A THIRD of the Welsh rugby team will be made up of North Wales players in the not-too-distant future.
That’s the view of CIC Rygbi Gogledd Cymru chairman Kenton Morgan in light of ex-Ruthin prop Eifion Roberts’ recall to the Welsh squad for the forthcoming RBS Six Nations Championship campaign.
“It was a surprise that he was left out in the autumn and in the Australia game they realised the importance of having a strong scrummager in the squad,” said Morgan yesterday.
“He can only develop and get better while being in the squad.”
Morgan added: “We are very proud of him and we predict that there may be another North Walian in the (Wales) squad before the end of the season.
“The day will come when a third of the Welsh team will be from North Wales.”
Asked if he was surprised by Roberts’ call-up, Ruthin Rugby Club chairman John Gower Hughes said: “In a way, yes, but you know he deserves to be in there.
“He has been playing quite well all season - he’s been pretty consistent.”
Gower Hughes expects Roberts to be used differently by Wales than how he’s utilised by the Sale Sharks.
The smart money is on Roberts to be used as an impact player off the bench, being thrown on for the closing half-an-hour.
“Certainly, if they want to shore up the scrummage, they will get him on,” added Gower Hughes.
“He is one of the best scrummagers around.”
Former Ruthin scrum-half Rhys Hughes said the call-up was just reward for Eifion’s hard work over the last year.
“You don’t play every game in the Premiership without having a chance to play for your country,” he said.
“People are always going on about his fitness... but he is working his socks off to get to the levels required in international rugby.
“He has got a fitness plan off (Robin) McBryde and he works with a guy in Halifax.
“And with the amount of work he’s done with (Andrew) Sheridan over the summer, he’s never been as fit.”
Russell Penrhyn-Jones was the Ruthin coach when Roberts moved from Cae Ddol to the Sale Sharks in 2005.
“I think it’s a bit of a shock because he (Warren Gatland) didn’t pick him for the last ones.
“It’s obviously proven that they need the scrum tightened.
“The thing is with Eifion, I watch a lot of rugby and I can’t say it about many props, but he can play on both sides of the scrum.
“I think it can only be fantastic news to be honest with you.
“They now realise how valuable an asset he is.”
Wales coach Warren Gatland said: “We are now at the beginning of our countdown to the World Cup and this slightly larger squad reflects that.
“Our first match at Twickenham could set the tone for the championship for both sides, we will both be desperate to win that first up match.”
Wales forwards coach Robin McBryde added: “Eifion was set some targets off the field that he has now reached.
“We see Eifion as perhaps moving forward as a tighthead role as opposed to a loosehead.
“He’s shown that he’s willing to work hard and develop and this now gives us two months to work with him.”
Wales Six Nations Championship squad
Backs: Gareth Cooper, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom James, Richard Rees, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin (all Blues), Dan Biggar, Andrew Bishop, Lee Byrne, James Hook, Kristian Phillips, Tom Prydie, Shane Williams (all Ospreys), Jonathan Davies, Stephen Jones, Martin Roberts (all Scarlets)
Forwards: Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Deiniol Jones, Andy Powell, Sam Warburton, Gareth Williams, Martyn Williams (all Blues), Huw Bennett, Ian Gough, Paul James, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones, Jonathan Thomas (all Ospreys), Matthew Rees (Scarlets), Luke Charteris, Dan Lydiate (both Dragons), Eifion Roberts (Sale Sharks), Rhys Gill (Saracens)
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