Llandovery RFC, the Drovers, is one of those rugby clubs that is truly embedded in the area. Over its proud 131year history it has often punched above its weight, and head coach Lyndon Lewis has been speaking about why things are now starting to go so right for the club.
“We’ve got maximum points so far this season, so really, we couldn’t be happier”.
But what exactly over the last couple of seasons has caused such a turnaround in results for this club?
“We’ve invested in youngsters over the last four years, there’s a really good environment for players to develop, …we’ve got a good group of players and coaching staff so really the whole package is working. We’re very fortunate to have a hard working board of directors who are supportive and honest especially chairman Handel Davies and club president Phil Davies. Without people like that we couldn’t keep driving standards up”.
It’s interesting the comment about driving standards up. It has long been the mission in Welsh rugby to improve the quality of the Welsh Premiership in order to enable players to make the step up to international and now regional rugby more easily, and Lyndon Lewis was firmly of the opinion that it was working.
“I think its improving year on year. You can see evidence of that by players going straight from premiership to regional to international rugby. If it wasn’t for the premiership they wouldn’t be in the condition or at the standard capable of doing that within a season”.
With talk of regional rugby, over the last couple of seasons Llandovery players have been making more and more appearances for their regional team the Scarlets. With talk of whether or not the regions have been a success, it’s interesting to discover just how much of an involvement the Scarlets have with one of their feeder clubs.
“... we have weekly contact with Scarlets coaching staff Garan Evans and Simon Easterby. It means there’s a clear development path for player movement and development. There’s always an open invitation for the Scarlets to come to Llandovery …”
But when you read the sometimes grumblings of other clubs, with the murmurs of discontent having their players called up at short notice to play for their region, is this something Lewis sees as a problem with the Drovers?
“We’ve got to remember where in the food chain we are, we’re here to develop players who hope to go on to regional then international rugby and we play a major role in that full stop. If you look at the players that have been involved with Llandovery, like …. Kieran Murphy and Adam Warren – both got man of the match awards in their first games for the Scarlets after making the step up from Llandovery. The close link with the Scarlets is there and if we feel that a player is playing well then we point them in the direction of the Scarlets…”
Emyr Phillips is another player you could add to that list, as well as international star George North. It’s easy to forget where these players come from when they’ve had so much exposure at the highest level, but it’s clear when speaking to Lewis that he believes that it’s the structures in place in clubs like Llandovery, that allows players to excel when they move up in the game.
Another club in the region that has well been known to be the prime club supplying players to the Scarlets is that of Llanelli RFC and they are Llandovery’s opponents this Saturday and its set to be a thrilling local derby. Lewis made mention of a few of the players he thinks will be worth keeping an eye on.
“Well along with Rhodri Williams there’s Chris Knight on the wing and Jack Roberts at centre, they’ve both been in great form but it’s hard to choose really when there’s been so many playing so well”.
What this weekend will bring is two sides on form, two sides full of youngsters from the local area, and two sides that are committed to expressing themselves on a rugby pitch. With such a good environment both on and off the pitch at Llandovery they will be hoping to keep their fine form going. Their coach concedes it’s far too early in the season to be getting excited about results, but with this match being a local derby, it’s definitely not the one they would want to end their winning streak.