Eaton eager for Wales progress

Former Wales international Barry Eaton believes that progression should be the target for the Dragons at Rugby League World Cup 2013.

Eaton made four appearances for Wales between 1999 and 2001 and served as assistant coach for the nation’s recent Four Nations campaign, before taking his current role as under-18s coach.

The former Dewsbury, Widnes, Batley and Keighley player divides his time between his international duties and his role as head coach of Championship outfit Hunslet, though Eaton insists that Welsh Rugby League remains a passion of his.

“My first official game for Wales was against Scotland at Firhill, where Partick Thistle play their home games. It was a real nerve racking experience for myself,” he told

“The camps that we went into with Wales were really good though and I was lucky enough to play alongside some top players at that time, like Lee Briers, Keiron Cunningham and Paul Moriarty.

“They made me feel really welcome as a young kid coming through.

“My mum was born in Anglesy and I’ve always been very proud to represent Wales,” Eaton continued.

“Clive Griffiths was the coach when I came through. He’s obviously a staunch Welshman and he made all of his players aware of how much it means to play for Wales.

“Pride plays a major part, and I’m sure Iestyn and his staff will be communicating that to the heritage players within the current crop.”

And though Eaton will be forced to settle for a seat on the sidelines for this Autumn’s tournament, he’s keen to play his own role in Wales’s preparation for RLWC2013.

“I want to put everything in place and do all I can to ensure that these young players progress to the national squad this year.

“The under-18s team has got four or five players at least that will hopefully make the RLWC2013 squad this year, and my remit is to develop them and to coach the philosophies synonymous with the national team.

“We want to put things in place that allow as many players as possible to progress to the full squad.

“Losing Lee Briers from the playing squad obviously had its effect and it was always going to take more than just 12 months to replace that,

“The next generation of player needs to be coming through, and hopefully RLWC2013 will provide the opportunity for the next Lee Briers or Keiron Cunningham to arrive on the scene.”

Wales have been drawn alongside USA and Cook Islands in Group D, and will also face Italy at the Millennium Stadium as part of the tournament’s Opening Ceremony.

“For Wales to be playing at the Millennium is massive. Hopefully they can market the game well, get it sold out, and get the Welsh public behind them.

“It’d be a huge boost for Welsh Rugby League, which I feel is booming at the moment.

“I was lucky enough to play there for Wales against New Zealand and there was around 40,000 in the stadium. It was a great atmosphere and I’m sure that will be recreated at the Opening Ceremony.”

Just one team will progress to the quarter-final stage out of Group D, though Eaton is optimistic about the team’s chances.

“The tournament is about progression,” he said.

“It was pretty plain to see that we’ve had a bit of disappointment over the last 12 months, but we’ve got players coming through and I’m pretty confident they’ll serve us well this autumn.

Wales should aim for progression and improvement. It was pretty plain to see that last year’s series was disappointing, but the Four Nations the year before was very positive.

“There are reasons to be excited, and we’re all looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

Wales face Italy at the Millennium Stadium on October 26, USA at The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, on November 3 and Cook Islands at The Gnoll, Neath, On October 10.

Tickets are now on sale for RLWC2013, with 55% of tickets priced £20 or less. To make sure you will BE THERE buy now at or call our 24 Hour Ticket Hotline on 0844 847 2013.

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