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The origins of Pontypridd Youth XV

The Club, along with its historian Alun Granfield have been looking into the origins of Pontypridd’s Youth Team. Pontypridd Youth boasts a rich heritage over many decades and there has been lots of players that have pulled on the Youth jersey that have later gone on to to pull on an international jersey as well. Ponty Youth’s history dates all the way back to 1955, as we hand over to Alun to recount their story…

In the 2005 six-nations competition, the Welsh squad contained ten former Pontypridd players, all of whom gained their first international honours while playing for our club. More importantly, five of those players were the product of our youth team: Gethin Jenkins, Kevin Morgan, Michael Owen, Ceri Sweeney, and Martyn Williams. Michael captained the side after the injury to Gareth Thomas and lifted the Grand Slam trophy following their 32-20 victory over Ireland on 19 March 2005.

These five players were just a few of the many great rugby players who started their careers in our Youth XV, which played its first game against St Alban’s on 17th September 1955. The minutes of the club’s AGM at the end of the 1955-56 season recorded that:

‘The Youth side…had done well in their first year. John Gaze and Russell Jones had been selected for the Welsh Youth trials. If the ground difficulty could be overcome, then the club would be assured of a constant supply of first-class playing material.’

Russell Jones went on to play 383 games for the senior team, and this promise of a constant supply of “first-class playing material” would be honoured time and time again in the years to come.

In the years to come the minutes of the AGM continued to record the successes of the Youth XV, and the names of the players who gained representative honours. The reports of youth games that appeared regularly in the Pontypridd Observer also reveal many other famous names who went on to play for the senior team. For example, on 2nd February 1957 the report of a game between Pontypridd Youth and Llandaff Youth told us that our team “won by a try from Joe Smith”.

The five players listed at the start of this article, and others like Neil Jenkins, who all came through our club’s development system, are clear evidence that the system was working back in the days prior to regional rugby. There are worries now that the system has stopped working for some reason, and the recent proposals for restructuring the club game at the top level are meant to be a cure for the problem. Let us hope that the powers-that-be are right.

When I began preparing this article, I started to compile a list of youth team players mentioned in the minutes of the AGM and in the press who went on to have distinguished careers in the senior team. My good friend John Lewis is in there, as are Bob Penberthy, Wayne Evans, Karl Swain, Jeff Hazzard, Roy Hope, and Ian Walsh. However, the list simply got too long, and I stopped reading the press reports after 1973. So, my apologies to all those great players who came through our youth team who are not mentioned here and thank you for all you have done for this great club of ours.

Alun Granfield

To commemorate the history of the Pontypridd Youth team, the Club has rebranded their crest to celebrate the origins of a team that continues to be an integral part of Pontypridd RFC. The Youth will now proudly use the following badge –