Mark Jones and his Cymru C squad can expect a warm welcome in Caernarfon this evening (30 March) as the third International Challenge Match against England takes place at The Oval.
The much-anticipated fixture provided great entertainment in 2018 and 2019 when it was played in Barry and Salford respectively, and while Cymru are looking for their first win in this popular addition to the domestic and international calendar, previous performances have more than shown that Jones' side are capable of claiming a memorable result with a passionate North Wales support behind them.
Cymru were defeated 3-2 at Jenner Park in March 2018 before the side played out an impressive 2-2 draw against their opponents a year later. The pandemic meant that the annual match could not take place during the last two years, and the changes that have been made to the Cymru squad emphasise the expanding pool of talent that Jones has to choose from in the domestic game.
Jones has turned to youth over experience this time around as a new generation are drafted into his 20-man squad.
“It was a very difficult decision to leave players out,” Jones explained to Sgorio recently. “The challenge is absolutely gigantic, but it's a great challenge to be involved in especially for these youngsters and hopefully they're going to look forward to it, stand up and produce on the evening.
"If any manager or any set of players want to play anywhere in Wales against England it has to be at The Oval. We need the Cofis and everybody behind us as much as they can.”
All 20 players selected are from 11 of the 12 JD Cymru Premier clubs, with only relegated Cefn Druids not represented in the final squad. Caernarfon Town host the fixture and have two players involved in Dion Donohue and Darren Thomas.
In addition to his playing squad, Jones also confirmed his management team for the match and he will be assisted by departing Cardiff Met manager Christian Edwards and former Carmarthen Town boss Neil Smothers, while Neil Ebbrell of Connah's Quay Nomads will take on the role of goalkeeping coach.
The match offers a valuable opportunity to showcase the talent that exists within the JD Cymru Leagues and to promote the domestic game to a new audience. The spirited and impressive performances from Cymru in the last two fixtures against England certainly made a positive impression on those unfamiliar with the club game in Wales.
In Mark Jones, Cymru have a manager who knows the league and its players better than anyone, and the former Port Talbot Town and Carmarthen Town boss remains one of the most popular and recognisable figures in the domestic game through his work with Sgorio.
Meanwhile, Paul Fairclough will once again take charge of the England C team and has named a talented and experienced 16-man squad.
England C had previously only selected U23 players for their squad, but have now removed that restriction and will be a far stronger outfit for the change.
“The last two encounters between the two sides have provided plenty of entertainment and a platform for the players to progress their careers,” said Fairclough when the match was announced. “So we’re looking forward to what should be an exciting game for all involved.”
You can watch the match, which gets under way at 7pm, live on Sgorio's Facebook and YouTube from 6:45pm.