Support from an adventure centre is helping a new generation of rugby players reach for the stars.
Adventure Parc Snowdonia has signed an agreement to sponsor Rygbi Gogledd Cymru (RGC) which was set up to fast-track the region’s brightest rugby talents.
As part of the arrangement, players are able to enjoy the huge range of facilities at the pioneering complex in Dolgarrog in the Conwy Valley – including riding the waves in the UK’s first inland surfing lagoon
The club attracts players from across North Wales and Mid Wales, from as far afield as Newtown and Llanfair Caereinon.
The aim is for senior RGC players to make it all the way to the Wales international team.
Ex-RGC prop Sam Wainwright, from Bodelwyddan, has blazed the trail by making a spectacular debut for the senior team in the second test against the Springboks in South Africa over the summer.
Coming on as a late substitute, the rookie anchored the scrum well and won a late penalty that led to the winning try by winger Josh Adams.
Sam’s heroics in Bloemfontein have provided extra motivation for the new crop of players coming through the ranks at RGC.
Nearly 40 members the Under 16 squad took a break from training at their base at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay for a fun-packed afternoon at Adventure Parc Snowdonia, tackling the Ninja assault course and having a go at surfing.
Among them was flanker Zach Manley, 15, a pupil of Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph, who started out at Rhyl Rugby Club just like Sam Wainwright.
He said: “I’ve been with RGC since last December and my ultimate dream is to play for Wales like Sam Wainwright.
“There’s a great set up at RGC and a great bunch of lads as well.
“I’ve been to Adventure Parc Snowdonia a few times. It’s an amazing place and I really enjoy it.
“I’ve tried the surfing before. It’s great fun and I’ve loved it here this afternoon.”
Zac McKenzie, 15, who lives in Beaumaris and attends Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge, can play at either fly half or centre.
He said: “My ultimate dream is to play for Wales and Sam Wainwright has been an inspiration. I watched him play against South Africa. He’s class.
“I think Adventure Parc Snowdonia is really good. To have this facility so close to where I live is really fantastic.”
Loose head prop Wil Hughes, 14, a pupil of Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin, also had a ball.
He said: “I’ve been playing rugby since I was six and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to join RGC.
“I don’t think I’m a natural at surfing but I had a great time. It was a lot of fun.”
Scrum half Gabriel Speakman, 15, who lives in Mold and attends Rydal School in Colwyn Bay, has been with RGC for three years.
He said: “It’s been a strange time with Covid but it’s really good to get stuck in again and we’ve got a lot of games lined up. I’m really looking forward to them.
“My ambition is to become a professional and play for my country, Wales. Sam Wainwright has shown the way. He’s a great inspiration.
“This is my second visit to Adventure Parc Snowdonia. I love it here.
“I have surfed for quite a while before coming here and this is a great way to get waves without being by the coast.
“I love being in the water and when you’re on the board, the feeling’s great.”
Second row forward, Ifan Lloyd Davies, 15, is a pupil at Ysgol y Gader in Dolgellau is a graduate of the town’s rugby club.
Ifan said: “Joining RGC is a great opportunity. Sam Wainwright has shown the way and like George North he’s a real inspiration.
“Having Adventure Parc Snowdonia on our doorstep is great. I love it here. We’re all enjoying it and it’s helping us bond as a squad.”
Centre Llion Worthington, 15, from Penybontfawr, near Llanfyllin, in Powys, started out with the Cobra Rugby Club in Meifod.
He said: “The pre-season training has gone well and I have learned a lot and developed my passing skills.
“It’s great to be able come to Adventure Parc Snowdonia. I’ve never been here before but it’s really good.
“I really enjoyed doing the Ninja course – we were sweating quarts but it was a lot of fun.”
Head coach Mike Stubbs hails from Ruthin where he followed in his father’s footsteps and played his hometown rugby club.
After a coaching career that’s taken him to different parts of the UK and Australia, he was delighted to return home to North Wales to take up his role with RGC’s Under 16s.
He said: “Things are pretty much back to normal now after Covid and the boys are training two times a week.
“Our plan is to push them all the way through and play professional rugby and at the very least, play for RGC.
“Our dream is to see more lads like Sam Wainwright coming through the pathway and playing international rugby.
“The partnership with Adventure Parc Snowdonia is really positive and it’s great for us to be able to bring the lads here.
“They’re just starting to gel as a group so this will really bring them together. It’s a great team building exercise.
“The facilities at Adventure Parc Snowdonia are incredible and we’re lucky we can make use of the resources here.
“They actually have a few surfing lagoons out in Australia so that people can get regular waves rather than wrestling with sharks but they don’t have this amazing scenery. It’s incredible.”
Adventure Parc Snowdonia managing director Andy Ainscough said: “We were delighted to welcome RGC’s Under 16 squad here today for an afternoon of fun and team building.
“Like RGC, we are an extremely community focused organisation, with a similar ethos and complementary goals.
“There are some exciting young players in the Under 16 set up and we’re hoping that one or more of them can follow Sam Wainwright’s example and fly the flag for North Wales on the international stage.”