Dragons on the rise
Wales aiming high with five-year plan
Last Updated: 21/06/12 10:18am
Welsh rugby league revival
They may have lost their sole representative in the Super League last season but optimism is abounding that Welsh rugby league is on the rise.
"We have that five-year plan where we want to be competitive against the best teams in the world."
Iestyn Harris Quotes of the week
Rugby league in Wales suffered a crushing blow last September when the Crusaders, who were first based in Bridgend and then Wrexham, were wound up after three seasons in the Super League.
However, the opening of a new performance centre - which will be the base for the national team - in Deeside last week has raised hopes of a revival of the sport in Wales.
The facilities include an elite strength and conditioning gym, artificial and grass pitches and a spa to help the Welsh teams prepare for matches, as well as a hub for young players to develop their talent.
The scheme is a major component of Welsh rugby league's aspirations of continuing to develop the sport and eventually challenging the world's leading nations.
Wales coach Iestyn Harris told Boots 'n' All: "We are starting to improve as a nation, improve as a side. The finances are starting to increase as well so it allows us to move on with those improvements.
"But certainly we are nowhere near where we need to be. We have that five-year plan where we want to be competitive against the best teams in the world. To do that, we need to increase our player pool and put our efforts into the youth as well."
The performance centre will play a crucial role in bringing young players through to join the likes of Rhys Williams and Rhodri Lloyd, who have made the breakthrough into the national team.
Williams said: "When Iestyn took over there were only about 23 or 24 players at his disposal and now there is well over 70, so that is obviously a good thing for rugby league."
Welsh Rugby League president Mike Nicholas added: "It is a far cry from when I was involved in the game. It is more professional obviously because it is full time.
"We are doing a superb job here, concentrating on the youth. It is all about timing for us and bringing players through. We are working on it constantly."
The centre will also host players from the North Wales Crusaders Academy, such as Owain Brown, who is excited by the opportunity to train and play at the Deeside site.
He said: "Having a permanent base is going to help out hugely for everybody. It is available for all age groups as well, which is fantastic.
"There is a lot of interest in north Wales and it is about getting more and more people aware of it. Everyone who tries the game loves it."