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Four Amateur Blues players in Welsh Clubs XV

2nd August 2007

Four Amateur Blues players have been named in the squad for the Welsh Rugby Union's newest international side, the Welsh Clubs XV - which will represent Welsh club rugby on the international stage.

Having beaten Ospreys and Scarlets away and lost to Dragons at home, Owen Cotton from Ynysybwl RFC, Nathan Gittins from Merthyr RFC, Gavin Close from Rhydfelen RFC and Rob Downes from Beddau RFC will now take the step up to international level.
The side's first international matches will be at a tournament in Belgium later this month. The side, made up of players aged 25 or under from clubs in WRU Asda Leagues One to Five will play Spain on Wednesday August 23 in Liege, and then France Amateur or hosts Belgium on Saturday, August 26, depending on the result of the first game.

The side will play its first home international against the French Amateur side in the Cardiff area on the morning of the Wales v Australia Invesco Perpetual Series match on November 4.

The objective of the side is to recognize the achievement of players within the community game in Wales although, with the squad being entirely made up of young players, the set-up also provides an environment for players to develop and possibly progress further up the ladder into the semi-professional game or beyond.

Nine players from clubs in the Dragons Region who were part of the Dragons Clubs XV that won last season's WRU Regional Community Championship have made it into the final squad for the Belgium tournament along with nine Scarlets, four Blues, three Ospreys and one player from the North Wales regional community side (Gogledd) - flanker Steven Roberts of Bethesda RFC.

The team management has also been boosted by the inclusion of forwards coach Phil Agar from Beddau.

Head Coach Gerry Roberts said, "We have completed three intensive training sessions where the commitment and attitude of all the players involved has been exemplary.

"It is great to be able to include a forwards coach in the team and just as the players have come through the community club game and the Regional Community Championship, so has Phil Agar as coach of Beddau and the community Blues side."

Phil John, WRU Community rugby Manager said, "Community rugby is the lifeblood of the game in Wales and it is one of the WRU's main priorities to concentrate on the community game and recognise its vital importance.

"Our participation figures have risen at all levels with the number of WRU clubs running junior sides, youth sides and adult participation figures all rising significantly.

"The Welsh Clubs XV is the icing on the cake as far as the community game is concerned because it gives players in the clubs game in Wales the chance to not only reach their rugby potential but recognises their commitment and achievement at the community level of the game."

WRU Chief Executive Steve Lewis said, "It is great to see so many of our Asda League clubs represented in a national side that will carry the flag for the clubs themselves. Phil Agar will bring valuable club level experience to the coaching team alongside Gerry Roberts and Kim Norkett who have worked extensively within the community and high performance game.

"The Welsh Clubs XV team management has the full backing of the Welsh Rugby Union to provide these players with excellent training facilities and sessions before their departure for Belgium and the side should hopefully be one of the best if not the best prepared squad at the tournament."

Welsh Clubs XV Squad for summer tournament:
Backs: Andrew Banfield (Loughor / Ospreys), Nathan Gittins (Merthyr / Blues), Thomas Bonnell (Trimsaran / Scarlets), Matthew Jacobs (Llangennech / Scarlets), Gavin Close (Rhydyfelin / Blues), Darren Humphries (Bargoed / Dragons), Peter Smiriglia (Loughor / Ospreys), Aled Davies (Whitland / Scarlets), Jamie Howells (Bargoed / Dragons), Rhodri Jones (Garndiffaith / Dragons), Gavin Hooper (Seven Sisters / Ospreys).
Forwards: Ross Jones (Bargoed / Dragons), James Bannister (Llanelli Wanderers / Scarlets), Antony Lott (Bargoed / Dragons), Owen Cotton (Ynysybwl / Blues), Mark Jones (Pontyberem / Scarlets), Peter Harrison (Caerphilly / Dragons), Jamie Noble (Blaina / Dragons), Gareth Gore (Carmarthen Quins / Scarlets), Chris James (Narberth / Scarlets), Lee Edwards (Tredegar / Dragons), Steven Roberts (Bethesda / Gogledd), Rob Downes (Beddau / Blues), Celt Thomas (Whitland / Scarlets), Andrew Packer (Newport Saracens / Dragons), Kevin Rees (Felinfoel / Scarlets).