Wales Rugby League are pleased to confirm their coaching and backroom staff for the forthcoming Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.
Stephen Jones remains as head coach. With 25 games in charge of Wales so far, that’s over half of the side’s history, Stephen has coached Wales to five Celtic Cup trophy wins. Initially a rugby union player when serving in the RAF, Jones started in rugby league as chairman and coach of community side Wrexham Bradley Raiders in 2010. He started playing Wheelchair Rugby League in 2013 for North Wales Crusaders and is the only player to have played in games number 1, 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100 for the team. In 2014, he was appointed assistant coach of both Crusaders and Wales and was elevated to head coach of both within three years. In 2020, he won the first UK Wheelchair Rugby League Coach of the Year Award after leading Crusaders to a creditable third in the Wheelchair Super League.
Mark Andrew Jones, known to many as MAJ, remains as team manager, a role he’s held with both North Wales Crusaders and Wales since their inception. His dedication and commitment won the Volunteer of the Year award at the 2018 Wrexham Sports Awards. A keen supporter of rugby league in general, Mark also volunteers for Crusaders’ first-team and travels around the world watching Wales’ senior international team, reporting for Forty20 Magazine on the Papua New Guinea v Wales World Cup match in Port Moresby in 2017.
Gary Taylor is the new assistant coach. Living in Wales since 1970, his sporting background was in football, playing for a number of local teams before completing his UEFA coaching and playing licenses and officiating on some high profile European games. After an above knee amputee, he was first introduced to Wheelchair RL after watching a news report about North Wales Crusaders in 2014. He has since been one of the main driving forces in the North Wales Crusaders Wheelchair RL schools programme which has seen him help deliver the sport to local North Wales schools. He won 28 caps for Wales from 2015-21, scoring three tries and nine goals.
Dr Richard Porter has been appointed as Team Doctor for both Wales and France at the Wheelchair World Cup. He works as a registrar in rheumatology and acute medicine. He’s also an independent match day doctor for Premiership Rugby. Out of medicine, he’s interested in Endurance sports including cycling and triathlon (anything with mountains), crossfit, food and cooking – mainly European and Asian.
Sarah De Mello is the new Wales physiotherapist. She has worked with Leeds Rhinos since 2020 across the women, scholarship and academy teams. She currently works with the academy/reserves team and assists within the first team. She also works within a sports physiotherapy private practice in Leeds. She has also worked in Netball and provided session cover for the England women and Academy programmes. Outside of work, she enjoys keeping fit. She plays netball and has started getting into yoga. She is interested in learning about different sports and how practitioners work.
Ian Golden, normally the media manager for all of Wales Rugby League, will be the Wheelchair side’s media manager for the tournament, taking up the position from the Australia friendly on October 29. With over 30 years’ experience as a sportswriter, he first wrote about Welsh rugby league in 2002 with local club Cardiff Demons before being asked to “fill in” for the then media manager Swansea-based Gareth Jones a year later. Apart from having a year out between 2012-13, he has performed this role ever since. Ian also worked as media manager for Celtic Crusaders and South Wales Scorpions during those clubs’ existence. Co-director of sports data company, Sporting Records Online Ltd, he also reports of Welsh international football, was a founding member of England cricket’s “Barmy Army” in 1994 and has published both a book and charity magazine about rugby league in Wales.
Photographing every game will be Ian Lovell. Starting off by photographing the local game in South Wales, primarily for Cardiff Demons, Ian first took charge of the men’s national side’s photography in 2004. Since then, he has photographed Wales all round Europe and the World, travelling to places like Serbia in 2009, France many times, Ireland, Scotland, England, the World Cup in Australia in 2017, before covering every game in the RLWC2021 qualifiers. He continues in the club and community game, having been Celtic Crusaders’ official photographer for four years and South Wales Scorpions’ for seven. He has photographed the Welsh national side at every level and every Welsh Grand Final between 2004 and 2019.
Finally, Steve Jones (not to be confused with the head coach), is the sports chaplain for Wales Wheelchair at the Rugby League World Cup. He has made available through the UK national charity Sports Chaplaincy UK. Steve is a passionate Welshman and rugby league fan who lives in Neath, where in the past he served as volunteer sports chaplain to South Wales Scorpions when they played at The Gnoll. In the past, he has also served as a sports chaplain at RLWC 2013, RWC 2011, Wheelchair RWC 2015, London Paralympics 2012 and at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championships 2018. As one of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup chaplains, he will be on site at all locations. His role is to be available to provide any pastoral, welfare, emergency, spiritual and practical help and support that players and their families may need during the World Cup.
Wales take on Ireland in a warm-up match this Saturday at Calderdale College in Halifax. Kick-off is 2pm and entry is free of charge.