Gemma Grainger Looks To Turn Up The Heat In Iceland

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Wales women kick off the football weekend with a huge test of their progress in Iceland.

It’s where manager Gemma Grainger believes the journey to qualification for a major tournament starts in earnest.

The fixture may be their opener in the UEFA Women’s Nations League – rather than World Cup or European Championship – but Grainger insists the route this tournament offers as a back-up for Euros qualification is invaluable.

“Success in the Nations League is us performing and competing,” says Grainger.

“We’re the fourth seeded team in the group so I’m sure externally if we finish fourth we’ll meet everyone’s external expectations, but internally they are very much not our expectations.

“Our expectations are to perform and, ultimately, we want to qualify for the European Championships so being in League A gives us the best opportunity to do that.

“The 16 teams in League A is effectively a 16-team start to a European Championship, so to be in that we’ll use these games to help us progress towards the ultimate goal.”

Wales will start their campaign in Reykjavík as the underdogs in a group – A3 – that also includes Denmark and Germany.

Grainger’s side, ranked 29th in the world, are the fourth seed in the group with third seed Iceland ranked 15 places above Wales.

On Sunday, Erol Bulut insists his Cardiff City “machine” can keep pumping out the results whether or not Aaron Ramsey is fit to play at Sunderland.

The Bluebirds have won back-to-back victories for the first time since February and aim to make it three wins on the bounce when they head to the North-East.

Cardiff will travel to the Stadium of Light, looking to chalk up a third consecutive Championship win for the first time since a run in January-February 2022.

They are likely to include captain Ramsey in their line-up after he missed the midweek 3-2 win over Coventry City – which followed their derby triumph against Swansea City – but even if the Wales skipper is missing again through a hamstring concern, Bulut says the team will keep firing.

“Aaron Ramsey is very important for this club, for me and for the team. It’s not easy to not have him in the game,” said Bulut.

“But we showed – our players showed – we don’t have to concentrate only on one player. If it’s not Ramsey, it has to be someone else. Our company, our machine has to work always. It has to be the same performance if someone else plays.”

Even more desperate for a victory is Swansea City head coach Michael Duff.

The former Northern Ireland international has yet to win a Championship match this season and knows the pressure is mounting with the Swans in the relegation zone.

On Saturday, the club host fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday.

Duff admitted: “We need a win. The players need a win. I want to win more than anyone.

“I have been given a massive responsibility at this football club and I want to leave it in a better place than I found it.

“At the minute we are nowhere near where we want to get to. But you can’t stick the cherry on top before building the foundations.”

Swansea will be without the suspended Ollie Cooper and injured Joe Allen, Liam Walsh and Kyle Naughton.

Newport County will host Bradford City on Saturday with County manager Graham Coughlan at the centre of speculation linking him with the managerial vacancy at Cheltenham Town.

Newport are currently 12th in League Two.

Coughlan said: “I don’t know much about it and would rather concentrate on Bradford. We have 24 hours to prepare for a big game and that is where my focus is.”

Wrexham could move into the automatic promotion places in League Two if they win away at Stockport County on Saturday.

Phil Parkinson’s team are currently fourth – three points behind leaders Gillingham – and are unbeaten in seven games after losing their opening game at home to MK Dons.

Josh Tarling and Zoe Backstedt Chase More Gold For Wales And GB

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist


Josh Tarling and Zoe Backstedt are back in action again this weekend after underlining their status as the burgeoning stars of Welsh cycling, with both winning gold medals at the European Road Cycling Championships in the Netherlands this week.

In a remarkable performance for Great Britain, Tarling secured the gold in the individual time trial in Drenthe.

The 19-year-old Welsh rider showcased his talent by finishing 42.92 seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Stefan Bissegger, with Belgium’s Wout van Aert claiming the third spot.

The victory streak for Welsh Great Britain riders continued as Backstedt clinched gold in the Under-23 women’s race.

Tarling remarked: “It was hard. I felt weaker today than I did at the Worlds. The wind was really hard, I had to hold the high power all day.”

In the Under-23 women’s race, time-trial specialist Backstedt, aged 18, dominated her competition by an impressive 57.51 seconds, leaving Germany’s Antonia Niedermaier in second place and Finland’s Anniina Ahtosalo in third.

In Sunday’s elite men’s road race, Great Britain is set to be led by Ethan Vernon, with Tarling, fellow Welsh rider Luke Rowe, Lewis Aksey, Mark Stewart, Connor Swift, Ben Turner, and Sam Watson also participating.

Backstedt is set to participate in Friday’s Under-23 women’s road race, alongside her sister Elynor, world road Under-23 bronze medalist Anna Shackley, Millie Couzens, Flora Perkins, and Alice Towers.



Wales goalkeeper Ella Jackson believes Swansea Hockey Club can start the climb back towards the top level when their season begins on Saturday.

Swansea open their National Hockey League Division One North campaign at home to Durham University, three years to the week since they became the first Welsh club – men’s or women’s – to play in England’s Premier Division.

Their brief stint in the top flight lasted just one interrupted season that spanned Covid lockdowns, before they were relegated.

But Jackson believes the arrival of former Egyptian international Mo Samak as new head coach this summer can usher in a revival in their fortunes.

“Mo has come in along with Lee Marshall on the coaching side and they are really keen for us to progress,” says Jackson, who is in her third season with Swansea.

“Any time you get new coaches in, there are challenges, and we have also brought some new faces into the playing squad so it’s been about adapting.

“We are aspirational as a club and our long-term vision is to play at the highest level. We would love to win the league this season, but if we can make sure we’re in the mix, fighting for it, then you never know what can happen.”

Under former coach Paul Edwards, Swansea finished sixth in the 10-team Division One North last season, but will include up to six new players this weekend.

Also in action this Saturday, are Cardiff and Met men’s team who face their first away trip after promotion to the Premier Division for the first time.

They are at Reading, where they will be looking to make amends after opening their season with a 4-1 defeat at home to Southgate a week ago.

Around 600 supporters saw Cardiff and Met play their historic fixture at Sophia Gardens and many of those will be traveling up the M4 to Reading.

“For the club and Welsh hockey it was a really good event,” said Cardiff and Met coach Walid Abdo.

“I’m proud of the way we played for our first outing and am looking forward to the next few weeks. It’s going to be a steep learning curve but I’m confident we can cope at this level.”

Warren Gatland Happy To Go Back For Progress . . . And To Knock Out Australia

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Wales coach Warren Gatland insists there is no place he would rather be than in France, top of Pool C, with Australia in his sights on Sunday.

The permutations if Wales lose are complicated, but Gatland is content to focus purely on winning against the Wallabies, a result which would clinch a quarter-final spot at the Rugby World Cup with one pool match remaining.

Gatland said: “We’re happy with our position going into this game. We have two wins and ten points. There’s a confidenceamong this group and we’ve had a good edge to training this week.

“Everyone wants to be involved and there were some disappointed players this week, which is exactly what we want with competition strong across the squad. 

“Every game in the World Cup is tough, the stakes are high, and this will be no different. Australia have talented players and we know they will want to come out and put in a performance this weekend.

“Our accuracy was good against Fiji, but it was not at the level we would like against Portugal. We are looking to get better every week. Against Australia we know we have to take our chances and put them under as much pressure as possible.

“If we play the way we know we can and maintain that for 80 minutes, then we know we will be a very hard team to beat.”

Gatland has brought back all his big names to face the Wallabies and made 12 changes from the team that struggled at times to overcome Portugal in their last game.

The New Zealander has gone for the same side that beat Fiji, meaning hooker Dewi Lake is left out of the squad having led the side against Portugal, with Ryan Elias back in the middle of the front row.

Adam Beard is named in the second row and will win his 50th cap.

Eddie Jones has shaken up his Australia side, with Ben Donaldson moving from full-back to outside-half in place of Carter Gordon, who is named on the bench. 

Forwards Taniela Tupou and Will Skelton remain on the sidelines with injuries.

Wales prop Gareth Thomas hasn’t forgotten the last time he faced the Wallabies – Wales were leading 34-25 when he was replaced in the 67th minute and ended up losing 39-34. 

The game was in the Autumn Series in 2022 and as well as scoring four tries, the 34 points scored by Wales were the most they had ever notched against the Wallabies. Yet despite leading by 21 points at one stage, they succumbed to a late rally. 

Games between Wales and Australia always tend to be close run affairs. 

Only once in the last 15 meetings between the two nations going back to the Bronze Final in the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 has there been a blow-out – the Wallabies cruising to a 32-8 win in Cardiff in 2016.  


The other 14 games have been won by nine points or less, with 10 of the games being decided by a single score. The Aussies have won 12 of the last 15, but Thomas is backing the harsh lessons learned in 2022 to help Wales in Lyon on Sunday. 

“When we came here, we always wanted to win all the games in the group, and nothing has changed. We’ve got the same mindset, we want to go out there, perform and get another win,” said the Ospreys front row man. 

“They’re always going to be dangerous. Last autumn things went well for us until the last 10 minutes and finishing off games has been a big focus of ours.  

“Hopefully, this weekend we will be able to do that. We take a lot of confidence from the Fiji and Portugal games, as well as what we’ve done all summer. We feel like we can only get better. 

“Getting a third win and securing a quarter-final place would be an amazing feeling. We don’t want anything but that.”

Founders Column - Alex Cuthbert

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

It’s Tough When A Dream Fades . . . Mine Was To Return To Wales, Get My Shirt Back, And Go To Another World Cup 

When I decided to come back to Wales from Exeter three years ago, I had one major goal in mind – to play at another World Cup. 

That dream kept me going through some tough times in 2023, but it slowly started to fade in the days leading up to the squad announcement in August. 

I knew I was struggling after injuries last season, but just when I needed to make up for lost time, I suffered another torn calf muscle. 

That was it. Game Over. Race run and I hadn’t even reached the start line in France. 

You get used to injuries as you get older and view them as part of the life of a professional sportsman, but it still feels devastating when they rob you of your dreams. 

I played in five games at the 2015 tournament, and I look back upon that time as a real career highlight – up there with winning Grand Slams and playing for the British and Irish Lions. 

There’s nothing like being in the middle of a World Cup. It’s more intense than a Six Nations, the matches are tightly compressed, and you are living, breathing, and sensing every moment. 

Everything is heightened – the nerves, the tension, the bonds with your teammates. It’s a fully immersed, emotional experience. 

Getting picked in a Wales World Cup squad is no mean feat, even if you never play a game. 

The competition for places is harsh, the endurance you have to withstand, just brutal. 

In 2015, I probably took it all a bit for granted. I was 25, it was a home tournament, with our games in England and Wales, and it didn’t maybe feel so much of an exotic adventure as it might have done overseas. 

This tournament in France will feel different. The squad will be bouncing from location to location, meeting different people, playing hard matches in front of packed crowds and I think it will have more of that awesome rugby adventure feel to it, the type I really loved when I experienced it with the Lions in Australia in 2013. 

When you play in these really big matches, you can underestimate just how many people around the world are watching. 

You get good luck messages from people you haven’t heard from in years.  

It’s a real buzz, and for me, now, being a father, it feels even more special and more of a privilege. 

These are the games you want to play in: packed stadia, backs against the wall, a deafening noise, and then the thrill of scoring or winning. It’s euphoria. 

It’s been a hard road for every player who has earned a seat on that plane for France. 

I think sometimes fans don’t realise, or they under-estimate, the gap between club rugby and the international game. 

Some people think, ‘well, this guy has done well for his club, let’s chuck him in for Wales and he’ll be brilliant.’ 

It’s rarely like that. The mental side of it is more demanding along with the physical side.  

You have to make snap decisions and if you get them wrong, you don’t often get away with it. 

So, although there are a lot of very young, promising players in this Wales squad, it’s going to be interesting to see whether Warren Gatland goes with youth and potential on match day, or with people with a bit more experience, who he trusts. 

Some boys have a lot of credit in the bank when it comes to having delivered before. Others represent more of a risk. 

These are the big calls coaches have to make. 

For me, that first game against Fiji is probably the most important game for Wales at this whole World Cup. It’s going to be very physical and attritional, but it will set the whole tone and momentum for the campaign. 

The only guarantee I can make is that many more than the 33 players originally selected will end up playing some role at this World Cup. 

Look out for Mason Grady because I think he could have a big impact. 

He is big, physical, and he has serious speed. He also has an abundance of other skills. 

I think power and strength will be a factor at this tournament. You only have to look at the hosts and favourites, France, to realise that. 

Ireland are right up there in the betting, but we have seen sometimes that when they come under the pump, they can sometimes be physically, out-matched. 

We saw that with Leinster in the Champions Cup final when they came up against La Rochelle. In the second half of that game, they were bullied. 

It’s a bit of a work on for Wales, too.  Up against big, powerful teams we have probably been short of heavy ball-carriers in our back row. 

But we have gone a slightly different route and we now have very dynamic ball-carriers, like Jac Morgan and Aaron Wainwright, who can ensure the half-backs have more time to use our back line. 

So, how will Wales do? 

Well, it’s hard to make predictions. But here’s one. 

I think we will see a big improvement from what we saw at the Six Nations. 

There was so much else going on behind the scenes that I think it was a tournament the players need to just to park and move away from. 

Two factors were at play. Too many players didn’t know what was happening with their contracts, which was a big distraction. 

And maybe the fitness levels were not quite where they might have been. 

The contracts now look clearer for most and the fitness levels have been upped by Warren Gatland. 

It’s looking promising. 

It’s Been A Long, Hard Road To France . . . But Now Wales Are Ready To Do Something Very Memorable At This World Cup

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

It’s World Cup time and I’m convinced Wales can do something pretty special.

05.11.22 – Wales v New Zealand – Autumn International Series – Gareth Anscombe of Wales

The warm-up matches are over, the squads have been trimmed, and now it’s all about what happens in France over the next few weeks.

Believe me, this Wales squad is capable of a campaign to remember. As far as the bookies and the pundits are concerned, we are flying in under the radar and that suits us just fine.

There have been challenges and holes in the road on this journey, for sure, but that’s always the way. In particular, there are always injuries suffered in training, and in the preparation matches, and I’ve suffered one myself.

I injured my right thumb near the end of the training camp in Turkey.

I was soon able to run and keep up my conditioning work, but I just wasn’t able to catch and pass a rugby ball.

That was obviously hugely frustrating, but you can’t stop training for tournaments because of the risk of injuries. You also need games in order to get match-hardened and generate self-belief as a team, so injuries are part and parcel of being a rugby player.

It’s tough to take, though, when you’ve come back from much bigger, more serious injuries and then a silly little thing like a thumb gets in your way.

I have to admit that back in November I wasn’t too convinced we were on schedule to pull up any trees at this tournament.

The coaches were being changed, the regions were all in a total mess, and there were players literally not knowing if they were going to be playing the next weekend because of the contractual situation.

That was bound to take its toll and it clearly had an effect on players in this squad.

We then had new coaches – with Warren Gatland returning for the Six Nations – and although it was a difficult tournament, I always felt the team would improve the longer we spent together.

We have seen that so many times before under Warren.

Part of the issue is that players coming in from regional rugby to the national squad are not quite at the level they need to be. It’s something that needs to be addressed.

When guys come in, they need to be hitting the ground, running. Instead, it takes them a week or two to get back up to the standards of Test rugby.

I think from the last few weeks, though, you can see a group that’s starting to understand a little bit more about what we’re trying to do and accomplish.

There’s still tons that we can work on and improve, but the group is starting to get a real understanding of what the coaches want and now we are just trying to add little adjustments to our game.

Clearly, the win over England just added a nice feeling that we were on the right path and a fair way down it.

It reinforced my own view that if we can keep clear of too many injuries, then on any given day, this Wales team are capable of beating any side in the world.

Are we as strong as the Wales squad of four years ago that reached the semi-final in Japan? Probably not.

But this squad has massive potential, with a whole load of young players who can grow in confidence and really assert themselves over the next few weeks.

I’ve seen a bit of Mason Grady and he’s an incredible athlete. Max Llewellyn is the same and although I didn’t know much about Joe Roberts before this camp, I’ve been really impressed.

I’ve said it before, to miss the 2019 tournament with an injury just beforehand was gut-wrenching. In 2015, I came in late after breaking my ankle and it didn’t feel as if I was quite part of things.

So, it’s a seriously intense experience and it’s probably just as well that it’s only every four years because it’s so demanding in every way, physically and mentally.

In Wales, the whole country gets behind us and if we get away to a good start, build that momentum of support behind us, who knows what can happen?

As a player, it’s important that you don’t get caught up too much in the highs and you don’t get too down with the lows. It takes consistency to be successful and you have stay grounded.

We have a very difficult opening game against an improving Fiji and the focus has to be on winning that very tough game, before we move on.

I think there are multiple teams who can win this World Cup – France, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, England, Australia and ourselves. Argentina and Scotland too.

That’s never really been the case before. It’s never been this wide open.

All of those teams are capable of beating the others in a one-off, so I think from a fans’ point of view this could be just an incredible World Cup.

I have to say, the All Blacks have really impressed me in recent weeks. They have changed their game, adapted to alterations in the way the game has gone and they look strong again. Plus, they always have players with the X-factor.

We have some of those ourselves, so there is nothing for Wales to feel scared of.

These young players, like Louis Rees-Zammit, are so confident, too.

That reflects the way the game has changed, and maybe society. When I was a young kid coming into the Wales team, you weren’t really encouraged to speak up.

It was more about listening. These young kids now are so comfortable in their own skin that they’re not afraid to speak up from the start and contribute.

Gats is an old school coach, but he knows how to get the best out of players, older and younger. He can challenge you, even when he doesn’t do it directly and that’s a great skill.

The boys have been challenged, pushed, driven and they have responded.

Wales are ready for this World Cup – ready to reward the fans for their amazing support, ready to make their families proud after all the sacrifices, and ready to be successful at the biggest rugby tournament of them all.

08.07.23 – Wales Rugby World Cup Training camp in Fiesch, Switzerland – Gareth Anscombe during training

Allez, les rouges.

Geraint Thomas Ready For The Strain in Spain

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist


Geraint Thomas insists he can get his head down and pedal hard this weekend as he has the rest of his life “to chill and drink cocktails.”

Thomas lead Ineos Grenadiers into the Vuelta a España, knowing his career is in its late stages.

But Wales’ 37-year-old former Tour de France winner has already proved he can be a contender after he finished as runner-up at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year.

“It’s easy to commit now I know I’m at the end of my career,” said Thomas.

“I might as well commit to this and see what I can do. Then I’ve got the rest of my life to chill and drink cocktails.”

The race gets underway on Saturday in Barcelona, kicking off with a 14.8-kilometre team time trial before heading into the mountains, finishing on Sunday 17 September in Madrid.

Thomas, starts La Vuelta for only the second time, marking his 19th career Grand Tour.

He will be supported by a strong and experienced group of racers, including former Tour de France and Giro d’Italia winner Egan Bernal.

Thomas added: “It has been strange building up to two peaks in the season, it’s not something I normally do.

“It’s usually just one big hit and then a la playa, but we will see. I’m looking forward to it. I’m feeling good, and the team here is good and motivated.”



Welsh sprinting star Jeremiah Azu gets his chance to shine on Friday night at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest.

Azu is part of the Great Britain relay squad that will run in the heats of the 4x100m relay, with the finals scheduled for Saturday night.

Azu did not get picked for the 100m individual competition, but is part of a talented relay squad along with Zharnel Hughes, Jona Efoloko, Adam Gemili, and Eugene Amo-Dadzie.

The 22-year-old Azu became the first Welshman to win the UK sprint title since Ron Jones achieved the feat in 1969 when he won last summer.



Wales and Austria had their Friday morning match halted for bad weather at the EuroHockey Championshiops in Germany.

The match was poised at 1-1, when play was suspended due to thunderstorms.

Wales had lost their previous match, 8-1 to the Netherlands.

Feet Up For Wales as They Check Out The Aussies And Fijians

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Wales have finished their World Cup warm-up matches, so they can spend this weekend with their feet up, checking out the opposition.

Warren Gatland’s squad will be able to view two of their Pool C rivals in Australia and Fiji, who are both in action.

Fiji take on England at Twickenham, where Courtney Lawes will captain the Red Roses on his 100th cap, while hooker Theo Dan makes his first start.

Lock Will Skelton will lead Australia for the first time when he captains an inexperienced team against hosts France in the Wallabies’ final warm-up fixture in Paris on Sunday, a daunting prospect for a side yet to win this year.

Coach Eddie Jones has ditched his established players for the World Cup and pinned hopes on the exuberance of youth after Australia lost all four games since he returned to the helm for a second stint in charge this season.

The starting XV has 258 caps between them while 12 of the matchday squad of 23 are sitting on less than 10, the perfect illustration of their lack of experience at international level.

“We are a young side, who is ambitious and in the process of developing our game,” Jones said.

“To play against the tournament hosts in front of a massive crowd at the venue for the (World Cup) final is perfect preparation for us.”

It has been a difficult build-up to the tournament for Jones, who has had a testy relationship with the media over his trumpeting of the team’s improvement, which has yet to be reflected in victories.

One Wales player who has seen it all before – and knows how to gauge the strength of teams – is flanker Dan Lydiate, who played at the 2011 World Cup and the 2015 version, but missed the 2019 tournament through injury.

The 33-year-old 70-cap forward is determined to claim a place in the starting line-up in France, which would be some achievement given he made his World Cup debut against South Africa 12 years ago.

He adds: “When we have trained, we have had two competitive packs going at each other tooth and claw, literally every session.

“It can only bring out the best in us. There will certainly be some headaches for the coaches when they do the final selection.

“There is uncertainty in not knowing where you lie in the pecking order but it’s not a bad thing because it brings out the best in players.”

Lydiate’s former region, the Ospreys, have confirmed they are to play their home United Rugby Championship (URC) game against the Sharks at Harlequins’ home ground, The Stoop, on Friday, 3 November.

It is the same weekend Wales are due to face the Barbarians at the Principality Stadium.

URC chief executive Martin Anayi says the competition is “very happy” to support the initiative as “rugby needs to embrace new ideas and innovative events”.

He added: “In addition to those who travel from Wales, we are fully aware of the large URC fanbases living in London and we hope that the interest from Welsh and South African supporters in London can make this a really special event.”

Tammy and Welsh Fire Are One Step From Lord’s Final

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Welsh Fire Women stand on the brink of a remarkable turnaround in the Hundred this weekend.

After being mostly written off as no-hopers after two undistinguished seasons, Tammy Beaumont will lead her side into Saturday’s Eliminator against Northern Superchargers at the Kia Oval, with plenty of confidence they can make the tournament final.

That would be at Lord’s on Sunday against Southern Brave.

“I remember being incredibly emotional last season, it had not gone anywhere near how we would have liked it to,” says Beaumont.

“I also received a lot of abuse online and I took things to heart.

“People were saying things like Welsh Fire should not be in Cardiff, it should be back across the river.

“I know I am not Welsh but I feel like I really took on the job to promote Wales as a cricketing place to come and make it a real hub, so I took it all quite personally.

“It took a bad year to create something pretty good this year and the turnaround for me is the most pleasing thing, the feelings this year are just so different and going through that tough time makes this all the sweeter.

“We set ourselves some goals we wanted to achieve and we have ticked so many of them off. We broke the attendance record here at Cardiff and then we broke it again on a weekday, we wanted to bring exciting and inspiring cricket and people are coming out to watch it.”

Claire Nicholas is one of three Welsh players in the squad, along with Kate Cappock and Alex Griffiths.

Nicholas says: “Everyone in our squad has embraced that and also being in Cardiff, eating lots of Welsh cakes.

“Both the Welsh Fire men and women have played some good cricket, entertaining the spectators coming through the door.

“I think our success in the competition is making a huge difference to cricket in Wales, and women and girls’ cricket, especially.”

The Women’s Hundred season has been defined by two firsts for the Welsh Fire – Beaumont’s record-breaking 118 against Trent Rockets and Shabnim Ismail’s hat-trick off the last three balls of the innings to beat Birmingham Phoenix by three runs.

Welsh Fire coach Gareth Breese was a late replacement in the role last season, but the combination of time and lessons learned means they are hugely improved from the first two years.

Now Welsh Fire are ready for the Kia Oval ‘semi-final’ on Saturday and just that one game from a Lord’s Final on Sunday.

It has taken a while, but their success is also moving the dial for women and girls’ cricket in Wales.

No Piroe, But On With The Show For Swansea City

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Swansea City begin their ‘post-Piroe’ era on Saturday when they go to Preston without their star striker Joel Piroe.

The Dutchman – the club’s leading scorer for the past two seasons with over 20 Championship goals in both – was sold to Leeds United on Thursday evening for an undisclosed fee, variously reported as being between £10m to £15m.

In a statement, the Swans said: “Swansea City striker Joel Piroe has joined Leeds United for an undisclosed fee, subject to international clearance.

“The 24-year-old Dutchman leaves after two successful seasons in SA1, scoring at least 20 goals in each campaign.

“Overall, the former PSV Eindhoven player netted 46 goals in 96 appearances for the Swans, with his most recent strikes coming in the Carabao Cup victory over Northampton Town.

“Everyone at Swansea City thanks Joel for his efforts during his time at the club.”

Now, attention falls to finding a replacement with just six days on the  current transfer window remaining.

The Swans are being linked with Aston Villa striker Keinan Davis, who would cost them an expected £2m to £3m.

He managed three goals in 22 starts for Villa before a loan move to Watford last season where he hit seven in 27 appearances.

Piroe’s departure is a huge loss and will have left supporters feeling anxious as the former PSV striker has been their main source of goals for the past two seasons.

Swans head coach Michael Duff is seeking striking options to go alongside Jerry Yates, a £2.5m summer buy from Blackpool.

Duff insists he is pleased with his club’s start, even though they are yet to claim a first Championship victory after three attempts.

“The important thing from my point of view is to see signs of progress from the things we are doing on the training ground,” said Duff.

“We have talked about being harder to beat, we have talked about being better at set plays. With the ball we can be loads better, but it’s about finding that balance between possession and giving up chances.

“It’s about that balance between the two. It takes time to implement things, you cannot create anything without time.

“It is a results-based industry, but we have only lost one game all season, that is the weirdness of football. You just have to keep working, that’s what you need to do.”

While Piroe leaves, Cardiff City defender Perry NG has signed a new contract to remain at the club until 2026.

The 27-year-old said: “My family are happy here and so am I. I love the city and love the club. I’m buzzing to get it done.

“I think this club has good ambition, as you can see with the summer we’ve had. We just have to show it on the pitch now. I can’t wait for the future.

“The fans have been brilliant with me so far. We need to repay their support.”

The deal is a boost for Bluebirds boss Erol Bulut ahead of their home game against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.

Like the Swans, Cardiff are still seeking their first Championship victory of the season.

Newport County enjoyed the best result among the four Welsh Football League clubs last weekend when they won 3-0 at Forest Green Rovers last week and will look to build on that at home to Sutton United on Saturday.

Newport manager Graham Coughlan said: “I am expecting a much different encounter this Saturday, probably a welcome to League Two encounter, probably a little bit of roll your sleeves up, put your tin helmets on and battle.”

Having fought back to earn a dramatic 5-5 draw against Swindon Town, Wrexham continue their League Two readjustment with a trip to Barrow.

Gareth Anscombe And Taulupe Faletau Included in Wales’ World Cup Squad

Harry Corish - Sportin Journalist

Gareth Anscombe and Taulupe Faletau have both earned the faith of Warren Gatland to make Wales’ World Cup squad, despite recent injuries.

The experienced pair were both included in the 33-man group for the tournament in France next month, under captains Jac Morgan and Dewi Lake.

Anscombe is recovering from a thumb injury but has claimed a place as one of three outside-halves alongside Dan Biggar and Sam Costelow.

Faletau is the only specialist No.8 in the squad, although both Aaron Wainwright and Tommy Reffell can also provide cover.

Anscombe and Faletau are the only members of the party who have not featured in any of the three warm-up games.

But there is no place for scrum-half Kieran Hardy, with head coach Gatland deciding to select just two nines in Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies.

Ospreys forwards Morgan and Lake will lead a squad that includes recent international newcomers in wing Rio Dyer, centre Mason Grady and prop Corey Domachowski.

Gatland has chosen a split of 14 backs and 19 forwards for the tournament, with Fiji looming as opening opponents in Bordeaux on September 10.

Gatland has named Lake, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, and his fellow hooker Ryan Elias (hamstring), plus lock Dafydd Jenkins (knee), who at 20 is the squad’s youngest player.

Centre George North, meanwhile, will head to his fourth World Cup, putting himself in illustrious company alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Brian O’Driscoll, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

North and his midfield colleague Grady can also provide wing cover, with Gatland opting for five back-three players – Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Louis Rees-Zammit, Josh Adams and Dyer.

Also heading to France are Scarlets centre Johnny Williams, who watched the last World Cup four years ago from a hospital bed while he was treated for testicular cancer, Scarlets fly-half Sam Costelow and former England prop Henry Thomas.

Costelow will provide the cover for a third scrum-half, even though the Scarlets No.10 has only played in the position as cover during matches and not as a starter.

Other players from Gatland’s training group who did not make the final squad include Ospreys wing Alex Cuthbert, Gloucester centre Max Llewellyn, Cardiff prop Keiron Assiratti, Ospreys lock Rhys Davies and Scarlets back-row forward Taine Plumtree.

Gatland said: “The toughest part of the job is always selection and this is particularly the case when it comes to picking a Rugby World Cup squad.

“Over the past three months the whole group of 48 players in the wider training squad have been outstanding in terms of attitude and effort, so having to reduce the squad down to the final 33 has been really hard.

“There have been some close final decisions in the last 36 hours.

“But we can only take 33 players and those we have selected we think offer a good combination in terms of talent and experience.

“We have a few more training sessions here in Wales before we depart for France on September 3 and we cannot wait to get out there and get started in this tournament. We look forward to what lies ahead for this group.

“This will be a very proud moment for these players, their families and friends and I would like to congratulate them all on the achievement.”

Wales senior men’s squad for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France



Taine Basham – Talywain | Dragons (13 caps)

Adam Beard – Birchgrove | Ospreys (47 caps) (2019 RWC)

Elliot Dee – Newbridge | Dragons | (43 caps) (2019 RWC)

Corey Domachowski – Gilfach Goch | Cardiff Rugby (2 caps)

Ryan Elias – Carmarthen Athletic | Scarlets (34 caps) (2019 RWC)

Taulupe Faletau – RTB Ebbw Vale | Cardiff Rugby | (100 caps) (2011 RWC)

Tomas Francis – Malton & Norton | Provence | (72 caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)

Dafydd Jenkins – Porthcawl | Exeter Chiefs (7 caps)

Dewi Lake – Valley Ravens | Ospreys (9 caps)

Dillon Lewis – Beddau | Harlequins (51 caps) (2019 RWC)

Dan Lydiate – Rhayader | Dragons (71 caps) (2011 & 2015 RWC)

Jac Morgan – Cwmtwrch | Ospreys (11 caps)

Tommy Reffell – Pencoed | Leicester Tigers (10 caps)

Will Rowlands – Dragons (25 caps)

Nicky Smith – Waunarlwydd | Ospreys (44 caps) (2019 RWC)

Gareth Thomas – Newcastle Emlyn | Ospreys (22 caps)

Henry Thomas – Bath minis & juniors | Montpellier (2 caps)

Christ Tshiunza – Rhiwbina Squirrels | Exeter Chiefs (7 caps)

Aaron Wainwright – Whiteheads | Dragons (39 caps) (2019 RWC)



Josh Adams – Hendy | Cardiff Rugby (50 Caps) (2019 RWC)

Gareth Anscombe – Ponsonby | Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath (35 caps) (2015 RWC)

Dan Biggar – Gorseinon | Toulon (109 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)

Sam Costelow – Pencoed | Scarlets (4 caps)

Gareth Davies – Newcastle Emlyn | Scarlets (69 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)

Rio Dyer – Risca | Dragons (9 caps)

Mason Grady – Barry | Cardiff Rugby (4 caps)

Leigh Halfpenny – Gorseinon | unattached (100 Caps) (2011 & 2019 RWC)

George North – Llangefni | Ospreys (114 Caps) (2011, 2015 & 2019 RWC)

Louis Rees-Zammit – Rumney | Gloucester Rugby (27 caps)

Nick Tompkins – Old Elthamians | Saracens (28 caps)

Johnny Williams – Rams | Scarlets (6 caps)

Liam Williams – Waunarlwydd | Penlan | Kubota Spears (85 Caps) (2015 & 2019 RWC)

Tomos Williams – Treorchy | Cardiff Rugby (48 Caps) (2019 RWC)