Llandovery College Recognised as Co-founder of Rugby in Wales

Under a new endorsement from the Welsh Rugby Union, equal status of recognition has been given to Llandovery College and Lampeter College as the founder members of rugby in Wales writes Huw S Thomas

Llandovery College Warden, Mr Dominic Finlay could not hide his delight at the news.

“We are hugely proud, here at the College, to be at last recognised as the birthplace of rugby here in Wales.”

“The College has a long tradition of producing quality Welsh rugby players and this recognition simply adds further credit to the great school and town that we are fortunate to have here in South Wales.”

Since 2016, Lampeter has advertised itself as the ‘birthplace of rugby in Wales, in recognition of its role in the first game of rugby in Wales at Caio in 1866 against Llandovery College.

A commemorative game between St David’s College, Lampeter and Llandovery College was played on Friday December 2, 2022 in the village to mark Trinity St David’s College’s 200th anniversary and Llandovery College’s 175 years of existence.

The game took place at Glanrannel on the same piece of land that hosted the initial game between the two colleges back in 1866.

The tiny Carmarthenshire village of Caio sits half way between Lampeter and Llandovery and was chosen as a venue because of its convenient position at a time when coach and horse travel was a challenge to both man and beast.

And now, in light of new historical research presented by Llandovery College archivist Harrison Roberts, the WRU has agreed to award equal status to both Llandovery and Lampeter in recognition of the part played in the birth and development of rugby in the Principality

Peter Owens, Heritage Manager for the Welsh Rugby Union, endorsed this news.

“The game of Rugby Football in Wales developed in the second half of the nineteenth century.”

“The masters and students of St David’s College, Lampeter and Llandovery College took the lead in this development.”

“It is now accepted that the match played between St David’s College, Lampeter and Llandovery College in 1866 at Caio was the first football match played in Wales under the ‘rules’ of Rugby School.”

“On behalf of the Welsh Rugby Union I am delighted to endorse the part played in this match by both St David’s College, Lampeter and Llandovery College and their role in establishing the game of rugby football in Wales.”

In recognition of this news, plans are afoot to install a new blue plaque in the village of Caio to commemorate the historic first match of rugby played in Wales.

Llandovery, too, will hopefully receive its own blue plaque to celebrate the part played by Llandovery College in the establishment of the game in Wales.

CP Lewis – boy and later master at the school – went on to introduce the game as first played in Rugby School to the town of Llandovery who became joint founder members of the WRU at the famous meeting at the Castle Hotel, Neath in 1881.

Llandovery College rugby team, 1878 and CP Lewis (middle of second row)

The WRU recognition of the College’s role in the shaping of the game in Wales rounds off a fine year for town and gown.

Llandovery RFC President and Life Member Handel Davies, Chairman of Carmarthenshire County Council, was delighted with the news from the Union

“This recognition is wonderful news for Llandovery College and its historic significance in further raising the profile of the town cannot be understated.”

“Rugby and Llandovery have been synonymous and it is remarkable that 158 years since that game in Caio, rugby union continues to thrive and flourish in school and town.”

Llandovery College, coached by former pupil Nathan Thomas – one of the few Welshmen to win a European Cup Final when at Bath and a former Drover – became the first school, rather than sixth form college to win Welsh Schools and Colleges Cup.”

“To cap it all, there can be little argument that the 2023-2024 season was the greatest in the long history of the town’s rugby club” added Davies”

Under captain and Old Llandoverian Jack Jones and with College master Adam Warren in the centre, Llandovery RFC completed a remarkable treble.

Not only did they finish top of the Indigo Premiership table after winning 22 of their 24 league games, they went on to win the Premiership play off semi final against Cardiff and final against Newport and also added the WRU National Cup to the trophy cabinet.

Councillor Davies summed up:

“The whole town can be proud that Llandovery College has been officially recognised as the co founder of rugby union in Wales.”