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Llewellyn Targets Ultimate Prize

Llewellyn Targets Ultimate Prize

Wales veteran Gareth Llewellyn looks back fondly on 13 years of international rugby after earning his 70th cap against Canada at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
“Things have changed a lot since my debut against the All Blacks in 1989,” said Llewellyn. “The game going professional offered me the chance to earn a living out of rugby and that gave me the opportunity to get away from the steelworks.
“I worked in most sections at Port Talbot, although I didn’t get to the blast furnaces where they had the explosion. I recognised some of the names of the people who were in there – there but for the grace of God!
“Whenever I get tired in raining, or just annoyed with rugby, I always remember where I started my working life and realise how fortunate I am. I think that is what keeps me driving on.
“I can still remember the day I was picked to play for Wales for the first time. A BBC Wales TV crew came to interview me and they asked me what I really wanted from my rugby career.
“I told them I wanted to have a really long career, to win a lot of caps and to play for as long as possible. I thought I sounded a bit big headed, but look at me now.”
Technically, Llewellyn is the longest serving international player in the world. Only Canada’s Bobby Ross, who made his international debut in an uncapped game against an Ireland XV on 2 September, 1989, can point to having started his Test career earlier than the Neath skipper, but the status of his debut doesn’t rank alongside Llewellyn’s first cap on 4 November that year against the All Blacks.
“It was strange finding myself on the same field as players like Grant Fox, Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones, Gary Whetton and Wayne Shelford. For me, Michael Jones was the greatest rugby player ever to put on a pair of boots and the All Blacks of his era were bigger heroes to me than any of the Welsh players of the seventies.
“That’s probably the case with most players during my career. Our memories don’t go back that far.”
And he is looking forward to Wales’ match against New Zealand this weekend.
“A victory over the All Blacks is still the biggest prize in rugby. For me they are the nation with the hardest mental and physical edge to their game.
“I was lucky enough to play with Zinzan Brooke for a few years at Harlequins and, even though he was past his best, his will to win and competitive instinct were amazing.

“If there is one thing I would love to achieve in my career before I finish it would be to beat the All Blacks. We play them three times over the next 12 months, including at next year’s World Cup, and I intend to hang around for as long as possible.”
Related stories:
Meet the All Blacks
Wales keep on winning
Messages to Scott Quinnell

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