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Wales’ Rugby World Cup stars and their community rugby clubs

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Warren Gatland has announced the official Wales squad for this year’s Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

Of the 33 players crossing the English Channel to represent Cymru on the biggest stage, many would have had some of their first rugby experiences at community clubs all across Wales.

These clubs continue to offer opportunities to play rugby in their community with some support from Sport Wales funding. And who knows? Maybe Wales’ next Rugby World Cup star will be playing rugby at one of these clubs today.

Here are some of the community clubs of Wales’ Rugby World Cup squad members that have received National Lottery support through the Be Active Wales Fund.

Sam Costelow and Tommy Reffell – Pencoed RFC

The club has produced Gavin Henson, Gareth Thomas and Gareth Cooper. Now, the new kids on the block are Sam Costelow and Tommy Reffell, who will get their first taste of the Rugby World Cup in France 2023.

Sport Wales awarded Pencoed RFC £9,840 through the Be Active Wales Fund in June 2023. The Bridgend-based club applied for mobile floodlights so they could save costs on venue hire for training in those dark winter nights. With the club's many men's, women's and mini & juniors' teams to cater for, the mobile floodlights will be well-used and help to make the club more financially sustainable for the future.

A future Wales international star could be paving their own way to the Rugby World Cup under those floodlights. 

George North – Llangefni RFC

North Wales are represented in the Rugby World Cup squad by the 8th highest try scorer in men's international rugby – George North. Clwb Rygbi Llangefni was where he first picked up a rugby ball in Anglesey before he moved to Llandovery College with the Scarlets Academy.

The club was awarded £2,933 in National Lottery funding through the Be Active Wales Fund in September last year. With this much needed investment, they bought brand new equipment for their 11 junior teams so children in Ynys Mon get the best rugby experience.

Hoping to increase opportunities in rugby for first language Welsh speakers in North Wales, they have also secured funding to upskill their Welsh-speaking volunteers on coaching courses.

Tommy Reffell claps the fans after a match
Tommy Reffell started playing rugby at Pencoed RFC

Christ Tshiunza – Rhiwbina RFC

Christ Tshiunza may have only discovered rugby at Rhiwbina RFC at the late age of 14 but the now 21-year-old hasn’t looked back since. Following in the footsteps of former Wales captain, Sam Warburton, who also started at Rhiwbina, the versatile forward now finds himself on the brink of his first ever Rugby World Cup.

As Rhiwbina RFC boast more than 400 players, the Squirrels have had to fork out a lot of money for their teams to train at floodlit facilities during past winters. But thanks to a contribution of £10,000 from the National Lottery through the Be Active Wales Fund, the club has been able to install permanent floodlights at their Caedelyn Park home. Bring on winter training!

Rio Dyer – Pill Harriers

After starting with Risca RFC, the Dragons first caught sight of Rio Dyer while he was playing for Pill Harriers at junior level. Now, you will find the speedster running down the wing for Cymru in France during the Rugby World Cup.

In the hope that other youngsters in Pillgwenlly and Newport can have the same opportunity that Rio had, the Harriers are looking to re-establish the mini and junior section at their club. Sport Wales was pleased to award them £4,700 from the Be Active Wales Fund to pay for new equipment to get them back up and running.

Dillon Lewis – Beddau RFC

The most recent Beddau RFC product to don the red jersey of Wales is Dillon Lewis, who will be at his second Rugby World Cup in France 2023. They have a knack for providing international stars with their first rugby opportunity, including Gethin Jenkins and Michael Owen, who have both gone on to captain their country, too.

In July 2022, Sport Wales contributed £15,615 from the Be Active Wales Fund so that Beddau RFC could install floodlights. The funding will allow their teams, from the under 6’s to the seniors, to get better use out of their facilities in the winter months, while also not having to pay for facility hire.

While Dillon will be under the floodlights of Lyon and Bordeaux, the children of Beddau RFC will be developing their skills under the floodlights at Mount Pleasant Park.

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