RGC 1404: Appetite for more rugby union in north Wales - Mark Jones

By Nick WebbBBC Wales Sport
RGC 1404: Fans celebrate with team after Cup final victory

Former Wales wing Mark Jones says there would be an appetite among north Wales supporters for a higher level of rugby, after coaching RGC 1404 to National Cup success.

RGC beat Pontypridd 15-11 at the Principality Stadium, just five years after their league debut.

"If anyone wants to ramp it up a level, I'm sure there'd be an appetite for it as a spectacle" said Jones.

But he warns that any development has to be done "at the right speed".

He continued: "The support you've seen is a microscopic version of what would be there if it was put on the big stage."

Who are RGC 1404?

Established by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) in 2008, Rygbi Gogledd Cymru or RGC 1404, is currently in its first season in the Principality Premiership, which is the top flight of Welsh semi-professional club rugby.

Having battled to a narrow win over experienced cup campaigners Pontypridd, the Colwyn Bay-based side also qualified for the first tier of the Premiership at its mid-season split at the first time of asking.

Their base at Parc Eirias and training facilities have been developed by the WRU, while under-20 international matches are also played there.

Wales under-20 and Cardiff Blues full-back or wing Rhun Williams is a recent product of the RGC system.

Could there be a north Wales regional team?

Parc Eirias
RGC 1404 play their home games at Parc Eirias in Colwyn Bay

As RGC 1404 play in club rugby, the creation of a north Wales region would require a major restructuring of professional rugby union in Wales.

Currently the only four regional teams, Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff Blues and Newport Gwent Dragons are the only professional outfits in Wales.

They were created in 2003 along with a fifth region, Pontypridd-based Celtic Warriors, who disbanded in 2004.

The regions play in the Pro12, which also comprises teams from Scotland, Italy and Ireland, and are not subject to relegation from the league.

In 2014 they signed a £60m deal with the WRU to secure the future of domestic rugby in Wales and any move to introduce a fifth region in the north of Wales could require a new deal.

Despite this, Jones says regional rugby in the north is a possibility "at some point."

"If you want to grow this, then it's got the legs but you've got to grow it at the right speed and you've got to make sure it's done properly," Jones added.

"I think we're doing that, we've a core of North Walians at the hub of it."

Being able to compete

Maredydd Francis
RGC captain Maredydd Francis lifts the National Cup trophy

Former WRU boss Roger Lewis says the union had actively considered establishing a north Wales region in 2008, but Jones admits his current RGC squad could not compete at professional level.

"If you go regional, you're going to be competing against the Leinsters and the Glasgows, so clearly you've got to add to what we have," he told BBC Wales Sport.

"We've just got to keep the momentum in RGC, keep these young players playing in North Wales at the highest possible level before becoming full-time professionals, that's our purpose at the moment."

RGC captain Maredydd Francis, who has been with the club since their league debut, says North Wales does not lack potential talent.

"You can see from the amount of fans that were here [in Cardiff], it's definitely got the backing from all over north Wales," the second-row said.

"The potential has always been there in north Wales, but now we've got a hub and a club that can put all the youth through into one team."

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