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Birthplace of Welsh rugby celebrated

Lampeter: The birthplace of rugby in Wales
Lampeter: The birthplace of rugby in Wales
Lampeter: The birthplace of rugby in Wales

THE UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY ST DAVID (UWTSD) is preparing to celebrate Lampeter as the birthplace of rugby in Wales with a full day of rugby related events.

On Wednesday, March 23, rugby will be the main focus for both the town and the University with a range of events organised to commemorate Lampeter’s contribution to the sport.

The 2015 /2016 season is the 150th anniversary of the first competitive rugby match ever played in Wales. The game was played on the University’s playing fields in the town and the match was between St David’s College (now UWTSD) and nearby Llandovery College.

It is widely accepted that rugby was introduced to Wales by the Rev. Professor Rowland Williams, who became Vice-Principal of St David’s College in 1850 and who’d played Rugby Football as a student at Kings College, Cambridge.  The Welsh Rugby Union has also given the anniversary celebration its full support, acknowledging Lampeter’s importance to the birth of rugby in Wales.

With articles in the University’s archives featuring former students reminiscing about playing rugby at Lampeter in the 1850s, rugby matches were certainly thought to have been played between students from 1850 onwards, although the first competitive match using the rugby rules wasn’t played until 1866.

A centenary event was held in 1966 that featured a rugby match between St David’s College and an Invitational Welsh XV which featured some of the era’s greats, including former UWTSD Carmarthen lecturer, the late Carwyn James; former UWTSD Carmarthen student, Barry John as well as Wales legend, Delme Thomas, now a fellow of the University.

Fifty years on, the University is planning a full day of events including two special rugby fixtures – one between the University and Town’s Women’s Rugby Teams and another between the University and the invitational side, Welsh Academicals.

A book will be published, written by local historian, Selwyn Walters that will be launched between the rugby matches and a memorial will be unveiled on the University’s campus in the town to commemorate Rowland Williams’ contribution to Welsh rugby.

An exhibition featuring an array of St David’s College rugby related items will also be on display at the University’s Roderic Bowen Library.

“The 2015 / 2016 rugby season is a very special one for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  It marks the 150th anniversary of the first competitive game of rugby played in Wales as well as noting Rowland Williams’ contribution to the sport,” says the Venerable Randolph Thomas, Chair of the University Council.

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“It is our aim to raise awareness of Lampeter’s connection with the game whilst also allowing University staff and students, the people of Lampeter and rugby fans across Wales to find out more about its history and its origin.  We are very proud of the University’s role in the development of rugby and are delighted to be marking the anniversary with a fitting celebration.”