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February 3, 2005

Wales ready to take on England

From: BBC Sport, UK - Feb 3, 2005

By Louise Collison

Wales are hoping to get the better of England on two fronts this weekend.

The Welsh deaf rugby union team take on their English counterparts on Saturday, just hours before the same countries' Six Nations clash in Cardiff.

The deaf sides meet at Pontypridd RFC at 1230 GMT in what is expected to be an exciting clash.

"England have nine new players in their squad so we don't know how they will play but we are looking forward to it," explained Wales manager Geraint John.

The Welsh team has been established for nine years, when Swansea Deaf and Newport Deaf combined, and since then has grown and become more successful.

They played in the inaugural Deaf Rugby World Championships in Auckland in 2002, beating the hosts and favourites New Zealand 28-14 in the final at Eden Park.

They now hope to defend their title on home soil later this year when the world championships take place in Cardiff from 27 August-10 September.

With a busy year coming up, the England game, their first international of the year, forms an important part of their preparations.

Wales and England have met twice before with a victory apiece, England winning 14-11 in Newbury and Wales at Pontyclun with a comfortable win, 27-0.

"We're always apprehensive before matches, but are very excited at the prospect of England coming to play us. But hopefully we will win," added John.

Plenty of work is also being done off the field by the Wales Deaf Rugby Union.

They are launching a Junior Grassroots Scheme this year to further enhance the game of rugby in the deaf community by recruiting youth players from around Wales.

The team's success has led to an increase in funding from sponsors as well as donations, but with the world championships approaching, more financial backing would help raise the sport's profile further.

The team formed in 1996
Players need hearing loss of 25% over both ears
Team is funded through sponsors and donations
Only two players are totally deaf
Same rules apply as rugby union
Wales are current world deaf champions

Story from BBC SPORT:

Published: 2005/02/03 17:52:06 GMT