The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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Wales have named an 18 man squad to travel to Scotland for their Parkhouse Recruitment Rugby League Conference International this Saturday at Hamilton RFC (kick-off 2.30pm). Wales have won this trophy for the past two years and a win over Scotland will give them a great chance of obtaining a hat-trick.
Wales coach Wayne O'Kell has made eight changes to the squad who hammered Ireland 56-12 in Cardiff on Cup Final Weekend. Newport's Owen Jones makes his Welsh debut at full back replacing the injured Simon Bevan while his Titans team-mate Neil McKim is also drafted into the squad following his excellent performance for East Wales in the recent Origin Challenge.
Other new additions to the squad are the Jones duo from Torfaen Tigers, Craig and Kevin, while Liam Gadd, Mark Burke, Dai Hawkins and Dan ap Dafydd have also been selected following excellent performances for Aberavon Fighting Irish.
Scotland coach Kevin Rudd has kept faith with the squad that went close to beating England. That means places in the squad for three players from RL Conference side Liverpool Buccaneers -skipper Ash Carroll, prop Jon Fitt and wide man Mark Webster from Thatto Heath - while 16-year old Callum Anderson from Peebles High School, whose brother David is also in the squad, retains his place after becoming the youngster ever open age international for Scotland when he played against England.
The other three debutants - Andy Gray and Andy McPhail from Glasgow Bulls and Edinburgh's Mike Wallace - all remain, as do the uncapped trio from Fife Lions: back rower Jamie Symes, half-back James Smith and Canberra-born, Glasgow-bred winger Andy Brown.
Welsh Rugby League Development Officer, Wayne Williams commented "It will be long tough trip to Glasgow. The Scots are forever improving and were unlucky not to beat England last month. But we have a strong squad ourselves. The recent Origin Challenge coupled with the standard of rugby played in the Welsh Conference has proved that. I expect us to play a competitive game and will hopefully walk away with points."
Owen Jones (Newport Titans) James Strover (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Dean Scully (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Neil McKim (Newport Titans) Craig Jones (Torfaen Tigers) Liam Gadd (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Pete Moore (Cardiff Demons) Leigh Taylor (Torfaen Tigers) Mark Burke (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Kevin Jones (Torfaen Tigers) Damien Hudd (Torfaen Tigers) Darren Ryan (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Neil Davies (Aberavon Fighting Irish) David Hawkins (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Dan Ap Dafydd (Aberavon Fighting Irish) Mark Dando (Cardiff Demons) Matt Drew (Cardiff Demons) Jason Hill (Torfaen Tigers)
Callum Anderson (Scotland Under 19s) David Anderson (Scotland Students) Andrew Borthwick (Newcastle Knights) Andy Brown (Fife Lions) Ash Carroll (Liverpool Buccaneers) Paul Clarke (Somerset Vikings) Barry Edgar (Glasgow Bulls) Jon Fitt (Liverpool Buccaneers) Andy Gray (Glasgow Bulls) Doug Flockhart (Scotland Under 19's) Ian Gilmour (Scotland Students) Dan Gordon (Portabello Playboys) John MacDonald (Edinburgh Eagles) Paddy Macdonald (Scotland Students) Scotty MacGillivray (Fife Lions) Andy McPhail (Glasgow Bulls) James Smith (Fife Lions) James Syme (Fife Lions) Al Stewart (London Skolars) Mike Wallace (Edinburgh Eagles) Mark Webster (Liverpool Buccaneers)
Total Rl.com Welsh Rugby League Conference (Saturday July 3rd, 2.30pm). Cardiff Demons v Newport Titans (Taffs Well RFC) Torfaen Tigers v Bridgend Blue Bulls (Pontypool United RFC) Valley Cougars v Aberavon Fighting Irish (Sardis Road, Pontypridd)
Torfaen Tigers v Bridgend Blue Bulls (Pontypool United RFC) Still undefeated, the Total RL.com Welsh Rugby League Conference leaders, Bridgend Blue Bulls, face a tricky away trip to third place Torfaen Tigers' Pontypool United ground this Saturday (2.30pm).
As Torfaen have five players on Welsh duty, Bridgend start as hot favourites. But the Tigers will be fired up as a recent string of success has put them back up into the play-off positions.
Coach Kevin Weaver will also be up in Scotland but knows that his team will give 100%. He comments "This game has come at the wrong time for us. We'd love to have put a full-strength team out against the champions. However, I know that our lads will give their all and I hope we can pull off a shock. Stranger things have happened in sport."
Valley Cougars v Aberavon Fighting Irish (Sardis Road, Pontypridd) Second place, Aberavon Fighting Irish are at away at winless Valley Cougars' Sardis Road this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
Aberavon coach, John O'Callaghan admitted that his side nearly came a cropper against Cardiff Demons last week before winning 40-31. Had they lost, it would probably have spelt the end of their goal to finish top of the table and qualify automatically for the inaugural Welsh Grand Final.
O'Callaghan said: ''We got out of jail last week. That's the second time it has happened to us against them because we did the same down there. We will have to buck our ideas up if we have any aspirations of winning any honours.''
Cougars' coach Mark Rowley hopes that his first team can take note of the success of their under-15 counterparts who won a major tournament last Sunday.
Rowley comments "Yet again we have proved that we have the best junior set-up in Wales. We beat all the Welsh U15 sides as well as a side from Halifax. Now we have to transfer this success over to the first team."
Cardiff Demons v Newport Titans (Taffs Well RFC) Cardiff Demons will be without Mark Dando, Pete Moore and Matt Drew for their crucial match against Newport Titans at Taffs Well RFC this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm).
The trio will be starring for Wales in their Conference International match in Scotland. With coach Wayne Williams also making the trip up to Glasgow, assistant coach Anthony Loxton will be taking charge with Rhodri Thomas and Andrew Bradshaw assisting.
Another exciting match is expected but chairman Ian Golden knows his team can't make the mistakes they made against Newport earlier in the season.
"That was our worst performance in our history. We have improved since then and have a point to prove this Saturday. Newport will go into the game as favourites but we are also fired up. A win for us will virtually secure us a home tie in the Welsh Shield and that is what we're aiming for. It should be a great game.