Could this be the greatest ever North Wales rugby union XV ?

North Wales rugby icon George North – 101 caps, 44 tries. Picture: WRU

I’m not the world’s greatest authority on rugby union – very far from it.

So when I was challenged to select my finest ever North Wales XV, I knew it would be a struggle.

However, I have seen a few good players over the years, and read up about several more, and when I got together with some North Wales rugby experts, we were able to come up with what we hope is a decent XV between us.

See what you think. Please send your own XV’s to dave@nwsport.co.uk

15 Rhun Williams (June 5, 1997 – )

Williams came through the Caernarfon Rugby Club youth ranks before earning a place on the RGC Academy system at Coleg Llandrillo.

The full-back went on to be selected for the Wales U20 squad and starred in their 2016 Grand Slam Six Nations triumph.

He also trained with the senior squad in 2016 and looked poised for a full cap when included for summer tests against Samoa and Tonga in 2017.

Williams was ruled out with an ankle injury shortly before the squad were due to travel, but was later awarded his first professional contract with Cardiff Blues.

He impressed for the Blues but sadly sustained a serious neck injury in a Pro 14 match against Zebre in February 2018.

Despite extensive rehabilitation with the region, the ex-RGC ace was advised it was a career-ending injury and retired in 2020 aged just 22.

14 Arthur Emyr (July 27, 1962 – )

Arthur Emyr of Wales in action against Australia at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on 12th October 1991. (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images).

Born in Bangor, Emyr earned 13 caps for Wales between 1989-1991, scoring four tries.

He was the 1990 Welsh Player of the Year and secured selection for the Wales squad for the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

A winger, he played club rugby for Swansea RFC, where he remains their all-time record try-scorer, and also for Cardiff RFC.

He also represented Ysgol David Hughes, Menai Bridge Rugby Club and Aberystwyth University.

After retiring from playing he developed a successful media career, initially presenting S4C football show Sgorio, then was Head of Sport at BBC Wales between 1994 and 2001 before joining the Welsh Government as Head of Major Events.

13 George North (April 13, 1992 – )

Surely the greatest North Wales raised player there ever has been and possibly ever will be.

North was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. His father is English from Yorkshire and his Welsh mother is from Anglesey. The family moved to Anglesey when he was aged two and he is a fluent Welsh language speaker.

As a junior he played for Llangefni, Pwllheli, Rhyl and Gogledd Cymru under-16s.

In the senior ranks he represented Llandovery before turning out for the Scarlets and Northampton Saints.

North currently plays for the Ospreys in the Pro14 and the Wales national team, for whom he has won 101 caps and scored 44 tries.

He also represented the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017 and currently has the most tries in international rugby for an active player.

His usual position is wing, but he has also played at outside centre, where he impressed in the 2021 Six Nations.

North is the second highest all-time try scorer for Wales behind Shane Williams (58).

12 Wilf Wooller (November 20, 1912 – March 10, 1997)

Wilf Wooller, secretary and former captain of Glamorgan, at Cardiff, Wales, circa June 1971. (Photo by Patrick Eagar/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

One of the greatest all-round sportsmen that Wales has ever produced.

Wooller won 18 international rugby union caps for Wales and represented Cardiff RFC at club level. In 1935 he was inspirational in the Welsh victory over the All Blacks.

As a cricketer he was an awesome all-rounder. He was involved with Glamorgan CC between 1938-62, leading them to an unexpected County Championship triumph in 1948, scoring 13,593 first class runs and taking 958 wickets.

He also played football for Cardiff City, represented Wales at squash and Cardiff Athletic Club at bowls.

Born in Rhos-on-Sea, Wooller was educated at John Bright School, Llandudno, Rydal School (now Rydal Penrhos) and Christ’s College, Cambridge.

He first played rugby for Rydal School and featured in his first international game for Wales while still a schoolboy.

His rugby union career also took in Colwyn Bay, Sale, Cambridge University, The Army and Barbarians.

Wooller later became a successful BBC broadcaster and Sunday Telegraph sports journalist.

11 Dewi Bebb (August 7, 1938 – March 14, 1996)

Sep 1964: Dewi Bebb goes over for the score as Wales take on Fiji at the Arms Park, Cardiff. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive

Bangor-born Dewi Bebb became the first player from North Wales to play for the British & Irish Lions.

He won two Test caps on the 1962 tour to South Africa before playing in all six Tests on the 1966 trip to Australia and New Zealand.

Bebb won the first of his 34 Welsh caps on the wing against England in 1959 and marked his debut with the first of his 11 tries.

He went on to score a try in the Triple Crown win over Ireland in Cardiff in 1965 and helped Wales win the title outright again in 1966. He played for Swansea against all three major touring teams.

Dewi remained with Swansea throughout his playing career, making 221 appearances, scoring 87 tries and captaining the team in the 1963-4 and 1964-5 seasons.

Bebb was a teacher by profession, but later became a highly successful sports broadcaster and journalist.

10 Bleddyn Williams (February 22, 1923 – July 6, 2009)

Bleddyn Williams. Source: Wikipedia

Legend of Rydal School as well as Wales.

Williams played in 22 internationals for Wales, captaining them five times, winning on each occasion, and skippered the British Lions in 1950 for some of their tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Considered one of the greatest-ever Welsh centres, he also won a cap at fly-half and could excel in that position too.

Williams was robust in the tackle and known for his strong leadership and surging runs.

He attended Rydal School in Colwyn Bay between the ages of 14 and 18.

Williams had already played for the Welsh Schoolboys in 1937 when he had been recommended for a scholarship to Rydal by legendary rugby player Wilf Wooller.

At Rydal he played at fly-half and was seen as one of the school’s star players and managed to play for Cardiff Athletic during the 1938/39 season before the outbreak of the war.

9 Rhys Hughes (August 20, 1970 – )

Rhys tackles the great Jonah Lomu in 1995

One of the finest scrum-halves to emerge from North Wales.

Ruthin lad Rhys shone locally before as a student he was selected to play for Buckinghamshire Colleges in the English Counties Cup.

He performed so well, he was offered a chance to represent England Colts, but a quick phone call home to dad John, a Ruthin sporting legend and fervent Welshman, put paid to that!

In 1992, Northampton wanted to sign Rhys, with part of the deal guaranteeing employment with Travis Perkins builders merchants.

However, this was before the start of the professional era and Rhys declined. A few weeks later, Northants recruited a certain Matt Dawson as their new scrum-half!

Through Northampton, Rhys played for a season in New Zealand representing Wellington Harlequins before rejoining Ruthin.

Some great times at Cae Ddol followed, more than 300 first team appearances, including spells playing in the national Heineken League, winning the Division Four North title and twice landing the North Wales Senior Cup.

In 1995, Rhys was in the North Wales Select side which took on a Wrexham XV including the late, great Jonah Lomu in their line-up.

Lomu had just stunned the rugby world with his performances for New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup.

Rhys (left) chases Jonah Lomu in the 1995 North Wales Select v Wrexham XV exhibition match

Rhys later played for Chester, New Brighton, Northern Counties (on request of former Wales forward Terry Cobner) before returning to Ruthin, where he is currently backs coach, with international prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts in charge of the forwards.

Hughes also won the Welsh Counties Cup three times with North Wales, whom he represented between 1989-2009 – a fantastic achievement he is very proud of.

He also played for Crawshays and shared the same field as some Wales legends – including the great JPR Williams – at former Wales wing Glen Webbe’s testimonial in Cardiff in the 90’s.

The RGC era arrived after Rhys’ time, but had he been at his peak when the North Wales side broke onto the national scene, he would surely have been a shoo-in for selection.

1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts (February 13, 1981 – )

Eifion Lewis-Roberts of Sale Sharks poses for a picture during the BT Photoshoot at the AJ Bell Stadium on August 19, 2014 in Salford, England. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images for BT)

Capped just the once at full international level by Wales, but played club rugby to a very high standard.

A farmer from St Asaph, Lewis-Roberts was playing his club rugby for Ruthin before being offered a trial by Sale Sharks.

He made his debut against the Scarlets, another side that had been monitoring his progress, in 2005 and impressed in the Premiership.

A prop forward, Lewis-Roberts was selected for the Wales squad for the Autumn internationals series in October 2008, playing his first game on 14 November against Canada.

On 18 January 2010 he was named in the 35-man Wales squad for that year’s Six Nations Championship.

Despite interest from clubs in the Celtic League and the French Top 14, Lewis-Roberts signed a three-year contract with Sale Sharks in March 2010.

He joined French Top 14 outfit Toulon in 2011, reuniting with Philippe Saint-Andre, his former coach at Sale.

At the end of the 2011-12 season he returned to Sale Sharks, for whom he made 210 total appearances and notched eight tries.

Lewis-Roberts retired from rugby in September 2017 after suffering a knee injury.

2 Robin McBryde (July 3, 1970 – )

Robin McBryde. Picture: WRU

Bangor-born and Anglesey-raised hooker who played for Wales 37 times between 1994-2005.

McBryde first played club rugby for Bangor and Porthaethwy, joined Swansea, then switched to Llanelli, who he captained when they won the Welsh Cup in 1998 and the Welsh Championship in 1999.

The forward later featured for the Llanelli Scarlets regional side when they were formed in 2003. He played 250 games for Llanelli and the Scarlets between 1994 and 2005.

He won his first cap for Wales against Fiji in 1994 and last as a replacement against Ireland in March 2005 which saw the Red Dragon clinch the Grand Slam.

McBryde was selected for the 2001 British Lions tour to Australia, appearing in four warm-up games before he was forced to withdraw through injury.

After retiring in 2005 following back surgery, he was appointed coach of the Scarlets Regional Under-18 team. He then became forwards coach for the Welsh national team.

In June 2009 he was caretaker head coach of Wales for the two-match North American tour during Warren Gatland’s absence as assistant coach to the British & Irish Lions.

McBryde spent a total of 11 years as forwards coach as part of Gatland’s management team, sharing in three Grand Slams.

More recently, he became part of Leinster’s coaching set-up.

3 Ian Buckett (December 23, 1967 – )

Ian Buckett – Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport

Born in Prestatyn, and a former Holywell High School pupil, Buckett won three full caps for Wales at prop.

Between 1994-97, he played against Tonga, USA and Canada, all matches which Wales won.

He also featured for the Wales A and B teams, plus Wales Under-21 and Welsh Students.

His club career began at Flint before a move to Birkenhead Park, then he spent 10 years at Swansea and another three with London Welsh.

Buckett also played county rugby for North Wales and represented the Barbarians and Oxford University.

4 Andy Moore (January 25, 1974 – )

Andy Moore of Wales – Mandatory Credit: Dave Rogers /Allsport

Grantham-born but raised in Wrexham, Moore went on to captain Wales and earned 26 caps for his country.

A lock forward, he first represented Wrexham RFC before going on to play his club rugby for Swansea, Bridgend and Cardiff Blues.

Moore once won a Welsh Schools under-16 soccer cap as a goalkeeper before switching to rugby, gaining caps at Under 18, Youth, Under 19, Under 21 and Wales A before making his full debut at the age of 21 for Wales against South Africa in 1995 in Johannesburg.

He went on to become a regular under Graham Henry during the 1999 World Cup and led the Wales tour to Japan in 2001.

Moore signed professional contracts with Swansea and the WRU in 1995, winning 4 league titles and 2 National Cups with the all-whites.

In 2002 he moved to Bridgend, winning the league title before joining Cardiff Blues in 2003, captaining the side several times.

His career was cut short at the age of 30 with a neck injury while at Cardiff Blues in 2004.

5 Stuart Roy (December 25, 1968 – )

Stuart Roy. Pic: Twitter

Lock forward who represented Wales and played in the top division of Welsh club rugby for Cardiff, Pontypridd and Newport.

Roy was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, but moved to Anglesey and attended Ysgol David Hughes, Menai Bridge.

The 6ft 6in giant joined Cardiff from Neath for the 1988/89 season. He spent the majority of his playing career at Cardiff, spending nine seasons at the club.

During his time there, the blue and blacks won the SWALEC Cup in 1994 and the Heineken League title in 1994/95.

Roy was included as part of Wales’ 1995 Rugby World Cup squad, and made his first and only appearance for the national team in their opening pool match against Japan, coming on as a replacement for Derwyn Jones with around eight minutes of the game remaining.

He was included in Wales’ squad for the 1998 Five Nations Championship, but remained on the bench and won no further caps.

Roy moved from Cardiff to Pontypridd for the 1997/98 season, then switched to Newport the following campaign.

6 Tony Gray (June 14, 1942 – )

Tony Gray, Wales Coach (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Capped twice for Wales as a player in 1968, but more renowned as the coach who guided Cymru to third place at the 1987 World Cup – a feat yet to be equalled.

A flanker, Bangor man Gray, a former Friars School pupil, played his club rugby for Bangor, Newbridge and London Welsh.

He made his Wales debut on January 20, 1968, in an admirable 11-11 draw against England at Twickenham.

The great Barry John secured the Welsh a share of the spoils with an equalising drop goal.

Gray was also in the line-up when Wales beat Scotland 5-0 the following month to secure their only win of the 5 Nations that year.

He later became head coach of a Wales side which made it to the semi-finals of the 1987 World Cup, held in Australia and New Zealand.

The Welsh topped their group with wins over Ireland (13-6), Tonga (29-16) and Canada (40-9) before celebrating a famous 16-3 victory against England in the quarter-finals.

Wales were walloped 49-6 by New Zealand in the semis, but bounced back magnificently to pip Australia 22-21 in the third-fourth place match.

Gray also led Wales to the Triple Crown in 1988.

7 James King (July 24, 1990 – )

James King. Pic: North Wales RUC – Pitchero

Former Mold RUFC Youth player was capped 11 times for Wales between 2013-17.

Born in Victoria, King also qualified for Australia, and was eligible for England through his English parents, but the former pupil of Bryn Coch Primary and Alun School considered himself Welsh having lived all bar about six weeks of his life in Wales.

A lock, blindside flanker or No 8, between 2008-12 he turned out for Aberavon, and later represented the Ospreys regional rugby side.

In January 2013 he was selected in the 35-man Wales squad for the Six Nations championship.

He made his international debut against Japan on June 8, 2013, and would go on to play 11 times for the national side, including at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

He was forced to retire from professional rugby in January 2021 aged just 30, after failing to recover from an injury sustained whilst playing against Ulster in 2019.

8 Rob McCusker (December 10, 1985 – )

Rob McCusker of Ospreys (Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Wrexham-born McCusker began his rugby career playing for Mold RFC in WRU Division Four North, before being picked up by the Scarlets and Llanelli RFC.

He made his debut for the Scarlets against Exeter Chiefs on August 18, 2007.

Rob was made club captain by the Scarlets for the 2012-13 season. Despite primarily being a flanker, McCusker often played at No 8.

McCusker left the Scarlets at the start of 2015-16, moving to London Irish, signing a one year contract.

In August 2016, McCusker was added to the Ospreys squad on a short-term contract to provide back row cover for the 2016/17 season.

The deal was extended a month later for the whole campaign after his impressive early form. He remained there until 2019.

A ferocious, hard-running back row, McCusker debuted for Wales against South Africa in June 2010.

He won six full Wales caps, played twice for the Under-20’s and represented the Wales Sevens team.

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