Dan 19 | Westwood to lead experienced coaching staff

Wales Rugby League is pleased to announce the appointment of Lee Westwood as our new under 19s Head Coach.

Westwood is currently Assistant Coach of the Warrington Wolves Academy and Reserves, having coached the Women’s side for the previous five seasons, leading them to Super League. Westwood has been involved at the Super League club in various roles in the Scholarship and Academy for 16 years and currently has responsibility for recruitment into the clubs youth pathways.

For the past ten years, Westwood has combined his role at Warrington with coaching amateur club Crosfields, with twelve of his team signing Academy contracts with professional clubs for the 2024 season, including Wales under 16 internationals Kaden Johnson and Junior Westwood.

Westwood will be supported by two assistant coaches – Scott O’Kelly and Garry Dunn.

O’Kelly has previously coached Wales under 16s in 2003, and reignited his involvement in the sport in 2022, establishing Swansea Rams to provide opportunities for youngsters in the area to play rugby league. As a player, he played six times for Celtic Crusaders in 2006, and won nine caps for Wales Dragonhearts – the representative team of the community game in Wales. He also turned out for Wales Students, Welsh Universities, West Wales and GB Students.

Dunn has been involved in the sport as a player and coach for 35 years, including seven years as Head Coach of the Royal Air Force rugby league side, and spent time as Head Coach of the UK Armed Forces. Outside of his involvement with the military, Dunn had two years as an Assistant Coach for Oxford during their time in League One.

Mark Alexander has been appointed as the squad’s physio. He graduated with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy and a Bachelor of Physical Education majoring in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Otago in New Zealand. Following this, he worked as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist in both sport and private practice settings.

Alexander has worked extensively with premier and representative level rugby teams, recently as the Academy Physiotherapist for Otago Rugby, giving him a thorough understanding of acute injury management and sport specific rehabilitation.

Former Cardiff Blue Dragons player, Simon Grisman, is Strength and Conditioning Coach. Grisham brings almost a decade of coaching experience, helping St Peters RFC to secure promotion to the Welsh championship in 2023.

Off-field support will be provided by Neil Baxter in his role as Team Manager.  Baxter has been part of the Warrington Wolves talent identification system since 2009. He was Team Manager for the British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA) between 2002 and 2004 and spent ten seasons as Club Secretary for Bank Quay Bulls, a successful amateur club in Warrington.

Head of Youth, Paul Berry, commented: “I’m really pleased with the staff we’ve been able to appoint for the under 19s.

“There’s a wealth of experience between them, particularly when it comes to identifying and developing young talent. In recent years we’ve seen the Origin programme really begin to bear fruit and there are now a number of Welsh players in Super League systems, be that at Scholarship or Academy level.

“By appointing such a high quality backroom team, we’re confident that we’ll continue to see our young players develop on the international stage, in addition to what they are being exposed to at club level.”

The under 19s will play three fixtures in 2024, hosting Ireland on Sunday 25 August, before a return fixture on Saturday 5th October. The year will conclude with a trip to take on France on the weekend of October 26th/27th. The squad will be announced later on today (Saturday).