This Sunday, the Wales Wheelchair squad do their final preparations before their tour, as they face The Army in a full 80-minute encounter at Cwmbran Stadium (kick-off 1.30pm).
Wales travel to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina at the end of the month to play two full international matches against USA on February 2-3.
Those matches will be the first world-ranking matches that Wales Rugby League has ever played in the Americas, the first time that the Wales Wheelchair side has ever played outside of Britain and France, the first Wheelchair international matches to be played in the Americas and the first two international rugby league matches planned anywhere in the world in 2024.
This Sunday’s match against The Army won’t be capped or count towards the players’ international appearance totals, but it will be a full 80-minute match where Wales head coach Alan Caron is looking to use all 10 of his touring squad. The Wales players will arrive in Cwmbran a few hours before the match for a final pre-tour training session.
The Army are expected to field former Leeds Rhinos and England captain James Simpson, who won 31 caps for his country, his last game being against Wales in the World Cup in 2022. He will come up against his successor at the Rhinos, Jodie Boyd-Ward, who, along with Gary Preece, is one of the two Wales co-captains.
The Army started playing Wheelchair Rugby League in 2019 and competes annually in the autumn inter-services competition against the RAF and the Navy, which is played alongside the men’s and women’s competitions. They are supported by the charity “Soldier’s League”.
Wales head coach Alan Caron said: “This is our final run out for the selected 10 players for the tour and we’ll be using all 10 players, not going down to eight, which is the new rule for international matches. The match will give us a chance to go over some interchange combinations and get some of our newer players, who are not as familiar with the senior players, playing alongside each other.
“After hearing about the Army’s line-up with Simo from Leeds, who won the World Cup with England, Martin Norris, the ex-England captain, and a few who are on the verge of getting on the England squad, I know it’ll be a good run out for us. It’ll be a great game for both sides as they can promote the game as I know they want to get Wheelchair Rugby League into the Invictus Games, which I’m a big advocate of.”
Wales: Phillip Davies, Andrew Higgins, Gary Preece (all Hereford Harriers), Jodie Boyd-Ward (Leeds Rhinos), Mason Baker, Harry Jones (both North Wales Crusaders), Scott Trigg-Turner (London Roosters), Alex Powell (Torfaen Tigers), Martin Lane (Wigan Warriors/Torfaen Tigers), Stephen Halsey (unattached).