31 Jan, 17:31
A new heritage trail celebrating Llanelli and its rugby club's great history was officially opened at a special ceremony earlier today, Friday 31st January, by BAFTA award-winning news anchor Huw Edwards.
Llanelli is one of the most famous rugby towns in the world. It is the focal point for one of the most passionately supported rugby clubs in the world, the Scarlets - with a rich and unrivalled rugby heritage.
Llanelli's first recorded game occurred in 1876 at Peoples Park. The home side played in blue. However, it is thought that the club had been formed a few years earlier. As a result members, players and supporters of Llanelli RFC celebrated the club's centenary in 1972.
The 1904/05 season was a historic one as it saw the club move to their "new" pitch at Stradey which is where the Scarlets played until October 2008 when they moved to their new stadium Parc y Scarlets. The first game on this pitch was on 15/10/1904 when Llanelli played Swansea, a game which they lost.
The famous Scarlets shirt was worn for the first time in 1884 against an Irish XV who had stopped off in Llanelli having played Wales in Cardiff a few days earlier. It has been worn ever since, giving rise to nickname The Scarlets, which became the region's official name in September 2008 after the Llanelli was dropped from the name in recognition of its wide geography as a rugby region.
Llanelli first came to prominence when they beat an Australian touring side in 1908. Since then they have lowered the colours of many international sides, including the mighty All Blacks in 1972 and beating the world champions Australia, 13 - 9, some 20 years later in November 1992.
Llanelli remained the undisputed cup kings of Wales, lifting the Welsh Cup 12 times in 17 final appearances. In the 1992-93 season they won a Best Team in Britain trophy after achieving the unique treble of winning the league, capturing the cup and beating the Wallabies.
Since the onset of professionalism, the Scarlets triumphed as Celtic League champions and as semi-finalists in Europe's premier tournament, the Heineken Cup.
They reached the last eight of the 2003-04 Heineken Cup and finished the Celtic League season as champions by four points over Ulster.
In 2004/2005, the Scarlets reached the final of the Celtic Cup where they lost 26-17 to Munster.
In the 2005/06 season, the Scarlets were successful in the newly-restructured Powergen Cup. After finishing at the top of their pool, they defeated Bath by one point in the semi-finals, setting up a dream final against Wasps which the Scarlets lost 26 points to 10.
In the 2006/07 Heineken Cup, the Scarlets won their first three games of the competition and then recorded one of the most famous victories in their history as a region, defeating Toulouse 34-41 away despite twice trailing by 21 points. They best Munster 24-15 at a memorable game at Stradey Park in the quarter-finals but were beaten 33-17 in the semis by a strong Leicester.
The Llanelli Scarlets region was founded in July 2003 from the original Llanelli RFC when Welsh elite rugby was restructured by the WRU; with the Scarlets victorious in their battle to 'stand-alone' where others were merged to create the five which later become four, top flight rugby regions.
The Scarlets officially represent the whole of West and North Wales.
It's not just famous victories that have given Llanelli such a great rugby tradition - the town and region has produced an almost endless list of talented and world-renowned players. They range from Albert Jenkins in the early 1900s to legends such as Ken Jones, Delme Thomas, Phil Bennett, Derek Quinnell and Ray Gravell. In more recent eras there have been heroes like Ieuan Evans, Jonathan Davies and Scott Quinnell. And today's world-class Scarlets stars include Stephen Jones.
In total around 178 Wales internationals and 24 British Lions - as well as Lions coaches such as the legendary Carwyn James (New Zealand 1971) - have been bred from Llanelli rugby.
In November 2007, Stradey Park hosted the funeral of one of the Scarlets' most famous and much-loved sons, Ray Gravell.
The last ever rugby game at Stradey Park was held on October 24th 2008 against Bristol. A game the Scarlets fitting won 27 - 0. Stradey played host to Llanelli RFC and Scarlets matches for nearly 130 years. During this time, it has hosted 2577 matches, winning 2029 drawing 162, losing 385 with 2 matches abandoned, which represents a 79% success rate.
The Scarlets moved from Stradey Park at the end of November 2008 to their current home, the £23m 15,000 capacity Parc y Scarlets.
The historic first game at the new facility was held on the 15th November 2008 and was fittingly between Llanelli RFC v Cardiff RFC, a game which saw Llanelli triumph with a 32 - 3 win over their rivals, and which will live on in the history books.
Rhys Priestland was the first to score at the new ground with his boot, the fly-half scoring 22 points. And rising Wales star centre Jonathan Davies, had the honour of the first try at the stadium. The Scarlets' first match at their new home was a Magners League fixture on 28 November against Munster. The Scarlets lost this match 16-18. Their first Heineken Cup match at Parc y Scarlets was held on 12 December against Ulster which ended in a draw of 16 all.
The official opening ceremony was conducted by Wales' First Minister, Rhodri Morgan on 31 January 2009 followed by the Scarlets V Barbarians in front of a full house at Parc y Scarlets. The home side secured a convincing victory 40 -24.
With such strong rugby roots and some of the most loyal and passionate supporters in world rugby, the Scarlets and Llanelli are a remarkable story of history, success, pride and passion in the world of sport.