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Welsh men’s hockey continues to defy the odds

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Wales senior men's hockey team have been celebrating an October double to build on their historic achievements this summer.

Firstly, they earned their highest ever position in the latest FIH World Hockey Rankings.

Then, Jacob Draper made a winning start to his Great Britain career when the Wales international was part of the GB team that beat Spain in Valencia.

Having shone for Wales during their recent EuroHockey campaign and been part of the GB U21 side that won the Sultan of Johor Cup last year, Draper made his GB senior bow as he came off the bench in the sixth minute.

His landmark followed the news that on the back of their excellent performance on their return to the elite tier of European hockey last month, Wales are the joint biggest climbers in the latest rankings as they move to an all-time high of 18th in the world from their previous spot at 25.

Just four years ago Wales were in EuroHockey III and ranked 36 in the world, but back to back promotions in 2015 and 2017 saw them this year competing in the EuroHockey Championship.

It was the first time in 20 years Wales had competed at the highest level of European hockey and their performances in Antwerp saw them retain their elite tier status for 2021.

Wales had gone into tournament as the lowest ranked team in the competition, but they produced some outstanding results including a thumping 4-0 win over Ireland - then ranked 11 in the world -in their final match.

"Whilst we are all pleased with how far we have come, there is a real desire within the squad to further improve the quality of our play as well as our world ranking."
Zak Jones

As a result, the latest FIH world rankings see Wales proudly sitting as the 18th best team on the planet having moved up seven places above the likes of Scotland, Egypt, Russia, USA and China.

Wales senior men head coach Zak Jones, who was in the team the last time Wales played in the top tier, is delighted with the team's latest achievement.

Jones said: "I'm obviously delighted for the players and staff and also incredibly proud of them and their efforts.

"A huge amount of hard work and commitment has gone in from everyone involved over the last four years, which has contributed to what has been an incredible journey from the C division to the top six in Europe.

"The highest ranking in our history is a testament to all the development and learning that has occurred, as well as the huge sacrifices our athletes make."

Wales have been defying the odds by mixing it with the sport's wealthy elite. Hopefully their latest successes will attract new funding and sponsorship to help them to improve their global standing even further.

Jones said: "Whilst we are all pleased with how far we have come, there is a real desire within the squad to further improve the quality of our play as well as our world ranking.

"Having built good relationships with a number of the higher ranked nations over the past 18 months, we are looking forward to the challenge of playing them more often and the opportunity that presents for us to improve again.

"Given our severely limited resources, we are also hopeful that our recent exposure and success might lead to an increase in sponsorship and funding that will allow is to go to the next level."