Former Wales rugby international Tonia Antoniazzi MP joins Scarlets Board

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THE Scarlets have said this week that they are delighted to announce that Gower MP and former Wales international Tonia Antoniazzi will join the Scarlets Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Tonia, who is Gower’s first female MP, has served at Westminster since June 2017. She was born and raised along with two brothers in Llanelli by her Welsh Mum and Welsh-Italian father who supported her love of sport from an early age.

With Welsh-Italian sporting heritage, she won nine caps for Wales as a prop playing internationally for three years as well as playing for Benetton Treviso’s women’s team in 1993-94 while studying in Venice. Her last cap as tighthead prop came in 1999. She participated in the first Women’s World Cup in 1998. From a rugby family, her brother Julian Antoniazzi played for Welsh Schools seven times in 1985.

Tonia is a passionate, lifelong Scarlets supporter after spending many years growing up supporting rugby on the terraces at Stradey Park. Alongside her international rugby career, Tonia is a graduate in French and Italian from Exeter University with a PGCE from Cardiff University, teaching in Wigan before returning home to West Wales as Head of Modern Foreign Languages at Ysgol Bryngwyn in Llanelli.

Since retiring from international rugby and forging a successful political career, she is now a leading light and voice championing the growth and development of women’s and girls’ rugby across Wales, campaigning for greater equality, engagement, participation and inclusion at all levels in the game.

Scarlets are building for the future which includes a fresh focus on the girls’ and women’s game, with four players in the U18s Women’s Six Nations squad, a number of girls from the region selected for the West Wales Professional Development Centre (PDC) plus 70 girls are registered with the Scarlets’ first U17s Development Squad.

Scarlets’ Academy coaches support training and development of Celtic Challenge Cup side Brython Thunder who are based at Parc y Scarlets. Two of the region’s age-grade teams Teifi Timberwolves and Taf Valley Tigers were U16s and U18s WRU National plate winners this season. Increased demand from girls to play rugby is now being supported with 32 WRU clusters supporting players from U7s to U18s across communities in Wales.

Scarlets’ Community Foundation rugby programme also continues to go from strength-to-strength delivering wide-ranging rugby inclusion events to support social benefit across its region and engaging with more than 20,000 young people this season.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP said: “It truly is an honour and privilege for me and I am very excited to be joining the Scarlets Board. Scarlets rugby has been at the heart of my family and my upbringing and it was that love and passion for this club that led me to play for Wales. Now I am continuing to support the sport that means so much to me off the pitch.

“Rugby is ours. It’s everybody’s sport and everybody matters in our game.”

“We need a plurality of voices in Welsh rugby to take the game forward. There is a new era of rugby dawning in Wales and Scarlets rugby has a bright future within it, I want to be part of that and ensure everyone connected with our game has a voice and is well-represented.”

“I am passionate about bringing more women into the game. I feel very strongly that when I was a young girl, I had to look up to my brother – and think if he can do it I can do it. Now we can see a future in the sport for young girls to aspire to – with the likes of Alex Callender (from Llanelli), who I used to teach, coming through and winning multiple caps.

“What we need now is to engage more through the women’s and girls’ programmes into clubs to ensure we have more teams and more international players playing their rugby in Wales. When you can see it as a player, you believe you can be it. We need to show our young girls that there is a future for them in rugby in Wales.”

Scarlets Executive Chairman Simon Muderack said: “Tonia will bring valued rugby expertise, a strong voice for the women’s game and great governance leadership from her experience and knowledge across international rugby, the educational sector and her parliamentary career.

“Her energy, ambition and passion for Scarlets rugby and the women’s and girl’s game in this region is undeniable. She is a positive driving force who wants to see Scarlets and Welsh rugby thrive now and in the future and is helping spearhead a culture change throughout our game. We are delighted she is joining us at a time when we are restructuring and strengthening our business operations to meet the challenges of the future and we look forward to Tonia’s input and support.”

Tonia lives in Pontarddulais and has a son Jac who is currently studying at Cardiff University.

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