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full squad for Ireland match as well as news for the future
Future Welsh stars of Rugby's Super League may be on show this Sunday when Wales take on Ireland in their European Nations Cup opener at Aberavon RFC (kick-off 2.30pm) writes Ian Golden. This is because Wales will have its own professional Rugby League side by 2006 and will compete in Rugby League's National League Two. The team will be known as the "Welsh Warriors" and will play their home matches at Bridgend RFC's Brewery Field, which was the site of a professional Bridgend Rugby League Club in the early 1950s. But Chris O'Callaghan, who has recently resigned from Aberavon Rugby Union Club to set up this new Welsh initiative explains that the Warriors may start playing as early as next year. He comments, "The financial backing is there and we are ready to go in 2006 when National League Two expands. However one of the current NL2 clubs, Chorley Lynx, are in some financial trouble and should they not be able to continue as a club in 2005, we may be ready to step in." Welsh Development Officer, Wayne Williams, adds, "For the very first time, we have a solid infrastructure to support a professional side. We have seven established amateur clubs who are winning trophies on a regular basis, a successful Welsh amateur side who have won the Home Nations title three years in a row, two university sides, a national students side who won this year's Student Home Nations as well as over 40 schools sides. All these teams will support and provide players to the Warriors and with the quality of talent that I and thousands of others have seen this year, I see no reason why this new side can't compete in Super League within a few years." With the Warriors starting off in National League Two, it will only take two promotion seasons for the likes of Wigan, St Helens, Bradford and Leeds to be visiting South Wales on a regular basis but for now, Welsh sports fans can see Super League talent as well as the best of South Wales' young rising stars at Aberavon on Sunday. The Welsh Rugby League have named a squad of 23 for the matches against Ireland and Scotland, which contains a healthy mixture of youth and experience that will hopefully lead the Dragons into the final in Warrington on Sunday 7 November. The team will be captained by Castleford's Damien Gibson while other Super League players in the squad are Hefin O'Hare, Adam Hughes, Bryn Powell and Steve Thomas, who is the grandson of the legendary JBG 'Bryn' Thomas former principal of sports writer for the Western Mail newspaper. The squad also contains six players who are currently playing or have played for Welsh Rugby League clubs. Former Cardiff Demons players, Aled James and John Breakingbury will both be challenging for a starting role with Torfaen Tigers' Damien Hudd, Bridgend Blue Bulls' Kevin Ellis, Nathan Strong and Lenny Woodard and Aberavon Fighting Irish's Neil Davies and Mark Burke all in the 23. O'Callaghan is especially delighted to see 19-year old Burke making a big impact so quickly commenting, "Mark is an outstanding talent and this was recognised by former Great Britain coach David Waite two years ago whilst playing for the Wales schools against England. Since then he has won Man of the Match Awards for Wales under 19s, for West Wales in the Origin Match and for the Wales A v England in their Home Nations Championship win at Coventry on September 12th. It's players like him that are the future of Welsh Rugby League." Law student Burke is relinquishing his studies for one year to play on trial with Perpignan in the French Rugby League, prior to returning to England for trials with both Leeds Rhinos and St Helens in the new year. Sunday's match will be preceded by a Welsh Presidents XIII v Combined Services XIII (kick-off 12.30pm). Expected to playing are 17-year olds Gareth Owen, Daniel Phillips and 16-year old Lee Williams. All three Aberavon Fighting Irish players have been on trial with St Helens this year with Gareth already contracted to the Saints Junior Academy Squad for 2005. Wales (from): Damien Gibson (Castleford Tigers), Hefin O?Hare (Huddersfield Giants), Kris Tassell (Unattached), Adam Hughes (Widnes Vikings), Bryn Powell (Salford City Reds), Mark Lennon (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles), Ian Watson (Oldham), Damien Hudd (Torfaen Tigers), Dave Clarke (Barrow Raiders), Anthony Farrell (Halifax), Gareth Dean (Workington), Jordan James (Sheffield Eagles), Barry Pugh (Barrow Raiders), Aled James (Sheffield Eagles), Steve Thomas (London Broncos), Nathan Strong (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Tom Brown (Coventry RFC), Lewis Taylor (Leeds Rhinos), Neil Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish), Kevin Ellis (Bridgend Blue Bulls), Mark Burke (Aberavon Fighting Irish), John Breakingbury (Sheffield Eagles), Lenny Woodard (Bridgend Blue Bulls).