Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) has offered its congratulations to British and Irish Lions on their inspiring 12th series victory on their 125th anniversary tour out in Australia
The Lions triumphed in the southern hemisphere for the first time in 16 years courtesy of tries from Alex Corbisierio, Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts, together with 21 points from the boot of Cardiff Blues hero Leigh Halfpenny in Sydney.
With 15 Welsh players selected for the 2013 Tour and 11 Welshmen involved in the stunning victory to clinch the series on Saturday at the ANZ stadium; grass-roots supporters across the four Welsh Regions have taken huge pride in their home-grown players performing on global rugby’s highest stage.
With 11 Welsh players in total, the 10 in the starting team made up the highest number of Welshmen since the first Test of the 1950 tour in Brisbane.
Stand-out performances and key roles from Welsh regional players have been a source of pride for the region’s supporters including captaincies for Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) and Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons now Racing Metro); Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) played 513 minutes on the Tour the most of any player, plus new individual Lions records were set by Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues) who kicked a record 21 points in the 41-16 win on Saturday overtaking another Welshman Stephen Jones who scored 20 against South Africa in 2009.
With close to 84,000 watching the showdown in Australia, a total of 389,400 supporters came through the turnstiles in all three tests setting another record and promoting on a global stage the successful development of talent and investment into Welsh rugby across the game.
Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales (RRW) on behalf of the four Welsh Regions, the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons said: “As Welsh Regions we would like to congratulate the whole Lions squad, Warren Gatland and his management team on a superb series victory and thrilling win on Saturday.
“With Welsh players making up the largest contingent for the Tour, it has been a great source of pride and enjoyment for all those who work in our game across grassroots rugby and our community and Premiership clubs, the four Welsh regions and the governing body.
“It has been inspiring for the many people who have watched our world-class players grow up in rugby from within the regions and worked with these players from a young age; equally it was great to see our players paying tribute to all those back home who have supported them in their early careers including the many volunteers who are the unsung heroes of our community game.
“There was plenty of debate about the Welsh dominance in the team for Saturday however, credit to all our players for holding fast regardless of the pressure and showing a strong and united team spirit with huge commitment and humility to honour the Lions shirt with such a convincing final win.
“The Lions players deserve to enjoy and celebrate in their success and we are all delighted for them.
“It is a proud time for all those who have come together to invest and commit time and resources into developing players in Welsh rugby at all levels. The Welsh players’ success and profile from this Tour will undoubtedly inspire new generations of young players in the game throughout Wales which is so positive.
"It shows how much Welsh rugby can achieve in healthy partnership.”
A total of 12 of the squad players on the Tour have come through regional development pathways and Academy Systems. A total of 32 Welsh players have now been selected for the Lions, one of World rugby's highest honours, since Welsh Regional Rugby started in 2003/4.
At the time of naming his 2013 squad, Head Coach Warren Gatland made a group of NINE Welsh regional players first-time British and Irish Lions:
Jonathan Davies, 25, Scarlets, Whitland RFC (104 Scarlets appearances, 180 points)
George North, 21, Scarlets, Llangefni, Pwllheli, Rhyl, North Wales (45 Scarlets appearances, 70 points) – now Northampton Saints.
Sam Warbuton, 24, Cardiff Blues, (62 Cardiff Blues appearances, 25 points)
Alex Cuthbert, 23, Cardiff Blues, (31 Cardiff Blues appearances, 110 points)
Dan Lydiate, 25, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ebbw Vale, (85 Dragons appearances, 15 points) – now Racing Metro
Toby Faletau, 22, Newport Gwent Dragons, Pontypool RFC (58 Dragons appearances, 25 points)
Ian Evans, 28, Ospreys, Abercwmboi RFC, Neath RFC (118 Ospreys appearances, 10 points)
Richard Hibbard, 29, Ospreys, Taibach RFC (161 Ospreys appearances, 40 points)
Justin Tipuric, 22, Trebanos RFC, Aberavon RFC (67 appearances, 35 points)
And FOUR Welsh regional players are amongst the more experienced members of the squad who have toured with the British and Irish Lions previously:
Jamie Roberts, 26 Cardiff Blues (86 appearances, 90 points) - 2nd Lions Tour (2009, 2013) – now Racing Metro.
Leigh Halfpenny, 24 Cardiff Blues (74 Cardiff Blues appearances, 410 points) - 2nd Lions Tour (2009, 2013)
Adam Jones, 32, Abercrave RFC, Neath RFC, (176 Ospreys appearances, 15 points) - 2rd Lions Tour (2009, 2013)
Alun Wyn Jones, 27, Bonymaen RFC, Swansea RFC (147 Ospreys appearances, 55 points) - 2nd Lions Tour (2009,2013)