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Recreation of Wales’ first-ever competitive rugby match will celebrate university milestone

01 Dec 2022 4 minute read
A recreation of the first-ever competitive rugby match in Wales is taking place this weekend as part of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Lampeter University.

A recreation of the first-ever competitive rugby match in Wales is taking place this weekend as part of the 200th anniversary of the founding of one of Wales’ universities.

The Lampeter Society and alumni from the Lampeter campus will mark the occasion of the bicentenary of the laying of the foundation stone of St David’s College, Lampeter in 1822 by celebrating the college’s historic contribution to rugby in Wales during their Old Codgers alumni rugby weekend. 

It is widely accepted that rugby was introduced to Wales by the Rev Professor Rowland Williams, who became Vice-Principal of St David’s College in 1850 and who’d played Rugby Football as a student at Kings College, Cambridge.

The rugby celebrations will recreate the first ever competitive rugby match to be played in Wales between St David’s College Lampeter (SDUC) and Llandovery College in Caio in 1866.

They originally decided to play at this rural village in the Cothi Valley as it was halfway between the towns of Llandovery and Lampeter.

Organiser Ieuan Davies, an alumnus from St David’s College Lampeter is looking forward to the event.

“The Lampeter Old Codgers are looking forward to their annual rugby weekend, but this fixture is extra special, as we are honoured to be raising the curtain on a historic weekend of rugby by playing the SDUC Old Boys, a team of alumni mostly in their mid to late 30s.

“Many friendships have been rekindled and many more have been made due to the Old Codgers weekends. Also, many thousands of pounds have been raised for various charities with auctions of college and rugby memorabilia held after every match.

“As a society, we invite everyone to join us in the celebrations both in Caio and in Lampeter to celebrate the match between the two teams who kicked off Welsh rugby way back in 1866.”

The celebrations will start on Friday, 2 December, at 2 pm, where a training event will take place on the original field where the initial game between the two colleges back in 1866 at Glanrannell in Caio by the kind permission of the owner, Mr Dave Chaplin.

The event is also intended to provide an opportunity for the people of Caio to celebrate their village’s contribution to Welsh rugby. Guests and media have also been invited to attend. To mark this special occasion, players and villagers will all dress up in nineteenth-century costume.

On Friday evening, a dinner will be held at the Lloyd Thomas Dining Hall on the Lampeter Campus for guests, and Lampeter’s rugby historian Selwyn Walters will be the guest speaker.

Looking forward to the event, he said: “It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity, once again, to celebrate the fact that St. David’s College, Lampeter, was the birthplace of Rugby Football in Wales. It is also most appropriate that these celebrations focus on the match played between Lampeter College and Llandovery College at Caio in 1866.

“This event confirms all that went before: that Arthur Pell, an Old Rugbeian, introduced his school’s laws of football to Cambridge University, which was witnessed by the sporting Rowland Williams, who brought the game to Lampeter when he became Vice Principal at the College in 1850, and that the Rugby playing students of St David’s College had to wait until other educational establishments in Wales took up the game before they could play competitive matches externally. 

“This came when Llandovery College took up a game close enough to the Laws of Rugby Football that Lampeter College were prepared to challenge them to a match in 1866.

“The importance of this match played in Caio for convenience, cannot be overstressed, because in 1966 it was officially recognised by the Welsh Rugby Union as the first-ever match in Wales to be played by an organised Rugby Football Club. 

“All other Rugby Football Clubs in Wales, without exception, were founded after 1866, making St. David’s College, Lampeter, the oldest in Wales.”

On Saturday, 3 December at 12pm, the annual rugby match between St David’s University College Old Codgers and the Lampeter Old Boys will take place at Lampeter RFC, and then at 2.30pm, also at Lampeter RFC, the Saint David’s College Lampeter Alumni will be facing the Llandovery College Alumni.

Esther Weller, Chairman of the Lampeter Society said: “The Lampeter Society have had a very busy year celebrating the bicentenary of the university and are extremely pleased that our final celebratory event marks Lampeter’s important role in the history of rugby in Wales.” 

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