Harris names Wales squad

Wales Rugby League coach Iestyn Harris has split his initial train-on squad into three sections following player performance reviews from club games at the latter end of the season.

Wales start their 2010 international campaign with a friendly against Italy in Wrexham on Sunday 3rd October (kick-off 2pm). Their other senior home game is against Ireland in the Alitalia European Cup on Sunday 17th October (kick-off 2pm) and tickets for both of these matches can be bought online at www.walesrugbyleague.co.uk.

Wales’ remaining games in the European Cup, where the winners will qualify for the 2011 Four Nations against England, Australia and New Zealand, are away at Scotland on October 10th and in France on October 23rd.

Thirty-four players will be in the senior squad for the four full international matches, which includes six potential new caps – Gareth Thomas and Jamie Murphy from the Crusaders, Danny Jones from Keighley Cougars, Steve Parry from South Wales Scorpions, Jacob Emmitt from St Helens and Ben Davies from Wigan Warriors.

Wales Rugby League can also confirm that Lee Briers will also make his international comeback in October as discussed in an interview earlier this week. He last played for Wales in 2007, nine years after his debut against England.

A further 13 players, including Harri Greville from South Wales Scorpions and Mark Wool from Leeds Rhinos, both of whom weren’t named in the original train-on squad, will be considered for selection for the under 23 international against Italy in Colwyn Bay on Wednesday 6th October.

Three other players are being put on stand-by for the senior squad in case of injuries, which is commonplace at the end of the season as a handful from the originally named train-on squad have already declared themselves unavailable.

Harris said: “I’m pleased with the make-up of the two squads and am delighted to welcome Lee back into the fold.

“I’m especially pleased that we’re playing an under 23 match for the first time in Wales’ history. To be able to field such a side shows the growth of Rugby League in Wales over the past decade and is a credit to everyone in Wales Rugby League who have put a lot of hard work into developing junior squads at club level, both professional and community sides.

“We have deliberately only named 13 in the under 23 squad which obviously means that some of the youngsters in the senior squad who don’t make an appearance against Italy at The Racecourse on Sunday 3rd October, will get an opportunity to shine later in the week.

“It’s an exciting time for Wales and all the players are very much looking forward to competing in International Rugby League, the highest honour for a player.”

Main squad: Andy Bracek, Matt James (both Barrow), Mark Roberts (Blackpool), Craig Kopczak (Bradford), Mark Lennon (Cronulla), Gareth Dean (Carcassonne), Chris Beasley, Ian Webster (both Central Queensland Comets), Anthony Blackwood, Ben Flower, Elliott Kear, Gareth Thomas, Gil Dudson, Jamie Murphy, Jordan James, Lee Williams, Lloyd White (all Crusaders), Ross Divorty (Featherstone), Sean Penkywicz (Halifax), David Mills (Hull KR), Danny Jones (Keighley), Rhys Griffiths (Leeds Met), Neil Budworth (Mackay Cutters), Aled James, Ashley Bateman, Christiaan Roets, Geraint Davies, Steve Parry (all Scorpions), Jacob Emmitt (St Helens), Ian Watson, Phil Joseph (both Swinton), Lee Briers, Rhys Williams (both Warrington), Ben Davies (Wigan).

Under 23 squad only – Chris Davies, Dafydd Carter, Jack Pring, Lewis Mills, Rhodri Lloyd (all Crusaders), Mark Wool (Leeds Rhinos), Dale Blackmore (Rochdale Hornets), Joe Burke, Andrew Gay, Harri Greville, Lewis Reece (all South Wales Scorpions), Gavin Williams (Warrington Wolves), Liam Kennedy (Widnes Vikings).

Stand-by: Byron Smith (Batley Bulldogs), Matt Barron (Gateshead Thunder), Matt Thomas (London Skolars).