OK... so the US is out of the World Cup and Wales didn't make it this time around BUT there is another international sporting event coming up soon in which Wales will most definitely be represented. The Welsh Lacrosse team landed in the USA on Wednesday for the 2014 World Lacrosse Championships in Denver Colorado.
We sincerely hope that AmeriCymru members in or near Denver will turn out to support the team details here . If you dont live in Colorado you can watch Wales play live on ESPN. Their first televised match is against New Zealand on July 13th schedule here AmeriCymru spoke to team coach, Dan Funnell about this years competition and the squad which will fly the flag for Wales.
AmeriCymru: Can you tell us something about the history of the team? How did there come to be a Welsh lacrosse team and how did you become involved with it?
Dan: Lacrosse has been played in Wales since the early 1900s and has grown steadily until the last decade when development has accelerated. The first national side was selected in 1992 and our first full international was a defeat to Scotland – but the game has been played in Wales since the early 1900s.
I have had the fortune to have been part of all levels for Wales as a player since 1999, and as a coach at U19 and senior level and I was proud to captain Wales from 2003 to 2008. I was appointed Head Coach in 2012
AmeriCymru: For people who are new to lacrosse, can you tell us a little about the game and the World Lacrosse Championship?
Dan: The game was originated by native North American Indians who called it baggataway and used it as a test of manhood and to settle tribal disputes. It was christened lacrosse by French missionaries who thought the stick looked like a bishop’s crosier. The game is still fast and furious but rules have been established with teams of ten, with rolling substitutions, playing each other. The aim is to score in a 6ft by 6ft goal by passing a hard rubber ball between players’ sticks and shooting. Opponents can hit – called a check – your stick to dislodge the ball and competition for loose balls is intense. You can play behind the goal and its format resembles hockey a lot.
AmeriCymru: Who are the members of your team and what kind of players are they?
Dan: We have picked a 23-man squad who age from 18 to 36-years-old and they are all either employed or students. Each one has had to train in their spare time and fund their own travel and accommodation in Denver while taking holiday from their jobs. The sport is totally amateur in Wales and the UK. Some of our players have played at other World and European Championships but for several this will be a totally new experience. Our co-captains are attacker Paul Simpson, Steve McDermott, a midfielder, and Jason Jones, a defender, who have all played in previous World Championships. But watch out for midfielders Rhodri Stanford, whose younger sister Non is World Triathlon Champion, and Dave Howie.
AmeriCymru: The Welsh team is in the Plum division, which also includes Argentina, New Zealand and Russia. What do the divisions mean and how are teams assigned to them?
Dan: Teams are seeded in different groups according to their performances at earlier tournaments. Up until 2006, only ten nations took part but now the field has grown to 38 in Denver with teams from all over the globe – including the first from Africa – taking part. The winner country will come from the top division and the predicted final is the holders USA facing off against Canada.
AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about the other teams in the Plum Division? Has Wales played any of them before?
Dan: The explosion of world lacrosse makes it difficult to predict what we will be up against. Russia is making their first appearance at the World Championships. We beat Argentina 20-3 at the 2010 Worlds and played New Zealand in warm up match in 2006. But we expect that all nations will have recruited heavily from US colleges so their rosters could be way more powerful than ever.
AmeriCymru: What date(s) will Wales play and which team will be their first opponent?
Dan: Our first game will be against Russia at Field 3 at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 9.30 a.m. on Friday, July 11. We then play Argentina on Field 8 at 11.30 on Saturday 12 and finish the Group games on Sunday, July 13, against New Zealand on Field 10 at 8 am.
AmeriCymru: The US cable sports network ESPN will be broadcasting 60 games in the world championship this year, will we be able to see Wales play?
Dan: We welcome support to all of our games and it would be great to meet the fans after the game. Our game v New Zealand will be televised by ESPN.
AmeriCymru: Can you tell us something about what you're doing to get your team ready for the world championship games? What do you think your team's greatest strengths and weaknesses are?
Dan: We have been training regularly as a squad and most of them play against each other regularly in the same leagues so that bond will be vital to us. We have a great team spirit, a huge pride in wearing a Wales shirt and there’s a bit of a Dragon in us. We will come up against some fantastic players and teams but we have worked hard to reach a peak of fitness and performance.
AmeriCymru: How confident are your players and are they looking forward to competing in this year's championships?
Dan: There is a great excitement and determination about the squad and it will be something that will live with us for many years to come. Lacrosse is a very competitive game on the field but has a huge community spirit off it so it will be fantastic to meet players from around the world. We also know we will get a brilliant welcome in Denver and are really looking forward to the tournament.
AmeriCymru: We'll all be wildly cheering you on - any final message for members and readers of AmeriCymru?
Dan: Support the Dragons – Y Dreigiau Coch – we do need support and sponsorship to develop lacrosse in Wales.
It has been brilliant and inspiring to connect with AmeriCymru and it gives us huge encouragement. We would love people to come down to the games to support us and then have the opportunity to meet them. And anyone wishing us well from afar will still give us a boost.
If you can’t get to Denver, follow us at on Twitter at #FollowTheDragons and the website is www.waleslacrosse.com