VICTORY over reigning Six Nations champions Ireland this weekend could see Wales win their 12th Grand Slam and cap a remarkable year for the nation's rugby union players.

But while the likes of George North, Jonathan Davies and captain Alun Wyn Jones are looking forward to attempting a Six Nations clean sweep, Welsh rugby league faces a constant battle to get noticed in comparison to what many regard as the national sport.

"Rugby league is quite a hard sell in this part of the world," admits Mike Dessington, chair of Flintshire Falcons RLFC who are hosting a taster session for junior players on the same day Wales could win the Grand Slam.

"For a couple of years things will go well and then they'll tail off again but the problem we have is getting people to play it. Once we get people to play it, they're sold - it's a simpler game than rugby union and appeals to a different sort of person."

The code has always experienced these issues ever since the Welsh Northern Union was formed in Wrexham in 1907, only to have its existence questioned as the game's governing body wanted it located in the south of Wales. In the following years, various attempts to introduce professional rugby league to Wales have taken place, from the Blue Dragons, the Cardiff side who shared Ninian Park with the footballing Bluebirds, to the South Wales Dragons, who attempted unsuccessfully to gain a franchise for the new Super League competition that was created in 1996.

"There are some people in this area for whom rugby league means nothing," continues Mike. "It's a huge football area too, so what we're trying to do is introduce new people to the sport.

"We've always been confident if we get people to play they'll love it - if you can run with a ball in your hand you can play rugby league."

Flintshire Falcons is the only rugby League club in the county and one of only a few within North Wales. Based at Deeside Leisure Centre, where the Wales Rugby League Performance Centre was officially opened in 2012, the club initially offered the opportunity for open age players to take part in the game.

Over the years, interest in the sport and club has grown in the community and they now offer playing opportunities for boys and girls from aged seven and upwards, with their older junior team being affiliated with the North West Counties League.

The club draw on a number of players from the three main Flintshire rugby union clubs, Mold, Shotton Steel and Flint, and Mike feels playing league and foregoing an off-season break can improve union players.

"All the rugby union players who go back to their clubs are just better for the experience," he says. "It's a lot more of an aerobic game. One thing that people don't realise is when you're running up and down in defence all the time it's like doing 50 or 60 shuttle runs."

Mike agrees that a lot of the prejudice against rugby league can be traced back to the treatment of working-class Welsh players who opted to be paid to play the 13-man code rather than remaining amateurs in union.

"When I was growing up in Wrexham in the 1970s, someone signing for rugby league it was like 'you're dead to me'," he laughs. "I think there is still some of that that exists in Wales but we are trying our best to overcome that."

Rugby league in North Wales received a a huge shot in the arm in 2010, when Crusaders moved from Bridgend to Wrexham, with legendary British coach Brian Noble taking charge and former Welsh international Iestyn Harris and ex-Great Britain assistant Jon Sharp completing the back room staff.

Hopes were high after a great season in which they finished eighth and reached the Super League play-offs in what was a major step forward for Welsh rugby league.

But barely a year later they withdrew from the Super League, bedevilled by financial problems and unable to build on the momentum gathered.

"When Crusaders started in Wrexham, people really got behind it and they did pretty well gate-wise," says Mike, who also laments the standing of the Welsh national side who had a dismal 2017 World Cup and remain also-rans when compared to their union cousins.

"If Crusaders could've kept going for a few more years it would have made a big difference. Wales is a big rugby union country and it has dominated because of the success of the national side over the years.

"Rugby league doesn't have that international profile - the international game sells rugby union whereas we don't have that. The Welsh side try manfully but there is no way they are going to compete for attention."

Despite the continuing issues hopes remain high that more and more youngsters can be encouraged to try rugby league and the sport in Wales is extremely active at youth level with almost all of Wales' Under-16 team, who beat England last year having signed with Super League clubs.

"We have had an up and down existence since forming," adds Mike, who also has ambitions to also start a girls' side. "Some years we've had 50 or 60 children there but in others it has been down to 20 but if we have enough players from a certain age group we will find them games."

Flintshire Falcons will hold their taster session at Shotton Steel's ground (opposite Deeside Leisure Centre) on Saturday, March 16 at 10.30am.