Although rugby football, along with soccer and cricket, is one of the three major sports given to the world by England, soccer is the national sport of the English while rugby dominates in Wales. It does not sit easily with Welsh rugby supporters that England are current Six Nations champions and Grand Slam winners after a 2016 season in which they beat France, Scotland, Ireland, Italy – and Wales.
Easily the largest club in Carmarthenshire is Llanelli RFC, commonly known as The Scarlets after the color of the jerseys the players wear. Llanelli has a long and proud history and has for a century conducted a strong rivalry with nearby Neath (the Welsh All Blacks) in the next-door county of Glamorgan, though Neath, along with Swansea, is now better known as a feeder club to the Ospreys. Inhabitants of Llanelli are often referred to as Turks, for reasons now buried in history’s mists, and Llanelli RFC is often referred to by other teams and especially by supporters of Neath RFC as “The Turks.”
Llanelli RFC has a development program known as Mini to Millennium, designed to find and nurture the next generation of Scarlets. The club works closely with clubs and schools to raise the level of both scouting and coaching, and has a number of competitions at Under 12, Under 14, Under 15, Under 16 and Under 19 levels as well as an Under 18 competition for female players. They also conduct “Little Stars” and “Junior Stars” rugby camps.
A day never to be forgotten is October 31st, 1971; Llanelli played a match against New Zealand’s all-conquering All Blacks – acknowledged by most honest rugby followers as the best team in the world and winners of the last two Rugby World Cups – and ran out 9-3 winners.
Anyone wishing to be assured of a hostile reception in Wales may simply mention that only one northern hemisphere side has ever appeared in a Rugby World Cup Final and it isn’t Wales, but England, who have been there three times and won it once.