Former Mold star Rob McCusker is adamant that North Wales can produce a future international following the rise of both rugby union and league.
Union regional outfit Gogledd Cymru have re-branded to become RGC 1404, installing Clive Griffiths as head coach and entrusting the help of a number of Canadian internationals, while Super League side Crusaders have moved from Bridgend to Wrexham, increasing interest in the 13-man code.
Indeed a string of local players, including Mold wing Richard Hopkins, Wrexham star David Blackwell, Chester ace Dewi Williams, Ruthin quartet Chris Davies, Steffan Morgan, Will Davies and Harri Morgan, and Denbigh’s Rhun Jones and Dave Haydock, have all represented RGC.
And with that in mind, McCusker, who was forced to move south to try his hand at becoming a professional rugby player with Scarlets, is sure that youngsters will see a future in the game.
“I never even dreamt about becoming a professional rugby player living in North Wales,” he said. “But it is definitely a real proposition now.
“RGC are really starting to perform and become noticed, while rugby league is taking off since Crusaders moved to Wrexham, it is great for the game.
“There is a real vehicle to produce talented rugby players from the north now.”
The 24-year-old, who moved away from his family home in Minera, Wrexham, to fulfill his dream of playing rugby for a living, has seen his career take off in recent weeks.
McCusker’s performances for Scarlets have led to Warren Gatland naming him in his 27-man squad for the clashes with South Africa on Saturday and the two-test trip to New Zealand later in the month.
And the flanker is hoping that he can be an inspiration to other youngsters hoping to play professional rugby: “At times it is hard, you miss home, your family, and friends,” he admitted. “The training is tough and you are miles away from home, but you find a way to cope.
“It is not long before you are making friends and it is a case of sink or swim, the academies and halls of residence are a good starting point.”
He added: “I think that is the important thing for the north, they have to try and emulate the likes of the Scarlets’ academy.
“Players from the north are being signed by clubs like Sale and hopefully the good coaching set-up within RGC can help provide some future professionals.
“There has always been a big interest in the game, it is just that the game of rugby is becoming bigger in North Wales.”
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