The Wales national rugby league team represent Wales in international rugby league tournaments. The team were ran under the auspices of the Rugby Football League, but an independent body, Wales Rugby League, now runs the team from Cardiff. Despite playing many matches against some of the best teams in the world, Wales are not regarded as a test nation. A total of three Welsh players have been entered into the Rugby League Hall Of Fame.
The team dates back to 1907, making them the third eldest national side after England and New Zealand. And it was a touring New Zealand side that Wales first played against in 1908, winning 9-8 at Aberdare. Since then Wales have regularly played England, since 1935 France, as well as welcomed the touring Australia and New Zealand teams. Although they rarely toured themselves, not playing a match in the Southern Hemisphere until 1975. For twenty-six years Wales competed against their two biggest rivals, England and France, in the European Nations Cup, winning the trophy four times. They have also competed in the World Cup on three occasions, the first time being in 1975. In 1995 and 2000 they had their most successful tournaments to date, surprisingly making the Semi-Finals on both occasions before being beaten by England and Australia respectively. Wales failed to qualify for the 2008 World Cup, being the second highest ranked side not to do so, having lost to Scotland on points difference over two matches. Similar to many other Welsh national sporting teams, Wales strip has been primarily red for many years, including now. However in their last World Cup campaign in 2000 they did wear a shirt featuring the Welsh flag, adding a touch of green and white. The team are known as "The Dragons" and so the teams logo on the shirt is a red dragon.
Currently the team are ranked tenth in the world, ahead of Scotland, but behind Lebanon and Ireland. In Europe only they are ranked sixth, once again behind Lebanon but ahead of Russia and Serbia. In 2008 Australian John Dixon became the new head coach and Lee Briers is captain, having played for Wales since 1998.
It could be argued that the foundations for the Welsh team began in 1904. On the 5 April 1904 England played an international match against the "Other Nationalities", a team comprising of Welshman and Scotsman, in Wigan. Of the twelve players who played for the Other Nationalities team, as it was a 12-a-side game, ten of them were Welshmen coming from Northern English clubs. At the turn of the century many Welshmen made the switch from rugby union, wanting to be payed for playing, and although the numbers switching were constantly increasing, the Northern Union did not think that a Welsh side would be strong enough for England. After 80 minutes however, the Other Nationalities had beaten England 9-3. Nevertheless this team carried on for another two years, playing England annually in 1905 and 1906, losing 26-11 and drawing 3-3 respectively.
From 1905 to 1910 Rugby League as a sport enjoyed growth, not just in Wales and England, but also on the east coast of Australia and in northern New Zealand. When Albert Henry Baskerville's NZ All Golds with their guest Australian star Dally Messenger arrived in Britain for the inaugural tour by a southern hemisphere side, the first full international was against Wales on New Year's Day 1908. The Welsh rugby league team were contesting their first national fixture, and managed to beat the touring Kiwis 9-8 in Aberdare in front of 20,000 spectators. This was the first international match played under new "Northern Union" rules, which would later be rapidly changed again, but these rules were a small departure from traditional rugby union rules which had been used in previous international matches (minus the amount of players, which were experimentally changed by the NU several times). The New Zealand team, or the "All Golds" as they were being called by the New Zealand newspapers, had never played rugby by these rules before but did have a week of preparation and traning sessions leading up to the match. With this Welsh victory and large crowd, Wales played their second fixture in Tonypandy, and managed to win that match too recording a 35-18 win against what would soon become their main rival, the England Lions. At the end of 1908 Wales played their third and final fixture of the decade, playing England again, but this time in Broughton in Greater Manchester. This time they lost 31-7. However in 1909 another victory was to occur for Welsh Rugby League, with a Welsh League XIII made up of players still playing in Wales beating a touring Australian side.
In the years before the outbreak of the war, Wales regularly played England. The two national teams played each other every single year including 1914. Due to Rugby League only extensively being played in the two countries in the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, touring Australia and New Zealand teams where the only chances to play someone different. Although the two matches against the English played in Wales where played in Ebbw Vale in Gwent, the Welsh travelled around England for away matches, playing in Coventry, Oldham, Plymouth and St Helens. Collectively those seven matches in Wales and England produced six defeats for the Welsh team, although there were signs of improvement, in the last match in St Helens the Dragons narrowly lost by just four points, the match ending 16-12. On the 7 October 1911 Wales played Australia for the first time. The match, held at Ebbw Vale again, drew 7,000 people to watch Wales go down 20-28. The match was significant though because throughout the next few decades Australia would play the Dragons in Wales whenever they toured Great Britain. During and after the First World War many sports suffered, and rugby league in Wales was no exception, the team didn't play a match again until 1921.
After a seven year hiatus Wales once again played England and continued to do so annually throughout the 1920s, apart from in 1924. Because of the long hiatus a large proportion of players competing in the 1921 match were earning their first cap for the team. The first game at Leeds saw Wales lose 35-9 in front of 13,000. A further 13,000 saw a touring Australia play Wales in December 1921, this time in Pontypridd. Like the first time these nations played each other, Australia narrowly defeated the Welsh, the final score being 16-21. In 1922 Wales took part in the first international rugby league match to be played in London. England beat Wales 12-7 in Herne Hill but just 3,000 people turned up to watch, one of the lowest attendances to ever watch a Wales match. After four more matches against England in various Rugby League strongholds in Northern England, the Dragons once again played in Wales. Two matches were played in 1926 in Pontypridd, the same year that a Pontypridd domestic side joined the English leagues, although they disbanded a year later. The first match saw finished Wales 22-30 England with a record 23,000 in attendance. The second match saw Wales comfortably beat the touring New Zealand 34-8. Three more matches against England were played including one in November 1928 played in Cardiff. It was in the twenties that Jim Sullivan, one of three Welsh players to be entrolled into the Rugby League Hall Of Fame, started rising through the ranks at Wigan. A career spanning 25 years saw him play many times for Wales picking up 26 caps, a record that hasn't been beaten. He also represented Great Britain 25 times and Glamorgan & Monmouthshire 12 times.
|No||Name||Position||Club||Eng Caps||GB Caps|
|1||Dave Halley||Full back||Bradford Bulls||13||20|
|2||Damien Gibson||Wing||Halifax RLFC||3||5|
|3||Aled James||Centre||Celtic Crusaders||1||23|
|4||Lee Williams||Centre||Celtic Crusaders||6||33|
|5||Rhys Williams||Wing||Warrington Wolves||4||0|
|6||Mark Lennon||Stand off||Celtic Crusaders||5||17|
|7||Ian Watson||Half Back||Leigh Centurions||4||5|
|8||Craig Kopczak||Prop||Bradford Bulls||4||30|
|9||Sean Penkywicz||Hooker||Halifax RLFC||1||5|
|10||David Mills C||Prop||Hull KR||6||26|
|11||Ben Flower||Second Row||Celtic Crusaders||0||4|
|12||Geraint Davies||Second Row||Celtic Crusaders||1||19|
|13||Andy Bracek||Loose Forward||Warrington Wolves||5||14|
|14||Ian Webster||Prop||Celtic Crusaders||1||2|
|15||Rhys Griffiths||Prop||Castleford Tigers||1||1|
|16||Jordan James||Prop||Celtic Crusaders||4||6|
|17||Matt Barron||Second Row||Gateshead Thunder||1||9|
|18||Gil Dudson||Centre||Celtic Crusaders||1||0|
|19||Barrie Phillips||Second Row||Celtic Crusaders||1||0|
The first World Cup that Wales competed in was the 1975 tournament. All tournaments prior to this one, Wales were represented by Great Britain. Later on in 1995 and 2000, Wales represented themselves again, losing in the Semi-Finals in both competitions. Wales could have played in the 2008 World Cup but didn't qualify.
|Year||Round||Position||Won||Drawn||Lost||Pts Scored||Pts Against|
|Most Caps||Top Point Scorer||Top Try Scorer||Top Goal Scorer|
|Jim Sullivan||26||Iestyn Harris||142||Iestyn Harris||12||Jim Sullivan||60|
|Anthony Sullivan||21||Jim Sullivan||129||Lee Briers||9||Iestyn Harris||60|
|Roy Mathias||20||Jonathan Davies||99||Adam Hughes||8||Jonathan Davies||44|
|Bill Francis||19||Lee Briers||79||Damien Gibson||8||David Watkins||36|
|Lee Briers||19||David Watkins||74||Frank Evans||7||Ted Ward||25|
|Iestyn Harris||19||-||-||Clive Sullivan||7||-||-|
|Ian Watson||19||-||-||Kris Tassle||6||-||-|
Taylor's tour days look to be numbered ; NZ Maoris v Lions Hamilton, 8.10am On TV: Sky Sports 1 On Radio: RTE (MW, LW)
Jun 11, 2005; When you're luck's out, your luck's out. With almost grim inevitability a cloud hangs over Simon Taylor's Lions tour once more....