Red shirt duo, SSgt Jade Mullen (AGC (SPS)) and Bdr Bethan Dainton (RA), have had big news this week.
Fresh from leading the Army to a win over Sweden, SSgt Mullen has been named in a 42-player Welsh Rugby Union Development squad which will be competing in a new cross-border competition which kicks off this weekend.
SSgt Mullen has been on the Wales radar for some time, having played Sevens in the summer of 2021 and then being called into the 15-a-side training squad later in the same year, and this selection represents another opportunity to impress.
The Celtic Challenge has been put together in partnership with World Rugby to offer Wales, Scotland and Ireland an opportunity to bridge the gap between league rugby and the international game.
Initially there will be one team from each nation, who will play each other on a home-and-away basis.
The Welsh team plays the Scottish Thistles at Scotstoun in Glasgow on Sunday, and Head Coach Mike Hill is looking forward to seeing the group take steps forward.
“We’ve been really impressed as coaches and the players have really bought into what we’re trying to do,” he said. “There has been huge improvement in a short space of time and given the difference in age and experience across the squad, the players have made a real effort to gel and get to know each other. We are working closely with club and University coaches both in Wales and across the border and while more than 60 players have trained with us already, the door is certainly not closed.
“The programme is already paying dividends in terms of talent identification and allowing players to develop within a performance environment. There are certainly a number of girls who could well step up to the next level of rugby from this group. The matches will provide invaluable experience in terms of preparation, travelling as a group and performing against teams from other nations. There will be no pressure on the girls for results at this stage. It’s all about development and asking the players to show us what they can do with a smile on their face. Hopefully then, some good performances will follow, results too but that’s certainly not the key factor this season.”
Captain and Vice Captain, Jade and Bethan with the Army v Navy match trophy and Inter Service trophy at Twickenham in May 2022.
Image © Army v Navy Match
Meanwhile Bdr Dainton, who became a dual-code international when she played for Wales Rugby League against England last summer, will be taking on the best players in the country as part of the Leeds Rhinos squad which will be looking to retain its Super League title this year.
She is one of three Army players to have put pen to paper with the reigning champions, who begin their campaign against York City Knights in April.
Bdr Dainton, who will remain eligible for selection for the upcoming Inter-Services Championship, is relishing the challenge in front of her.
“It’s great to be joining the Rhinos,” she said. “The team have been really welcoming and I can’t wait for the season to start. I made the switch from Rugby Union to League with the Army and I really enjoy playing League. It suits my style of play, it’s fast and you have to be fit to play and have good with ball handling skills.
“I’ve been training with Leeds for a couple of weeks and it’s been really good. We have done a lot of fitness, but it’s been nice to be around a different bunch of players. I know the team are ambitious and want to win more silverware next season and I am looking forward to playing my part.”
Words © New Dogs, Old Tricks
Header and Featured Image © Army v Navy Match