Following the lead of Scotland RL, whose historian Gavin Willacy named his Dream XIII last weekend, our historian Ian Golden has done the same for Wales, selecting a 24-man Rugby League World Cup style squad.
Qualifications: a player must have either won 10 caps for Wales or 10 for Great Britain. What do you think of his selection. Go to Twitter or Facebook to comment.
1 Jim Sullivan
He has to be number 1 in every way. He was Wales’ most capped player for many years plus with 53 test caps (and 133 test goals), there’s no other British born player who’s ever played more international rugby league. His club record with Wigan was alright too with 83 tries and 2,317 goals in 774 appearances!
2 Billy Boston
Often known as the best player never to have played for Wales, he did pull on a Welsh shirt in non test games in the few occasions during his career that Wales fielded a side. However over 500 tries in over 500 games (including 29 tries in 33 full tests) isn’t to be sniffed at.
3 Gus Risman
He went north to Salford when he was just 18 and became a rugby league legend, kicking over 1,600 goals in over 800 professional appearances. Winning 18 Wales caps and played 17 times for Great Britain, international rugby league was a regular occasion for him, both before and during World War 2.
4 Dai Watkins
We’re certainly not going to be short of goal-kickers in this side. Dai, the only player in history to captain Wales and the Lions in both rugby codes, would have been amazing in the centre with Risman, kicking 1,225 goals for Salford alone. He’s in the centre here but he could easily play at full-back or in the halves. Always a great guy to speak to at dinners and social events, he once bought my wife a drink!
5 Clive Sullivan
The first black captain of any British international side, leading GB to the 1972 Rugby League World Cup. He scored more than 1,000 points in his RL career, winning 15 caps for Wales, many of them in the 1975 World Championship, and 17 for GB. Having a road named after him in Kingston Upon Hull proves his legendary status.
6 Jonathan Davies
It’s a shame that he only spent about seven years in rugby league, it seemed longer such is the impact he had on the game for Warrington, Widnes, Wales (9 caps), Great Britain (13 caps) and for clubs in Australia. Jiffy still remains a big supporter of the game.
7 Lee Briers
One Great Britain appearance wasn’t enough but the Lions’ loss was Wales’ gain as the fixtures would often clash. Scared the Australians in the 2000 World Cup as a youngster and became a great leader a decade later. He ended his Wales career with 100 points and his professional career with over 1,000 goals.
8 Jim Mills
If I didn’t put him in the side, he’d probably hunt me down when lock-down is over. Seriously though, he was a tough as nails prop and was always my first choice in the front row. If he played the full 80 minutes, Wales were always tough to beat. A regular in the 1975 World Championship and one of the stars in the win over England in that tournament.
9 Keiron Cunningham
An absolute pleasure to watch in whatever team he played for, and I think I watched the majority of his 29 test caps either at the ground or on TV. One of only two players to score four tries in a game for the Wales men’s side, Keiron won countless trophies in a long club career with St Helens where he scored 175 tries in over 500 appearances.
10 Dai Young
A tough prop and a big favourite of mine in the 1990s. It’s hard to believe that he wasn’t given a chance with Great Britain, but playing for poor Salford and Leeds sides at the time may have hindered him. It’s a shame as he was a Wales and Lions union international and that would have completed the set.
11 Trevor Foster
An amazing player and a gentleman to boot. It was honour to have dinner with him not long before he died. Another player not to have been given enough chances with Great Britain, but a glittering career with Bradford and Wales made up for that. A legend behind the scenes at Odsal after he retired as well, serving in a number of positions, including timekeeper, after saving the club from extinction in the 1960s.
12 Colin Dixon
Despite “just” 16 Welsh caps, Dixon is Wales longest serving international, making his debut in 1963 and his final appearance in 1981 – the gap between his first and last cap is 6,604 days, just 17 days longer than Jim Sullivan. Played in the 1972 World Cup winning side for Great Britain and was part of the Wales side who beat England in the 1975 competition. A tough utility player, primarily second row, with over 700 first class appearances, his grandson Chester Butler is a current Wales international.
13 Kel Coslett
Again he should have been a Great Britain international but was always overlooked. A great servant for St Helens with 49 tries and 1,639 goals in 531 appearances, he won two caps for Wales RU before going onto win 13 for Wales RL. A WRL Hall of Fame member, he’s another who was in the 1975 win over England.
Other squad members:
Elliot Kear (reserve full-back) – Current Wales captain, I saw his potential as a 16-year old with Cardiff Demons. Played English Premiership RU as well as Super League. Dedication is (or should be) his middle name.
Rhys Williams (reserve winger) – Wales RL’s top try scorer and joint record appearance holder. If that’s not enough to get you in the squad, looking like Mo Salah this year certainly earns it!
Bert Jenkins (reserve centre) – First ever captain of a GB Ashes side, he was Wales skipper five times, including our first ever game v England where he scored twice in the win.
Iestyn Harris (reserve stand-off) – Wales’ all-time record points scorer with 165, just part of over 2,500 in his RL career. Only kept out of the 13 by Jiffy and Jim Sullivan.
Kevin Ellis (reserve scrum-half) – His tries won the match for Wales against England in 1995 and then he came back in 2003 to assist us again both on and off the field.
Craig Kopczak (reserve prop) – A solid Super League player with over 300 appearances over the years and another former Wales captain. Could deputise as prop, second row or loose forward.
Tommy Harris (reserve hooker) – A solid hooker with 25 Great Britain caps, some of them in the 1960 Rugby League World Cup where he the Lions were champions.
John Mantle (reserve second row) – I should have never left him out in my original selection. With 16 caps for Wales and 13 for Great Britain, he was an outstanding second row for his clubs.
Ben Flower (reserve loose forward) – One of the best props / loose forwards in Super League over the last decade. He should have never been left out of the last Lions tour down under.
Frank Whitcombe (wildcard) – A very strong prop in his day. All 17 stone of him. Won two caps for Great Britain on the famous 1946 “Indomiatbles” tour to Australia to add to his 14 for Wales.
Lewis Jones (wildcard) – An outstanding utility back for Leeds and one of the few dual code Wales and GB Lions players. Only kept out of the 13 by Davies, Sullivan, Gus Risman and Dai Watkins.
Coach: Clive Griffiths – who else? With nearly ten years at the helm for the Wales men’s side (plus helping Iestyn Harris in his first season), as well as two spells as head coach with Wales Students, coaching all sides to trophies by beating England, he’s the WRL coaching success story.