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Brynamman celebrates unique rugby double

Brynamman, Carmarthenshire, which has produced Wales's current rugby captains Jac Morgan and Hannah Jones (Pic: Richard Youle)

RUGBY World Cup fever has swept through much of Wales, and they’ve come down pretty badly with it in Brynamman.

Former Ysgol Brynaman pupil Jac Morgan is having a stellar start to the competition for the national side, which he captains jointly with Dewi Lake.

Another of the school’s former pupils – Hannah Jones – captains Wales’s women’s team against the USA on September 30.

There must be something in the water in Brynamman – or maybe it’s just mix of determination, hard work and ability.

Ysgol Brynaman’s caretaker and dinner lady, Sharon Jones, had a bird’s eye view of the talented duo as they made their way through school – Jac the younger by three years. She also happens to be “the most proudest mum in the world”, as Hannah is her daughter.

Ysgol Brynaman caretaker and dinner lady, Sharon Jones, whose daughter Hannah is Wales women’s rugby team captain (Pic: Richard Youle)

“It is a good story,” said Miss Jones, reflecting on how a community of around 2,600 people nestling at the foot of the Black Mountain produced two Wales rugby captains at the same time.

Referring to her daughter, she said: “She was always good at sport – netball, football, hockey, gymnastics. Her favourite day of the year was sports day. She picked rugby in the end.”

She said the young Hannah played at a number of rugby clubs and has been involved with the Wales set-up since she was 16 or 17. The 5ft 6 centre currently has 48 caps.

“She could always read the game really good, and her speed is fantastic,” said Miss Jones. “She watches what she eats. She’s really dedicated.”

Asked if she was surprised about 26-year-old Hannah being selected as team captain last year, she replied: “I think it’s the way that she is, the way she talks to people. They seem to listen to her.”

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And her recollections of the young Jac Morgan? “Amazing player – always with a ball.”

Miss Jones said Hannah and Jac came to the school to speak to pupils, and still lived in Brynamman. Young scrum-half Fredi Knight and inside centre Morgan Thomas, both aged 10 and pupils at the school, have certainly succumbed to the World Cup bug.

“They’re doing great,” said Morgan of Wales’s campaign so far. Asked who he thought was playing particularly well, he replied: “Jac, and (Taulupe) Faletau.” But he reckoned France and Ireland were probably the best two teams in the competition.

Fredi was particularly impressed with Wales’s 40-6 defeat of two-time World Cup winners Australia. “We scored really good tries, and we battered them,” said Fredi. “Everyone played really well.”

A Word Cup message for Jac Morgan at a parking area at Ysgol Brynaman (Pic: Richard Youle)

A few hundred metres away, in the Back Mountain Centre – a one-stop shop for the Upper Brynamman community – it didn’t take much prompting for the names of Jac Morgan and Hannah Jones to enter the conversation.

“It’s unbelievable – to have two rugby captains from the same village,” said customer Mel Morgans. Asked if it had given Brynamman a lift, he said: “It has certainly given rugby a lift here. The village team hasn’t been doing too well. They’re now getting close to winning games and indeed winning games.”

Rugby supporter Mel Morgans, of Brynamman (Pic: Richard Youle)

Mr Morgans, 74, who played second row for Brynaman RFC, said Jac came from good rugby-playing stock. “His father played scrum-half – he was a tidy player,” he said.

Jac played for Cwmtwrch RFC and Amman United Youth as boy and teenager and then spent time at the Scarlets academy before joining Aberavon. Another focus in his life was an apprenticeship with Swansea-based Morganite Electrical Carbon Ltd, but rugby would prevail.

Jac played at an under-20 Junior World Championship with Wales and later captained them during an age-grade Six Nations. He joinedthe Ospreys in 2021.

“He has moved up a level each time,” said Mr Morgans. “Now he has gone up a big step. He has become almost the star of the (Wales) team, and he leads by example. The thing about him is hard work and the determination to succeed.”

Mr Morgans is a governor at Ysgol Brynaman. “Jac was quiet, unassuming,” he said. “It was obvious that his forte was any sport he undertook. He relished any challenge.”

By no means the largest of flankers, 23-year-old Jac has consistently delivered for Wales, earned the respect of his peers, and shown flashes of skill in France, such as kicking out of hand, which many fly-halves would be happy with.

Mr Morgans also paid tribute to Hannah. “Unbelievable,” he said of her rise to captaincy. “There are women on the team that have played more than her and who have more caps.” Clearly she had some stand-out attributes.

Brynamman resident Rosina Slaymaker said she has been watching both Hannah and Jac play for Wales. “It’s an honour for us,” she said of their captaincies. Her friend Valerie Megicks reckoned Wales had “a good chance” in France, based on their dismantling of Australia.

“Jac is a good player and captain – he speaks well and he’s down to earth,” she said.

Lisa Thomas, who works at the mountain centre cafe, said Jac was in the same class as her son George. “A really nice boy,” she recalled.

“I’m proud of him. He’s gone really far. The fact he’s from our village is even better. It’s put us on the map again.”

Lisa Thomas, whose son George was in the same class as Wales men’s captain Jac Morgan (Pic: Richard Youle)

Debbie Jones, who works at the post office and shop, said Wales’s World Cup showing thus far was better than she’d expected. She also took pleasure in Hannah’s success. “It’s brilliant,” she said.

Resident Cerith Thomas – a motorbike and Formula One racing fan – said rugby wasn’t his thing, but that he may put the next Wales match on, against Georgia on October 7, for a few minutes at least. Mr Thomas recalled playing a few games of rugby at school, and that being told to switch from scrum-half to hooker hadn’t gone down well. “I nearly died – all that squashing,” he said. “They said I had to hang there in the scrum. I said, ‘What do you mean, hang there?’ I thought I was going to get ripped apart.”

Carmarthenshire councillor Glynog Davies, whose ward covers Brynamman, said the community was very proud of Jac and Hannah.

Speaking at a meeting of full council, he said the duo had grown up a stone’s throw from one another and had also attended the same comprehensive school in Ammanford.

Cllr Davies said he had been out in France following Wales and had wanted to travel down to Nice to continue the adventure. “Everything good comes to an end,” he said.

But hopefully not Jac and Hannah’s wonderful run.