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Ashley Beck And Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin Get Struck By Thunder And Lightning

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By Hannah Blackwell

Former Wales internationals Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin and Ashley Beck will head the respective coaching and management teams for Gwalia Lightning and Brython Thunder next year.

The new WRU-owned franchises will play Irish and Scottish opposition, home and away, in the cross-border tournament.

Nicholas-McLaughlin was capped 60-times for Wales women and is a WRU Level 4 coach.

She was Head coach of Wales Women’s U18s, assistant coach for Wales Women’s U20s and was an attached coach with the Wales WXV squad in New Zealand. She will lead Gwalia Lightning.

Beck, who won seven Wales caps, was appointed as Worcester Warriors Women’s Attack coach before the club’s demise in November and returns to Wales to lead Brython Thunder.

Nicholas-McLaughlin said: “This is an exciting challenge and opportunity to lead a brand-new team, Gwalia Lightning, and something the last 12 years as a coach has prepared me for.

“It’s another first and the chance to build something to really take the game on in Wales.

“Having worked with Wales U18s and U20s, I know the talent coming through and I look forward to us working together and laying some real foundations and values to take us forward.

“We know we have the players in Wales, and they just need an opportunity to realise their potential and to show what they can do at this level. Our role as coaches is to bring the best out of them and give them a platform to push for higher honours, to gain recognition in the professional game or with Wales.

“Bridging the gap between domestic rugby and international rugby is key if Wales is to build on the recent success in the Six Nations. Testing ourselves against sides in Ireland and Scotland can only build the strength-in-depth we know we need.”

Brython Thunder head coach Beck said: “The opportunity to return and coach in Wales was something I could not turn down.

“Women’s rugby is developing at a pace and the chance to lead a brand-new team and lay the foundations for the future is an exciting challenge.

“As coaches, the job is to identify talent then hone it, build a team and an identity to produce performances to represent the players and the people who support us. We intend to do that in the first season of the Celtic Challenge.”

The Celtic Challenge is made up of six teams across the Celtic nations: Edinburgh Rugby, Glasgow Warriors, Wolfhounds, Clovers, Brython Thunder, and Gwalia Lightning.

The competition will adopt a new format which will be made up of five rounds, before three doubleheader play-off rounds determine who will be this season’s Celtic Challenge champions in March.

Round 1 will see a derby day clash for the home Unions with their respective sides facing off for the first time.

The play-offs will be made up of three rounds, with each round being hosted by a Home Union as a doubleheader event. The fixtures, which will be determined by the regular round standings, will be the culmination of the competition’s most competitive fixtures as teams go head-to-head to be crowned this season’s winners.

Gwalia Lightning coaching and management team:

Head coach– Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin, forwards coach – Caryl Thomas, backs coach – Mark Davies, team manager – Amy Rothero, Physiotherapist – Elin Drake, Ciaran Miller – strength and conditioning coach, analyst – Ellis Brown.

Brython Thunder coaching and management team:

Head coach – Ashley Beck, forwards coach – Liza Burgess, backs coach – Rhodri Jones, team manager – Daryl Morgan, Physiotherapist – Ollie Kitchen, strength and conditioning coach – Chris Thomas, analyst – Dan Lewis

Celtic Challenge Dr – Dr Lowri Edwards

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