Meet the other Welsh team targeting World Cup glory in France
Warren Gatland’s team won’t be the only Welsh side taking part in a global rugby tournament in France over the next week or so.
While Gatland’s gang continue their campaign in the professional Rugby World Cup, Llandaff RFC from Cardiff will be representing Wales in the amateur equivalent.
Fittingly, just like the pros, they will be facing Aussie opposition this weekend as they set their sights on reaching the knock-out stages.
Llandaff are taking part in the 16-team World Amateur Rugby Festival, which is being staged across seven cities in the south of France from September 22-30.
They will be joined by fellow grass-roots sides from New Zealand, South Africa, England, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Scotland, Tonga, Uruguay, Romania, Georgia, the USA, Chile, Belgium and hosts France.
A 35-strong group of players, coaches and supporters from the Division Three Cardiff club will be heading across the Channel, with their opening matches scheduled for this weekend.
They will play their group fixtures in Arles, a city on the Rhône River in the Provence region of southern France. Games last 40 minutes, 20 minutes each way.
They play their first two matches this Saturday, against the Southern Lions from Perth in Western Australia and Georgian club ARC Devebi. Then, on Sunday, they take on Rhinos Rugby, from Sacramento in the USA.
The top two from each of the four groups will progres to the quarter-finals, which will be staged in Manosque and Sisteron next Thursday, with the semi-finals and final taking place at the Stadium Jean Rolland in Digne Les Bains on Saturday, September 30, along with lower ranking matches.
For the builders, electricians, site managers, teachers, civil servants, students and sports officers who make up the Llandaff team, it will be a huge honour and an amazing experience.
The seeds for the trip were sown way back in 2015 when the club hosted French side Rugby Club Dignois for a match at the Bishop’s Field in Cardiff.
That led to them being invited to take part in an amateur Six Nations tournament staged by Dignois at their ground in the south eastern city of Digne Les Bains three years later. They finished third in the one-day event.
Now they are taking to the world stage.
It’s a trip that has taken some arranging, as tour organiser Chris Voyce confirms.
“The financial side has been the biggest thing really, getting money in and getting the flights sorted,” he said.
“We have done raffles, we’ve held barbecues on game days, we had a beer festival here, a music festival. It’s been a long process of fundraising.
“Through that, we have managed to pay for all the players’ flights as a club.
“In fairness to the French, they have taken care of the accommodation, the transport and all the food and drink over there. It’s all been really well organised.”
He added: “We had originally been due to go to Thailand to play in the Phuket Tens in the summer of 2022, but that was cancelled due to Covid.
“Then, around that period, we were invited to take part in this tournament. A lot of the boys who had been due to go to Thailand are now going out to France.
“For a few, it’s probably their last season of playing. So, for them, this is kind of going out on the top.
“It’s huge for the club, a chance to put us on the map. For a club as old as Llandaff to be in the limelight like this, it’s just great. It will be a brilliant experience.
“As a concept, I think this tournament is a fantastic idea. It’s an opportunity to make friends from all around the world.
“We don’t really know what to expect in terms of the opposition, so it’s a bit of a leap into the unknown, but we will just try our best.
“It’s great that our first game is against an Australian side, on the same weekend as Wales play the Wallabies in the World Cup. Hopefully we can lay down a marker for the following day!
“The Aussie team (Southern Lions) are staying in the same town as us too, so that will be good, socialising with them.”
Giving the players’ perspective on representing Wales, utility back Rees Edmonds said: “It’s huge. We have been speaking about it for such a long time and there has been such a buzz around the club.
“As much as we understand it’s an amateur tour, we want to do the best we can. We are going there to win. We consider ourselves a fit team and we like to throw the ball around. So hopefully we can stay injury-free and let’s see what happens.
“We won the league (Division Four East Central) last season which was huge for the club. To go from that to having this tour is fantastic. We are all really looking forward to it. Everyone is buzzing for it.
“It’s going to be incredible. The organisation that has gone into it in France is just amazing. When they sent us the itinerary, we couldn’t believe it. They have gone into so much detail and you can already tell it’s going to be such a good tour.
“It will be a really big stage. You will have the anthems before each match, which will be something very special. I think there could be a few tears shed there!
“All the games are going to be live streamed on the competition App, so technically we are playing on TV. A lot of the boys are looking forward to that.
There are a few haircuts they have been having!”
He concluded: “We have all been speaking and we want to do as well as we can. We will play as well as we can and try as hard as we can. But, ultimately, the experience is going to be one we will never forget. We will be speaking about this in 40 years time when we are all down the club.”
Te Awamutu (New Zealand)
Rugby Club Dignois (France)
Rugby Club De Frameries (Belgium)
Carrasco Polo Club (Uruguay)
Hamilton Sea-Point Rugby Football (South Africa)
Oban Lorne RFC (Scotland)
Kolomotu’a Rugby Club (Tonga)
GFP Rugby Club (Romania)
Llandaff RFC (Wales)
Southern Lions RUFC (Australia)
ARC Devebi (Georgia)
Rhinos Rugby (USA)
Rugby Lions (England)
Iwate Kamaishi Rugby FC (Japan)
Roldan Rugby Club (Argentina)
Cobs and Cogs (Chile)
Llandaff’s group fixtures (in Arles)
Saturday, September 23: Southern Lions (2.45pm); Devebi (5.45pm)
Sunday, September 24: Rhinos (4.15pm)
Quarter-finals: Thursday, September 28 (Manosque and Sisteron)
Semi-finals and Final: Saturday, September 30 (Stadium Jean Rolland, Digne Les Bains)
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