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Williams focused on Israel win as skipper reaches milestone

Wales captain Ashley Williams has said he has given little thought to winning his 50th cap this afternoon - with picking up Euro 2016 qualifying points the only thing on his mind.

Williams in training for Wales ahead of the Israel clash. Credit: PA

The 30-year-old centre back reaches the half century mark after making his debut in a 2-0 win over Luxembourg in 2008.

Since then Williams has become an established Premier League defender at Swansea and Wales, now under the guidance of Chris Coleman, are hoping o the European Championship finals in France next year after making an unbeaten start to their qualifying campaign

That run will be tested against Group B leaders Israel on Saturday but Williams insists Wales are ready for the challenge on a night when he reaches his own personal milestone.

"I am obviously aware it is my 50th (cap) but I will enjoy it after the game. This is one of the biggest games for me, alongside my debut and getting the captaincy for the first time, but that is something for after the game. I've just been concentrating on the game and getting the job done. That's been my focus and motivation this week and the whole squad is relaxed because we have confidence in what we are doing."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain
Williams has been in good form for Swansea in recent weeks. Credit: PA

Williams will come up against one of the form strikers in Euro 2016 qualifying at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa.

Omer Damari has five goals in qualifying so far and shares the honour of being joint top-scorer in qualifying with England striker Danny Welbeck.

"They are clever and sharp players and they have got goals in this campaign. I know my unit has to be tight and we will need to be resolute and stick to the task, but we are right up for it. We are expecting a hostile atmosphere but I would rather that than playing somewhere half-empty. There is nothing better when it is hostile because those are the nights you remember."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain

Wales' qualification hopes were buoyed by picking up a point away to group favourites Belgium in November.

It means they have eight points after four games, one shy of Israel who have won their three matches and play Belgium at home on Tuesday, and Williams admits Wales have to keep picking up points on the road.

"It will be difficult but we do need to get points away from home, it is not enough to win at home. We have gone into every game looking for the win and this will be no different."

– Ashley Williams, Wales captain


Coleman: Wales ready for hostile Israeli atmosphere

Wales manager Chris Coleman says his players can cope with any hostile atmosphere as his side travel to Haifa for their crucial Euro 2016 qualifier with Israel.

Coleman taking training before Wales' trip to Israel. Credit: PA

There will be a 30,000-plus capacity crowd at the Sammy Ofer Stadium for the match which pits Group B's front-runners together and Israel coach Eli Guttman has warned Wales to expect a special atmosphere.

But Coleman says that will not be a problem for Gareth Bale and company who are used to playing in front of big crowds both at home and abroad.

"...a lot of our guys play In the Premier League in front of crowds of 50,000 and 60,000 and it does not get bigger than that. We are a long away from home, but so what? We are looking forward to the atmosphere and our guys are used to playing top international players week-in and week-out."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager
Coleman says Wales' big name players are used to hostile atmospheres. Credit: PA

Israel lead the way in the group after winning their opening three games while unbeaten Wales lie second after picking up eight points from four games.

Coleman's side held group favourites Belgium in Brussels in November and there is a growing feeling in Wales that the current group of players can end the country's long wait to qualify for a major tournament.

"We cannot come back without anything. That is not the stage we are at. We know what we are up against and they will know that about us. Their game against Belgium on Tuesday will not exist for them, they are only thinking about us and that is not our business. This game is about us and I say that not in an arrogant way. We are getting it right and we have to continue to do that, and once we do that I will be happy. If we get the performance right then hopefully the result will follow."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager

Six Nations player of the championship - Alun-Wyn Jones runner-up

Ireland captain Paul O'Connell has been named as this season's Six Nations player of the championship.

The 35-year-old Munster lock, who led Ireland to a gripping Six Nations title triumph last Saturday, secured more than 26 per cent of a public vote.

Wales forward Alun-Wyn Jones was second in the voting. Credit: PA

Wales forward Alun-Wyn Jones was second, with Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw pipping Wales fly-half Dan Biggar for third place.

O'Connell becomes the first Irishman to gain the accolade since his current team-mate Tommy Bowe five years ago.

A shortlist of 12 players was decided through a combination of match statistics, analysing the best performing players across a set range of criteria and then followed by a public vote.

A total of 70,448 votes were cast, with O'Connell gaining 18,842 of those.

Ospreys announce signing of Welsh international Delve

Wales international back-row forward Gareth Delve has signed for the Ospreys and will move to the region this summer.

It will be the 32-year-old's first professional contract in Wales, having previously played for Bath, Gloucester and Super Rugby side the Melbourne Rebels in Australia.

Delve's move to the Ospreys is his first professional contract in Wales. Credit: PA

The Ospreys announced that Cardiff-born Delve, who won the last of his 11 Wales caps against Italy during the 2010 Six Nations Championship, has agreed a two-year deal.

"I am lucky to have played in some great places, and I've travelled the world, but this opportunity to play in Wales was too good to say no to. Of all the potential moves I could have made at this point of my career, this was the one that really excited me."

– Gareth Delve


Kenwyne Jones joins Bournemouth from Cardiff

Cardiff striker Kenwyne Jones has joined Championship rivals Bournemouth on loan, subject to international clearance.

Jones has also played for Sunderland and Stoke. Credit: PA

The spell will last the remaining seven games of the season, though will be extended until the 25th May should Bournemouth feature in the Championship Play-Off final that day.

The 30-year-old started the season in good form for the Bluebirds and hit double figures just after the turn of the year.

Jones will train with Eddie Howe’s squad for the first time next week following their return from a training camp in Dubai and could make his debut for The Cherries in the Good Friday fixture at Ipswich Town.

Coleman reveals peace talks with Collins ahead of qualifier

Wales boss Chris Coleman has admitted he and defender James Collins met in a busy coffee shop in Cardiff for peace talks - so things didn't turn ugly.

James Collins training yesterday with the Welsh team. Credit: PA

The West Ham centre-back and Coleman fell out prior to a World Cup qualifier against Serbia in 2013, with the 31-year-old contradicting Coleman's claims that he had turned down the chance to join the national team as a late call-up.

That spat led to a period out in the international wilderness, but with James Chester sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Collins is now set to win his 45th cap in Saturday's crunch tie with Group B leaders Israel.

"We had a coffee in the middle of St David's Shopping Centre so it could not kick off! There were too many people around so we had to be civil. We had our spat, but I have known him since he was a kid and always liked him, and when he has been with us he has been right in the middle of everything. His presence and personality are going to be very important going forward."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager
Chris Coleman in talks with coach Kit Symons. Credit: PA

Collins has had to bide his time to regain his place at the heart of the Wales defence with Chester having developed an excellent understanding with skipper Ashley Williams since making his international debut last summer.

The 31-year-old has yet to feature in a campaign which sees Wales unbeaten after four games and within a point of the Israelis.

"This is an opportunity for 'Ginge' now. He was brilliant in the last camp, as were Danny Gabbidon and Sam Ricketts who did not play but were great round the dressing room in Brussels. That is great for the younger guys because it is good to have advice from senior players. 'Ginge' likes the challenge and the atmosphere we will find ourselves in, it will be a dogfight which he enjoys."

– Chris Coleman, Wales Manager

Nigel Owens meets offender who sent homophobic tweet

Rugby referee Nigel Owens has met the man who sent him a homophobic tweet after the recent England v France Six Nations match.

Nigel Owens was sent the tweet after the England v France Six Nations match. Credit: PA

As part of an agreed Adult Community Resolution an 18-year-old from Cynwyl Elfed apologised to Mr Owens at Carmarthen Police Station yesterday for the offence he had caused.

“I am satisfied that this matter has been effectively resolved by Dyfed Powys Police with an outcome that was satisfactory for both parties. The person responsible realises his mistake and I’m sure he will have learned from this experience...Dyfed Powys Police will not tolerate discrimination of any kind and the public need to realise that if offensive comments are made on social media, they are not above the law and we will investigate the matter as we would any other.”

– Inspector Stuart Bell, Dyfed-Powys Police

“I am pleased this matter has been dealt with in this way. There is no place for abuse in any form in rugby, sport or society generally, and I thank all those who make a stand against action of this kind.”

– Nigel Owens

Title sponsor named for Wales' World Half Marathon Championships

Cardiff University has been named as title sponsor of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff next year.

Many of the world's top distance runners will descend on the Welsh capital on March 26th 2016. Credit: Westgate Sports Agency

The race will be the highest profile athletics event to come to Wales since the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958.

Many of the world's top distance runners will descend on the Welsh capital on March 26th 2016 to run ahead of a mass participation event on the same day.

25,000 amateur runners are expected to attempt the 13.1 mile course that is expected to see one of the fastest times of the year over the distance thanks to Cardiff's flat terrain.

“With one year to go we’re both thrilled and excited that Cardiff University has become title partner to this global sporting event. We recognise the respective contributions that our organisations make in creating a more active population and look forward to developing this shared vision. With television coverage expected in more than 100 countries, Cardiff 2016 will also enhance Cardiff University’s international profile and we look forward to working together to maximise this once-in–a-lifetime opportunity.”

– Matt Newman, CEO of the IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Championships Organising Committee
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