North East Wales

Wrexham in spotlight for Rugby League Four Nations

Aussie fans Nina Finnegan and Jaimee Owen
Image caption Aussie fans Nina Finnegan and Jaimee Owen outside the Racecourse Stadium

All eyes were on Wrexham as the town hosted the Wales-Australia game in rugby league's Four Nations.

The atmosphere built all day outside the Racecourse Stadium, ahead of the 17:45 GMT kick-off.

The 14-56 defeat for Wales marked their final match of this year's Gillette Four Nations competition.

The Racecourse has been the centre of several dramas already this year with the sale of Wrexham FC and the demise of the Crusaders Super League team.

Among the crowds at the ground were friends Nina Finnegan and Jaimee Owen from Bundaberg, Queensland, who are working in Birmingham for the next year.

"I like the people," said Miss Finnegan on her first visit to Wrexham, while her friend correctly predicted a thumping for Wales on the pitch.

Some pubs and hotels in Wrexham said they were busier than normal due to the game, but others said they had seen little if any difference.

Wrexham mayor Ian Roberts, who did not go to the match as he was attending a Remembrance Sunday service, said he was pleased Wrexham's "excellent stadium" was was being put to good use.

Lynda Powell, director of campus management and commercial services at Glyndŵr University - which acquired the Racecourse Stadium earlier this year - said: "A lot of work has taken place at the stadium since it was acquired by the university.

"We hope visitors who may be coming to the ground for the first time since the acquisition will see for themselves our commitment to the Racecourse as a community facility and key part of the region."

Meanwhile, the on-off saga of Wrexham FC's sale to a group of fans is back on track despite another hiccup earlier in the week.

And on Friday the newly-named North Wales Crusaders rugby league team announced they had been awarded a place in the Co-Operative Championship One next season.

'Highlight'

The original Crusaders withdrew their application for a Super League licence in July, citing financial concerns.

They had been involved in developing rugby league in north Wales, the result of which was played out earlier on Sunday at the Queensway International Stadium on the other side of Wrexham town centre.

It hosted a game involving Wales under 18s and England Community Lions which ended in a 29-28 victory for Wales.

Image caption Wrexham FC's goalposts were replaced for the Wales-Australia rugby league clash

For the first time in a number of years, said organisers, the side has been selected from young men from north and south Wales thanks to the success of the North Wales Crusaders under 18s side, formed earlier this year.

Wales coach Stuart Williams, who has coached all but one of the team with the Crusaders Academy over the last two years, said: "It's been a very tough year for us and this win today is a credit for the hard work that everyone has put in all year."

Matt Pritchard, north Wales development officer for Wales Rugby League, said: "Rugby league is developing rapidly in north Wales and we are looking to expand this across the region.

"Sunday's Four Nations match between Wales and Australia at the Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium helps to highlight the developments out there and gain more interest for the game."

Ahead of that game, the newly formed Wrexham Bradley Raiders junior Rugby League club played a competitive training match before becoming the official ball boys and girls at the main match.

At Glyndŵr University there is a Rugby Football League-run course being held to help new north Wales community clubs. They hope to kick-off a new competitive league in 2012.

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