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This week's previews and fixtures
including Wales v Scotland
Saturday 11th June Total Rl.com Rugby League Conference Premier Wales (kick-offs 2.30pm)
Aberavon Fighting Irish v Newport Titans (Aberavon Greenstars RFC)
Cardiff Demons v Swansea Valley Miners (Taff's Well RFC)
Torfaen Tigers v Valley Cougars (Pontypool United RFC)
Sunday 12th June
Parkhouse Recruitment Conference Home Nations (all at Brewery Field, Bridgend)
Under 15 International
Under 19 international
CONFERENCE PREMIER PREVIEW
Cardiff Demons against Swansea Valley Miners at Taff's Well on Saturday sees the end of Ian Golden's two and a half year reign as Demons chairman as he is departing to take on new projects in Welsh Rugby League. During his time at the club, the Demons have won three trophies and despite an uneasy first half of the 2005 season, he is confident that his reign will end on a high.
Golden comments: "We beat Swansea twice at Taff's Well twice last season and I see no reason why we can't make a hat-trick on Saturday. Swansea have had a poor start to the season and they will be looking at this game to get their first win of the season. However, I know we have the talent and commitment to beat them.
"Last Saturday we were beaten by a strong Newport side but still played our hearts out. If we play the same way this week, we'll get the win."
Newport's win last week means that they are still second in the Total RL.com Welsh Conference Premier table, but their abilities will be tested thoroughly this Saturday as they face third place Aberavon Fighting Irish at Little Warren.
The Fighting Irish had a commanding win over Valley Cougars last week and are now ready to prove why they have been runners-up in Wales for the past two years.
"This will be a really big test for us because we have our Welsh Students players out of it again." said Aberavon Team Manager, John O'Callaghan. "Newport are improving all the time and we know how difficult this match will be. This is a must win game for us if we are to clinch first or second place in the final table and have an easier route to the Welsh Grand Final.
The final match of what could be a day of potentially close matches sees Torfaen Tigers host Valley Cougars. The Tigers are still winless in 2005 and are looking to rectify that record this Saturday at Pontypool United RFC.
Tigers coach Kevin Weaver, who also takes charge of the Wales A side against Scotland on Sunday, comments: "We've had a disastrous start to the season. Many of our players have been carrying injuries and the situation is not getting any better. Valley Cougars are on the up and becoming a tough team to beat so we know we're in for a difficult game on Saturday. We need to get through the rough times but this is just another string to our bow in learning about competitive rugby league."
WALES v SCOTLAND PREVIEW
Wales have named 14 uncapped players in their 17-man squad for the opening Parkhouse Recruitment Conference Home Nations Championship match against Scotland at Bridgend's Brewery Field on Sunday (kick-off 3.30pm). Just Sean O'Brien, Nathan Strong and captain Damien Hudd have played international rugby league in the past.
New coach Kevin Weaver is delighted that this fixture falls on Bridgend Blue Bulls' bye weekend in the Conference so he can take advantage of their players' availability, picking five of the Welsh Champions in his inaugural squad.
"It's great to work with and train these players." said Weaver. "For one reason or another, Nathan Strong is the only Bridgend player to have ever played for Wales before in this tournament so I believe that the side I've select for this weekend is one of the strongest Wales have ever fielded.
"I don't know that much about the Scots but they look like they've got a mixture of youth and experience and are easily capable of pulling off a shock."
Weaver defends his decision of picking so many new players by saying: "With five or six from last year's Championship winning squad in the Wales Student World Cup side, this is a chance for new players to shine. Apart from that I believe I picked the best players in the Welsh Conference Premier so far this year. That's a great thing about our league in Wales, we have so much talent to choose from."
A surprise inclusion in the Welsh squad is Jim Barnes from the Royal Navy, the only player who has never player Welsh Conference rugby. Weaver comments: "Wayne O'Kell spotted this lad when watching the Naafi championships which is a very high standard of rugby league. He looks like a great asset to the squad."
Scotland coach Nathan Graham has selected a strong and experienced squad for his first game in charge of his country.
As has been the case with Scotland in recent years, the squad is split between Scottish and English-based players, with five previously uncapped players in the pool: Edinburgh Eagles? forward John Cox, Sheffield Hillsborough Hawks? Nathan Worton, Kieran Eddy from Clyde Bulls, York-based Nic Caldwell and Ray Baselala of the Royal Scots. Baselala could make his Scotland debut nearly 40 years after his Fijian father and Scottish mother met at the Edinburgh Tattoo, where Ray?s father was serving in the British Army. Born in Malta and brought up all over the world, Baselala played Super League rugby in Fiji in the late nineties and is now back serving in Scotland.
?We have a new team with new management and a new coach so it?s a big test for everyone but an exciting opportunity,? said Graham, whose last game as a pro was captaining Scotland in Ireland last year. ?We have a short time to get to know each other but I know I have quality players who will do Scotland proud. We?re looking to go one better than last year.?
Wales: Neil Dixon (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Damien Smith (Torfaen Tigers), Earl Palmer (Newport Titans), Gareth Holtham (Cardiff Demons), Sean O'Brien (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Owen Jones (Newport Titans), Nathan Strong (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Lloyd O'Connor (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Steve Mayley (Torfaen Tigers), Karl Hocking (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Damien Hudd (Torfaen Tigers (Capt)), Marcus Sainsbury (Bridgend Blue Bulls). Subs: Mark Wheeler (Newport Titans), Jim Barnes (Royal Navy), Tyrone Mahoney (Newport Titans), Matt Entwhistle (Torfaen Tigers).
Scotland (from): Ray Baselala (Royal Scots), Andy Borthwick (Newcastle), Andy Brown (Fife Lions), Mark Burns (Birmingham Bulldogs), Nic Caldwell (Bridlington), Ash Carroll (Edinburgh Eagles (Capt)), Andy Champ (Hemel Stags), Paul Clark (Somerset Vikings), John Cox (Edinburgh Eagles), Barry Edgar (Clyde Bulls), Kieran Eddy (Clyde Bulls), Craig Fisher (West Cumbria Crusaders), Ian Gilmour (Leicester Phoenix), Dan Gordon (Scotland Students), James Mackay (Penrith Pumas), Scott MacGillivray (Fife Lions), John Macdonald (Edinburgh Eagles), Mark Slatter (Sheffield Hawks), Al Stewart (Liverpool Buccaneers ), Nathan Worton (Sheffield Hawks).