Four Welsh Regions Celebrate Their Lions

A total of 15 Wales players have been selected for the British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia and Hong Kong this summer with an impressive 13 of the 2013 Lions contracted to the four Welsh regions.

It’s all eyes on Welsh rugby’s input into the Lions with Cardiff Blues’ Sam Warbuton handed the honour and responsibility of Captain for the 10-match, three-test series which kicks off in Hong Kong on June 1st.

With Welsh players making up the largest contingent of the 37-man squad for the summer tour under Head Coach Warren Gatland, it’s a proud day for Welsh rugby for all those who work within in it, from grassroots rugby and the community clubs, the four Welsh regions and the governing body.

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.

A group of NINE new Welsh regional players become first-time British and Irish Lions:

Jonathan Davies, 25, Scarlets, Whitland RFC (102 Scarlets appearances, 180 points)

George North, 21, Scarlets, Llangefni, Pwllheli, Rhyl,North Wales (43 Scarlets appearances, 70 points)

Sam Warbuton, 24, Cardiff Blues, (62 Cardiff Blues appearances, 25 points)

Alex Cuthbert, 23, Cardiff Blues, (31 Cardiff Blues appearances, 22 tries)

Dan Lydiate, 25, Newport Gwent Dragons , Ebbw Vale RFC, (70 Dragons appearances)

Toby Faletau, 22, Newport Gwent Dragons, Pontypool RFC (50 Dragons appearances)

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 (66 appearances, 35 points)

And FOUR additional Welsh regional players are amongst the more experienced members of the squad and have toured with the British and Irish Lions previously:

Jamie Roberts, 26 Cardiff Blues (86 appearances, 90 points) – 2nd Lions Tour (2009, 2013)

Leigh Halfpenny, 24 Cardiff Blues (74 Cardiff Blues appearances, 410 points) – 2nd Lions Tour (2009, 2013)

Adam Jones, 32, Abercrave RFC, Neath RFC, (175 Ospreys appearances, 15 points) – 2rd Lions Tour (2009, 2013)

Alun Wyn Jones, 27, Bonymaen RFC, Swansea RFC (146 Ospreys appearances, 55 points) – 2nd Lions Tour (2009,2013)

Wales Lion and former Ospreys player scrum-half Mike Phillips (Bayonne) makes the squad as well as returning Cardiff Blues Prop Gethin Jenkins, who comes back to Wales under contract in June 2013 (Cardiff Blues 82 appearances, 15 points) – 3rd Lions Tour (2005,2009, 2013)

Stuart Gallacher, Chief Executive of Regional Rugby Wales said:“This is another major milestone and day to celebrate the positives in our game in Wales as we see our significant combined commitment and passion to invest in and develop world-class players in our four Welsh regions.

“Welsh rugby will provide the largest contingent of players selected for the 125th anniversary tour and as the ultimate accolade in any players’ career and with world-class competition for places – it shows how much Welsh rugby can achieve in healthy partnership.

“This is a proud day for everyone involved in Welsh Rugby from the community clubs where these players started out their rugby and first were inspired by their local rugby coaches, to those working hard in the Academies – with 12 of the players selected from Wales having come through our regional development pathways and Academy Systems.

“It is also a very proud day for our four Welsh regions to see so many of our players selected and particularly those who have helped individually fund the regions over the past decade; equally a great day for all those working in rugby who have invested in working closely with our players and supporting them in their progression to the International platform provided by the Welsh Rugby Union.

“In total our Welsh players from the Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Newport Gwent Dragons have played a staggering 1,184 games for their regions during their careers to date.

“It is one of the highest honours any player can receive and the squad announcement today is one that the rugby world has been waiting for with anticipation for months. We heartily congratulate all our regional players; it is just reward for their hard work and commitment to the game in Wales and we all wish them every success on the Tour.”

Speaking of the Lions selection Cardiff Blues Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “Being selected for the Lions is the pinnacle of any players career and to have four players from the region representing us is fantastic.

“It’s testament to the Blues. They’ve all come through the system with us at the Blues Academy and I’m delighted for them.

“The Lions won in ’89 and 2001 was a narrow loss and I’m sure this series will be another great one. I’m sure Warren will get them together very quickly to take on a Wallabies team that is doing well.

“Sam being Captain is a fantastic opportunity for him. He will lead by example and be a fantastic captain for the squad. His main attribute is he works exceptionally hard and leads by examples. He gets behind the team and the ethos and an excellent rugby player.

Cardiff Blues Chief Executive Richard Holland added: “Being selected to tour with the Lions is the ultimate achievement for any rugby players from the British Isles.

“We are extremely proud to be providing four players on this year’s British and Irish Lions tour to Australia and obviously delighted that our own Sam Warburton has been chosen to lead the squad. Sam is a product of the Blues development system having played age grade rugby for the Blues before coming through our Academy and joining the senior squad. “It is testament to the development pathway we have here in the Blues that all four of our Lions came through the Blues Academy system going on to represent their region, country and now the Lions. “I’m delighted also for Gethin Jenkins who will be returning to play for the Cardiff Blues next season. I would like to congratulate them all, and indeed all the Welsh players selected, on making the squad and wish them the best of luck on the tour.”

Ospreys Head Coach Steve Tandy said: "Today is about the players that have been selected for the trip and the nation will be united in sending our congratulations out to each and every one of them. We are delighted that so many of our players have once again been selected for Lions duty, which is the highest possible accolade for a British and Irish rugby player.

“Their involvement on this tour is recognition, not only of them, but of the work done to help develop them all the way from playing for their community club as a child, through the regional development system into senior rugby with the Ospreys, and every one who has worked with them along the way should be incredibly proud of the part they’ve played.

“In our short history, the Ospreys have already developed a proud tradition of supplying players to the Lions, with 10 regional representatives on the last two tours, the largest of any region. That we are able to make such a contribution again this time, despite four of our six 2009 representatives having moved on, is testament to the ongoing work being done at the Ospreys, day in, day out, to develop players of the highest quality.”

Simon Easterby Head Coach of the Scarlets said: “As Scarlets, we are delighted for Jon Davies and for George North – two very talented Scarlets, who work hard on and off the field for our region and who I know will be very honoured with this selection and will give their all to the campaign.

“They join a long and established tradition of great Scarlets Lions and become Llanelli and the Scarlets 24th and 25th British and Irish Lions and that will mean a lot to both of them as players who understand and respect our heritage.

“The British and Irish Lions Tour will give all the younger Welsh players such great experience and they will come back with added confidence and momentum into their regions and clubs when they return. As a whole, this is a great day for rugby in Wales for everyone to celebrate.”

Dragons Director of Rugby Rob Beale said: “It’s exciting to think that the Dragons have two members of our squad selected to represent the British and Irish Lions in Australia. Both players have come through our Academy system and are a great credit to our region and our supporters.”

The four Welsh regions celebrated with a “Meet Wales’ Lions media event” held at Margam Castle in the 1,000 acre grounds of Margam Country Park on Tuesday 30th April at 4pm. Regional Rugby Wales would like to thank Park owners, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council for its support of this event.

The19th Century Tudor Gothic Mansion was designed by the architect Thomas Hopper for Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot. The house was built between 1830 – 40 and is Listed Grade I as a mansion of exceptional quality, the Castle has some spectacular features such as the vast stairhall and octagonal tower.