Sunday will truly mark the end of an era for the Welsh Exiles as kitman and secretary Terwyn Williams steps down after 26 years.
In that time Williams has helped identify and nurture a veritable who’s who of young Welsh qualified talent, helping them take the next step in their rugby playing careers. It’s an impressive list, which includes the likes of Tom Shanklin, Alex Cuthbert, Colin Charvis, Huw Bennett, Jonathan Mills, Ben Broster, Gerard Ellis, James Wellwood, James Ireland, William Kaye, James Merriman, Tom Brown, Will Waldron, Nick Griffiths, Johnny Williams, Hugo Ellis, Christian Lewis-Pratt, Rhys Howells, Tom Williams and Adrian Jarvis, and worked alongside coaches of the calibre of Terry Cobner, Mike Gosling, John Davies, Martin Jones, Adrian Davies.
On Sunday, though, the Welsh Exiles U18s take on their Irish counterparts KO 2pm and rather appropriately at Old Deer Park, as Williams finally calls time on 26 loyal and selfless years of service.
It’s sure to be an occasion full of mixed emotions for the retired school teacher from Lampeter in South West Wales, who was honoured for his longstanding service to the Welsh Exiles and London Welsh RFC (45 years) by the Rugby Union Writer’s at their annual awards night in January – Dan Carter announcing the award with Jamie Roberts on hand to present it.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Welsh Exiles and it’s been a tremendous journey because of the wonderful people I’ve met, whether they be coaches, players or parents,” said Williams. “And I’ve been everywhere with them; I’ve toured Germany, Holland, Scotland, and done rugby camps at clubs, universities and colleges up and down the country.
“One of my favourite stories is about Hugo Ellis, who came through at St Benedicts School in Ealing and is now at Rosslyn Park. The Welsh Exiles were playing Scottish Exiles U16 at Northampton Casuals RFC and a Wales selector came to watch. The Wales U16 squad had already been selected, but afterwards he said ‘I don’t know who that Number 8 is, but we’ve got to have him’. Not only did Hugo go on to play for Wales U16 that season, he was made captain.
“Alex [Cuthbert] attended one of our screenings sessions at Ledbury RFC and registered and trained with us. He then toured with Public School Wanderers RFC to Cyprus and was player of the tournament, and I then sent an email to the WRU telling them about him. Alex played in a couple of Sevens tournaments that summer before moving to Cardiff Metropolitan from Hartpury College and he went straight into the Wales Sevens side, and as Alex will say himself the rest is history.
“But while I may be finishing as Welsh Exiles kitman and secretary, I’ll be carry on with London Welsh RFCC as long as I possibly can.”
Established by the Welsh Rugby Union, the objective of the Welsh Exiles programme was to identify, recruit and develop Welsh qualified players who were based outside Wales, Terwyn’s association with the Welsh Exiles goes back to their very first game against Irish Exiles in 1990 at London Irish’s old ground, The Avenue in Sunbury.
Then London Welsh Chairman Brigadier Rolph James was appointed as its first chairman, Peter Taylor was secretary, Dafydd Gwynfor Jones was team manager, and former Welsh International and British Lion Terry Cobner was the team’s first coach.
Williams was a keen spectator that day at The Avenue, but by the time the Welsh Exiles’ second game came around he was kitman.
“The next game they played was at Old Deer Park and they had no stuff at all. As I was kitman for London Welsh they asked me if I would turn up on the Sunday and lend them rugby balls, water bottles, tackle shields and so on. That’s how it all started, and I did it for every match for the next 26 years,” recalled Williams, who has served as secretary for the last ten years.
Williams may be standing down, but his support for the Welsh Exiles and what is represents remains steadfast – an organisation supported by the WRU to provide a programme whereby Welsh qualified male and female players living outside the principality can play regional rugby in Wales and potentially gain international representative honours.
“The Welsh Exiles most certainly still has a role to play today – it’s an extremely important organisation. We must give Welsh qualified boys outside of Wales an opportunity,” said Williams.
“Being involved with the Welsh Exiles these past 26 years is something I’m really proud of. Though our community work we’ve got boys involved in the Welsh system who people would not have known were Welsh qualified. The Welsh Exiles has given a lot of those boys their identity.”
Terwyn Williams Welsh Exiles Celebration Lunch
Before Sunday’s game there will be a special lunch taking place at Old Deer Park to celebrate Terwyn’s contribution to the Welsh Exiles. 12pm for 12:30pm, £15 per person, open to all. To book email firstname.lastname@example.org
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