Wales Wheelchair RL head coach Stephen Jones beat a long-standing coaching record a fortnight ago when he took charge of his 26th Welsh international.
From 1991-2000, Clive Griffiths was head coach of the Wales men’s side and led them to semi-finals of two Rugby League World Cups. When he stood down, following a classic World Cup semi-final against Australia where the Welsh shocked the Kangaroos by leading for nearly half of the game, he’d coached Wales in 25 matches.
But after Wales’ win over Ireland on October 8, that figure has been surpassed and Jones has become the longest-serving head coach of an elite Welsh international side, Griffiths having also coached the Wales Students set-up in two different eras.
Taking over in 2016 from Alana Sargent, his first tournament in charge was a “Four Nations” where Wales took second place to England. He’s since guided them to five consecutive Celtic Cup triumphs, adding to the one earlier in 2016 where he was assistant to Sargent.
Jones said: “I didn’t even realise I was getting close to some sort of record. Clive is very much recognised as the idol of all Wales head coaches, so I thought he’d coached the Wales men’s side for a lot longer than that. I’m shocked but I’m really proud to have achieved this.”
Next up for Wales Wheelchair is a World Cup warm-up match against Australia on Saturday 29 October at Cardiff Metropolitan University’s Cymcoed Campus.
Wales Wheelchair are the only Welsh side to have beaten Australia in a full international test match, doing this twice in the 2013 World Cup, and Jones is looking forward to facing them again.
“We’re looking at the Australia game as a launch platform for the World Cup,” he said. “We’ve not played against them since 2017 where we unfortunately lost, but I believe now that we have a much stronger and more experienced squad in depth and we’ll give them a good game.”
Wales Wheelchair v Australia in a Rugby League World Cup Warm-up game is at Archers Arena in the Cyncoed Campus of Cardiff Metropolitan University on Saturday 29 October (kick-off 2pm). Admission is free of charge for all.