Pontyates
Glais v Furnace
Hendy v Trimsaran
Swansea Uplands v Tumble
Cefn Cribbwr v Bryncethin
Maesteg Celtic v Cwmgors
Blaengarw v Baglan
Ferndale v Pontyclun
Ynysowen v Dowlais
Oly Illtydians v Cowbridge
Caerau Ely v St Albans
Old Penarthians v Cardiff Saracens
Machen v Abertysswg
Cefn Fforest v Risca
Crumlin v Aberbargoed
Usk v Hartridge
Blaenavon v St Josephs Newport
Pontllanfraith v Llanhilleth
Young referee Ben Breakspear is making rapid strides as a referee. In just over a year he has gone from officiating a college game to being a touchline official during last weekend's RBS 6 Nations clash between Wales and Ireland at Principality Stadium.
Grand Slams, Triple Crowns and British and Irish Lions tours - Sir Gareth Edwards did it all. But what are his favourite moments in what was an amazing career? WRU TV finds out - along with his favourite players of today in the third and final instalment of our series with the greatest rugby player ever.
JPR Williams, Gerald Davies and Mervyn Davies were among those in the Welsh ranks when Sir Gareth Edwards began his international career against France nearly 50 years ago, but who was the player who took the young scrum half under their wing?
Wales head coach Rob Howley and captain Alun Wyn Jones are expecting a physical battle against France on Saturday but both are hoping for another impact from the bench as the men in red chase a top-four world ranking.
It's nearly 50 years since the great Sir Gareth Edwards made his debut as a youngster for Wales against France in Stade Colombes. In the first of a series, WRU TV discovers he pocketed a 'special momento' from the game - something he still has today.
This week, Wales squad players Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens took time out to support Operation Net Safe, a joint initiative by the four Welsh police forces to tackle child sexual abuse. The forces are working with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused, on a campaign called Stop it Now!