Ross High Rugby Club welcome players and members of Welsh club Bedwelty this weekend for the first meeting between the sides to continue the historic relationship with the village of Markham.

While this will be the first time Ross High face Bedwelty, they have a 51-year connection with Markham Rugby Club, who merged with Bedwelty and Aberbargoed in March last year.

The merger came after Markham and Aberbargoed faced collapse due to lack of players after lockdown.

Ross High have been playing annual friendly games with Markham since 1972 and are set to continue this on Saturday against Bedwelty. 

Rob Brown, vice president of Ross High RFC, said: “This is a tradition which dates back to 1972 so it has been going for 51 years now.

“One of the key elements of why this relationship has gone on for so long is the relationship formed between the players and club members of both clubs.

“The Welsh players come up on Friday and will have the day to get settled in their accommodation.

“We put out a call to committee members during the year asking if they can put up a player or two for a couple of days so all the players will have a home to stay in.

“That gives them time to go and socialise with the players before the game. We have probably about 30 people coming up.

“After the game we have a celebratory dinner and then they will head off home on the Sunday.”

The annual friendly game was last held in Wales in 2020 but has been postponed for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

One previous Markham player has since gone on to make a name for himself as a professional darts player.

Pictured in a photo from the sides meeting in 2013, former world darts champion Gerwyn Price can be seen in the middle row of players.

Mr Brown said that the club has known Gerwyn since he was young.

He said: "We've known Gerwyn right through his rugby development. His dad played for Markham and then so did he so he's as much one of the lads as any of the other players.

"I think once his rugby career started to fade out he then transitioned to darts and we still watch him when we can and I'm sure many of the players keep in contact."

Price has been known to get a mixed response from darts crowds when playing with many booing the Welshman and placing him in the "pantomime villain" role of the sport.

At the most recent World Darts Championships, Price infamously returned to the stage wearing headphones to block out the crowd jeers in his match with Gabriel Clemens.

Bur Mr brown said despite his darting reputation, the Welshman is one of the nice guys in sport.

He said: "Gerwyn is great, he is down to earth and one of the lads.

"He regularly comes down to watch the Ross High against Markham games and he is a really nice man."

Price announced in January that he would play one or two games for Bedwelty this year and it is as-yet unknown whether he will be in attendance on Saturday.

Looking ahead to the game, Mr Brown said the players were looking forward to reconnecting with friends after so long.

He said: “We went down to Wales in 2020 just days before lockdown hit.

“Since then we have not been able to play them again because it wasn’t deemed safe to have us travelling down there or them travelling up here.

“It will be great for the players and club members to reunite with some of the guys coming up and we’re all looking forward to it.”

This year will see the players compete for the John Tinlin Shield for the first time, with the shield being named in honour of the Ross High president who passed away last year.

Mr Ross said: “The players will be competing for the inaugural John Tinlin Shield this year.

“The players and club are delighted to have the shield named in his honour.”

The game kicks off at 11am at Ross High playing fields and is free for the public to attend.