The squads have been named for the eighth Wheelchair Celtic Cup, which takes place at the Oriam Performance Centre, Edinburgh on Sunday. Wales are the holders, having won all the seven tournaments they have entered, Ireland beating Scotland in the inaugural encounter in 2015.
The Welsh, whose opening game against Ireland will be their 50th wheelchair international – second only behind England – have Alex Powell on debut while Harry Jones is set to become the most capped player for an individual Wales side, as well as the world’s most capped player.
Alan Caron takes over as head coach for a second stint, Stephen Jones moving to team manager. “We’re going through a full transition of how we move forward,” said Caron. “Hopefully we can retain a Cup that means so much to us. Ireland will show a lot of promise and Scotland are moving up the ranks, especially now they have a Wheelchair Premier League.”
The hosts give debuts to former BBC Newsround presenter Martin Dougan, who has previously played Wheelchair Basketball for Scotland, Calum Davidson who has taken up Wheelchair RL after injury ended his rugby union playing career, and Olivia Fulton, a former Scotland Lacrosse national team player. Graeme Stewart, heritage number 1, looks to become their most-capped player and Daniel Grant is named as the new captain.
Head coach, Mark Roughsedge, noted: “We come into the Celtic Cup on the back of a World Cup that has launched the sport to new levels and has seen the birth of a Scottish premiership, a dedicated league in Scotland and two new clubs, players from which we are able to call into the squad for the first time. This is the next step in the programme we’re developing in Scotland.”
Ireland head coach Phil Roberts, in his first game in charge since taking over from Damian McCabe who switches to team manager, names a number of new players. He has called up four debutants, Joe Calcott, Mel Griffith, Cian Horgan and Matt Wooloff from Wigan, who switches allegiance after playing for USA in the RLWC, and includes two teenagers, Cian Horgan and Oran Spain, who made his debut in the World Cup.
“I am incredibly excited to see this team in action,” Roberts commented. “A couple of our young debutants have yet to play a match, but their raw talent could not be ignored. Having half of our squad on each side of the Irish Sea brings challenges but we’ve had record numbers at training in Dublin and our goal for a domestic wheelchair competition in Ireland is on track. The Celtic Cup provides us with an opportunity to measure our progress.”
WHEELCHAIR CELTIC CUP SCHEDULE – Sunday 18 June, Oriam Centre Edinburgh
Scotland v Ireland (kick off 12pm)
Wales v Ireland (2pm)
Scotland v Wales (4pm)
Calum Davidson, Olivia Fulton (Edinburgh Giants), Paul Hartley, Neil Johnston, Pete Lauder, Graeme Stewart, Cadyn Thomson, John Willans (Glasgow Rugby League) Daniel Grant, Michael Grant (Gravesend Dynamite) Martin Dougan (Rochdale Hornets) Callum Young (Warrington Wolves)
Peter Johnston (C), Rick Rodgers (Argonauts), Joe Calcott (Halifax Panthers), Toby Burton-Carter (Warrington Wolves), Matt Wooloff (Wigan Warriors), Paddy Forbes, Mel Griffith, Cian Horgan, James McCarthy (VC), Phil Roberts, Oran Spain (unattached).
Gary Preece, Martin Lane, (Hereford Harriers), Scott Trigg-Turner (London Roosters), Harry Jones, Lucie Roberts, Mason Baker, Stephen Halsey, Stuart Williams, (North Wales Crusaders), Alex Powell, Lee Sargent, (Torfaen Tigers), Mark Williams, (Wigan Warriors)